What If There Was a 4×200 Medley Relay? (Men’s Edition)

Since introducing the Mixed 4×100 Medley and Freestyle Relays at the Kazan World Championships in 2015, the slate of events at all Long Course World Championship meets has been the same. Knowing that relays are some of the most anticipated events at any meet, we decided to run some hypotheticals and visualize what a 4×200 Medley Relay would look like.

Each time was gathered this past season, ending at the 2023 World Championships. Backstroke, Breaststroke, and Butterfly legs were selected based on a country’s fastest flat-start swimmer, while the 200 Freestyle leg was chosen based on a country’s fastest time, whether it was done during a relay or from a flat start.

Editor’s note: we used the World Aquatics database to compile this list



Despite Tom Dean’s monster 1:43.84 freestyle relay split, the Brits don’t have the depth in the other three strokes to be as competitive in the 4×200 Medley Relay. A 2:09.88 200 Breaststroke from James Wilby nearly puts them in contention, but with Luke Greenbank of form this year, the raw times just aren’t enough to crack the top 10. This was the most surprising result of the list – a 7:49.45 doesn’t crack the top 10.


The 2022 World Champions in the 4×100 Medley Relay find themselves in an interesting situation here. With the European-record-holding relay (Ceccon, Martinenghi, Burdisso, Miressi) all being sprint-based swimmers, Italy lacks the depth of 200 specialists many other countries have.

  1. SPAIN (7:49.00)
Stroke Swimmer Time Meet
Backstroke Hugo Gonzalez 1:56.33 World Championships
Breaststroke Carles Coll Marti 2:10.71 Spanish National Championships
Butterfly Arbidel Gonzalez 1:54.99 World Championships
Freestyle Luis Dominguez 1:46.97 (Relay) World Championships
TOTAL 7:49.00

Supplemented by Hugo Gonzalez’s 6th place 200 Back and Arbidel Gonzalez’s sub-1:55 200 Fly in Fukuoka, the Spanish just barely crack into the top ten.

  1. SOUTH KOREA (7:48.71)
Stroke Swimmer Time Meet
Backstroke Lee Juho 1:57.10 Korean National Trials
Breaststroke Cho Sung Jae 2:10.46 Korean National Trials
Butterfly Moon Seungwoo 1:56.73 Korean National Trials
Freestyle Hwang Sunwoo 1:44.42 (Flat) World Championships
TOTAL 7:48.71

A middle-of-the-pack opening three legs from the Korean team sets up Hwang Sunwoo’s (flat start!) 1:44.42 freestyle leg for an uphill battle.

  1. CANADA (7:48.60)
Stroke Swimmer Time Meet
Backstroke Hugh McNeill 1:57.73 World Championships
Breaststroke James Dergousoff 2:10.01 Bell Canadian Swimming Trials
Butterfly Ilya Kharun 1:53.82 World Championships
Freestyle Javier Acevedo 1:47.04 (Relay) World Championships
TOTAL 7:48.60

Canada’s relay is helped out nicely by Ilya Kharun’s 1:53 butterfly split. Faster backstroke and freestyle legs would put the Canadians in close reach of the next fastest team, the Hungarians.

  1. HUNGARY (7:47.18)
Stroke Swimmer Time Meet
Backstroke Hubert Kos 1:54.14 World Championships
Breaststroke David Verraszto 2:13.35 Sopron Open 2022
Butterfly Kristof Milak 1:52.58 Hungarian National Championships
Freestyle Nandor Nemeth 1:47.11 (Flat) World Championships
TOTAL 7:47.18

Hungary features the fastest 200 Back time this year from Kos and the second fastest 200 Fly time from Milak, but lacks a significant breaststroke or freestyle presence.

  1. RUSSIA (7:44.19)
Stroke Swimmer Time Meet
Backstroke Evgeny Rylov 1:55.50 Russian National Swimming Cup
Breaststroke Kirill Prigoda 2:07.47 Russian National Swimming Cup
Butterfly Aleksandr Kudashev 1:55.68 Russian National Swimming Cup
Freestyle Ivan Girev 1:45.31 (Relay) Russian National Swimming Cup
TOTAL 7:44.19

Russia is one of two teams to feature a backstroke split faster than their butterfly split, with 2021 Olympic Champion Evgeny Rylov leading off. Their first two legs would place them 4th at the 400 turn, but they slowly fade into sixth until the end of the relay.

  1. FRANCE (7:43.44)
Stroke Swimmer Time Meet
Backstroke Mewen Tomac 1:55.79 World Championships
Breaststroke Antoine Marc 2:09.68 French Elite Championships
Butterfly Leon Marchand 1:52.43 World Championships
Freestyle Wissam-Amazigh Yebba 1:45.54 (Relay) World Championships
TOTAL 7:43.44

From here on, each of these countries could be serious medal contenders. The French find themselves in an interesting position where Leon Marchand could likely find success at any position in this relay. However, there’s only one Marchand, and he’s best suited to swim the butterfly leg.

  1. AUSTRALIA (7:42.39)
Stroke Swimmer Time Meet
Backstroke Joshua Edwards-Smith 1:55.42 McDonald’s Queensland Championships 2022
Breaststroke Zac Stubblety-Cook 2:06.40 World Championships
Butterfly Bowen Gough 1:56.01 Australian Swimming Trials
Freestyle Kai Taylor 1:44.56 (Relay) World Championships
TOTAL 7:42.39

With the 4th-fastest 200 Back swimmer this season with Edwards-Smith,  former world-record holder in Stubblety-Cook, and a consistent 1:44 split in Kai Taylor, the Aussies could be a force if they found a butterflier capable of going a 1:54.

