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.
- Note: we used the FINA World Rankings to compile these lists, which are not always perfect.
With butterfly and backstroke splits more than 8 seconds slower than the world-leading times of this year, the Dutch just barely couldn’t crack the top ten– even with bronze medalists in Tes Schouten and Marrit Steenbergen.
- DENMARK (8:41.44)
|Backstroke||Karoline Sorensen||2:13.04||Danish Open|
|Breaststroke||Thea Blomsterberg||2:22.42||World Championships|
|Butterfly||Helena Bach||2:07.15||World Championships|
|Freestyle||Signe Bro||1:58.83 (Flat)||Malmsten Swim Open Stockholm|
The Danish showcase a great middle 400 in Thea Blomsterberg and Helena Bach, two finalists at the recent World Championships. However, without a sub-2:10 backstroke leg, Denmark would have a tough time making the final in this event at an actual meet.
- ITALY (8:40.60)
|Backstroke||Margherita Panziera||2:08.12||Italian Nationals|
|Breaststroke||Martina Carraro||2:24.22||Italian Nationals|
|Butterfly||Ilaria Cusinato||2:09.03||Italian Nationals|
|Freestyle||Simona Quadarella||1:59.23 (Flat)||Italian Nationals|
The Italians don’t have a true standout performer, but this team consists of four solid swimmers. Despite her preferences for longer distances, Simona Quadarella (silver medalist in the 1500 in Fukuoka) features the fastest 200 split from the nation this year.
- HUNGARY (8:40.37)
|Backstroke||Eszter Szabo-Feltothy||2:08.85||Hungarian Nationals|
|Breaststroke||Eszter Bekesi||2:26.45||Hungarian Nationals|
|Butterfly||Boglarka Kapas||2:08.52||Sette Colli|
|Freestyle||Nikolett Padar||1:56.55 (Relay)||World Championships|
The first country to reach the hypothetical “final,” Hungary is supplemented by quick splits in the butterfly and freestyle legs. As with many nations on this list, a faster breaststroke leg would help the Hungarians tremendously.
- JAPAN (8:37.80)
|Backstroke||Rio Shirai||2:10.01||Japanese Nationals|
|Breaststroke||Runa Imai||2:22.98||Japanese Nationals|
|Butterfly||Airi Mitsui||2:06.77||Japanese Nationals|
|Freestyle||Nagisa Ikemoto||1:58.04 (Relay)||World Championships|
With two top-10 performers this year in Airi Mitsui (6th) and Runa Imai (10th), Japan is another team that features an excellent middle 400. While the Japanese find strength in an area where many other teams are lacking, having a strong anchor freestyler would be beneficial in making them possible medal contenders.
- GREAT BRITAIN (8:35.04)
|Backstroke||Katie Shanahan||2:07.45||World Championships|
|Breaststroke||Kara Hanlon||2:25.12||British Nationals|
|Butterfly||Laura Stephens||2:06.62||British Nationals|
|Freestyle||Freya Anderson||1:55.85 (Flat)||World Championships|
The British have formidable swimmers all around their relay, and their sixth-place ranking speaks numbers to the strength and competitive nature of women’s swimming at this time. To have a higher ranking, the Brits would need a faster breaststroke leg, as Shanahan, Stephens, and Anderson all made finals at Worlds in their events.
- RUSSIA (8:34.68)
|Backstroke||Renata Gainullina||2:10.72||Russian Swimming Champs Kazan|
|Breaststroke||Evgeniia Chikunova||2:17.55||Russian Swimming Champs Kazan|
|Butterfly||Svetlana Chimrova||2:08.09||Russian Swimming Champs Kazan|
|Freestyle||Daria Klepikova||1:58.32 (Relay)||Russian National Swimming Cup|
Chikunova’s world record in the 200 breast at Russian Nationals skyrockets this team in the rankings. To be more competitive against powerhouses like the United States and Australia, they’d need faster backstroke and freestyle legs.
- CANADA (8:33.10)
|Backstroke||Kylie Masse||2:07.13||Bell Canadian Swim Trials|
|Breaststroke||Kelsey Wog||2:24.16||World Championships|
|Butterfly||Summer McIntosh||2:04.06||World Championships|
|Freestyle||Mary-Sophie Harvey||1:57.75 (Flat)||Mare Nostrum Monte Carlo|
With this relay lineup as is, Canada has a shot to earn a bronze medal. Kelsey Wog and Mary-Sophie Harvey have very solid breaststroke and freestyle legs, and Kylie Masse and Summer McIntosh sport internationally impressive times in their strokes. McIntosh could find her stride swimming either the butterfly or freestyle legs (even her 200 backstroke time is only 0.02 off of Masse’s), which puts the Canadians in a similar position to the French with Marchand.
- CHINA (8:32.63)
|Backstroke||Xuwei Peng||2:06.74||World Championships|
|Breaststroke||Ye Shiwen||2:22.44||Chinese Nationals|
|Butterfly||Zhang Yufei||2:07.99||Chinese Nationals|
|Freestyle||Yaxin Liu||1:55.46 (Relay)||World Championships|
There’s no “weak” leg on this team, each of these women made a final in their respective events (except for Zhang Yufei, who focused on China’s gold-medal mixed medley relay). If China poured its efforts and attention into a great 4×200 Medley team, I think they’d be serious contenders with the United States and Australia.
- UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (UPDATED: 8:24.98)
|Backstroke||Rhyan White||2:05.77||Phillips 66 Nationals|
|Breaststroke||Lilly King||2:20.95||Phillips 66 Nationals|
|Butterfly||Regan Smith||2:03.87||Sun Devil Open|
|Freestyle||Katie Ledecky||1:54.39 (Relay)||World Championships|
It’s no surprise the Americans, with superstars in Regan Smith and Lilly King, are as high as they are on this list. The US runs into the problem of having one swimmer with the fastest times in two separate events (Smith, 200 Fly/Back), and despite a well-renowned team of international competitors, the Americans are barely edged out by the Australians.
- AUSTRALIA (8:24.46)
|Backstroke||Kaylee McKeown||2:03.14||NSW State Open Championships|
|Breaststroke||Abbey Harkin||2:23.65||World Championships|
|Butterfly||Elizabeth Dekkers||2:05.26||Australian Trials|
|Freestyle||Ariarne Titmus||1:52.41||World Championships|
With the fastest 200 Freestyle split ever from Titmus (more than a full second faster than Ledecky’s fastest split of 1:53.67) and the 200 Backstroke world record set by McKeown, the Aussies would seemingly add another relay to their dominant repertoire. Each of these swimmers finaled in their respective events, and 3 out of the 4 won a medal.
The standout women seem to be more spread out across multiple countries, instead of falling within the same few countries as seen with the men. Swimmers like Tatjana Schoenmaker and Siobhan Haughey nearly skyrocketed South Africa and Hong Kong into the top ten, but their “big fish in a small pond” nature doesn’t bode well for relay swimming. The difference between first and tenth is about 8 seconds for the men, but nearly 17 seconds for the women. Despite another opportunity at a “fun” event for spectators, the implementation of this relay could put certain swimmers (Simona Quadarella, Kaylee McKeown, Lilly King) into difficult positions regarding event load.