  1. JAPAN (7:42.34)
Stroke Swimmer Time Meet
Backstroke Hidekazu Takehara 1:56.93 Japan National Championships
Breaststroke Ippei Watanabe 2:07.73 Japan National Championships
Butterfly Tomoru Honda 1:52.70 Japan Open 2022
Freestyle Katsuhiro Matsumoto 1:44.98 (Flat) Japan National Championships
TOTAL 7:42.34

The Japanese could be a powerhouse in this relay if all of their swimmers are on form. Each is capable of contributing to a world-class relay, especially the middle two legs, veterans Ippei Watanabe and Tomoru Honda.

Stroke Swimmer Time Meet
Backstroke Ryan Murphy 1:54.83 World Championships
Breaststroke Matt Fallon 2:07.71 Phillips 66 National Championships
Butterfly Thomas Heilman 1:53.82 World Championships
Freestyle Kieran Smith 1:44.47 (Relay) World Championships
TOTAL 7:40.83

Each of the swimmers on the American relay finaled in their respective events at Worlds, so it’s no surprise they’re near the top of this list. There’s no inherent “weak leg” on this team, but even with bronze medalist Matt Fallon going a 2:07, Qin Haiyang’s world record gives the Chinese a substantial leg up.

  1. CHINA (7:40.62)
Stroke Swimmer Time Meet
Backstroke Xu Jiayu 1:56.33 Chinese National Championships
Breaststroke Qin Haiyang 2:05.48 World Championships
Butterfly Chen Juner 1:54.16 Chinese National Championships
Freestyle Pan Zhanle 1:44.65 (Flat) Chinese National Championships
TOTAL 7:40.62

Qin’s dominance in the 200 breaststroke continues to show beyond Fukuoka. With a time nearly a full second faster than the next-fastest in the field (Australia’s Stubblety-Cook), his leg overcomes a deficit of nearly two seconds, putting the Chinese into the lead for the remainder of the relay despite faster butterfly and freestyle splits from the Americans.


This relay could allow 200 stroke specialists a chance at a relay, without requiring them to drop down to the 100 of their stroke. Certain swimmers, such as Matt Fallon and Moon Seungwoo, could have a chance to swim more than just their one event at the World Championships. It would showcase more country vs. country rivalry, and who doesn’t love a good relay rivalry?

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Z Thomas
1 month ago

What does the all Leon team go?

Reply to  Z Thomas
1 month ago

Probably around
7:40-42 depending on what he can go in backstroke

Alex Wilson
Reply to  Z Thomas
5 days ago

ASU yesterday did a 4X100 LCM relay yesterday Sept 22, featuring two world champions and two rising stars. Swimmers were Hubert Kos, Back stroke, Leon Marchand Breast, Ilya Kharun of Canadian National Team, Fly, and rising star Patrick Sammon who represented USA at the LEN meet in Ireland, with a non tapered first meet of the season of time 3:34.37! This time would have ranked 13th in the world last year. Considering no one was going all out or tapered this college team could easily knock a number of seconds off this time!

Z Thomas
1 month ago

Should be the 5 x 200

1 month ago

I wonder how much better Hungary would be if they had peak Dani Gyurta swimming the breast stroke leg. I think his best was in the 2:07 range.

Reply to  BigNowhere
1 month ago

2:07.23 is his PB. If you switch out Verraszto for Gyurta it’s about a 6 second drop.

Reply to  snailSpace
1 month ago

And do not forget that Milak 1.52.48 is also more than 2 seconds slower from his top time .. and Nemeth has also 2 seconds reserve if we count on his relay lag.

More general comment. Why only for US they count freestyle relay leg while for the others only flat???

1 month ago

I NEED to see this relay in action

Reply to  Swimfan27
1 month ago

they do it in masters pretty sure…

1 month ago

I believe that the WR using this methodology would be 7:35.21. Prove me wrong…

Piersol, Shanteau, Phelps, Berens from 2009 WC.

Reply to  Bosnerd
1 month ago

Women I believe would be 8:23.04 from Franklin (2:04.06), Soni (2:19.59), Hersey (2:05.78), Schmitt (1:53.61) from London.

Reply to  Bosnerd
1 month ago

Probably unbreakble until 2040

Reply to  John26
1 month ago

yeah, I can see someone breaking Zhang Lin’s 800 before getting four people to go under 7:35 in a relay

Reply to  Bosnerd
1 month ago

Wait – Shanteau was faster in semis, so methodology would actually yield a 7:34.98

It will be a LONG time before one nation goes faster than that?

Just A Swammer
1 month ago

If this Relay was ever added, I feel like it’s a bit of a double-edged sword.

On one hand, this could get more countries and swimmers to care about the 200 strokes. Considering the low entry numbers and lack of development in some of these events (we all know about the Women’s 200 Fly at the Olympics), perhaps the Relay would boost those numbers.

On the other hand, it’s another 200m race to swim for many, and might lead to more scratches or less events swum by certain swimmers.

It would be fun to see however.

1 month ago

I can’t believe CAN men hypothetically beat GB men in this! Very hypothetically exciting! Lol

1 month ago

There’s already too many events, especially now with the ridiculous mixed relays and stroke 50s at many meets.