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

See what a men’s 4×200 medley would look like here.

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.

  1. DENMARK (8:41.44)
Stroke Swimmer Time Meet
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
TOTAL: 8:41.44

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.  

  1. ITALY (8:40.60)
Stroke Swimmer Time Meet
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
TOTAL: 8:40.60


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. 

  1. HUNGARY (8:40.37)
Stroke Swimmer Time Meet
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
TOTAL 8:40.37

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.

  1. JAPAN (8:37.80)
Stroke Swimmer Time Meet
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
TOTAL 8:37.80

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.

  1. GREAT BRITAIN (8:35.04)
Stroke Swimmer Time Meet
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
TOTAL 8:35.04

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.

  1. RUSSIA (8:34.68)
Stroke Swimmer Time Meet
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
TOTAL 8:34.68

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.

  1. CANADA (8:33.10)
Stroke Swimmer Time Meet
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
TOTAL 8:33.10

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.

  1. CHINA (8:32.63)
Stroke Swimmer Time Meet
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
TOTAL 8:32.63

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. 

Stroke Swimmer Time Meet
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
TOTAL 8:24.98

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. 

  1. AUSTRALIA (8:24.46)
Stroke Swimmer Time Meet
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
TOTAL 8:24.49

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.

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27 days ago

For the 200free of Italy’s relay, you should consider Giulia D’Innocenzo that swam 1.58 (flat) twice this year (7hills and World University games)

29 days ago

How about this for a hypothetical a mixed 4×50 M Medley relay who would win that maybe this be a good article for Swimswam to do.

Reply to  Timeout
28 days ago

That’s a real relay in short course already. But for this season in long course I’m 99% sure USA wins it. They’re basically the only country with 4 decent legs.

Reply to  Sub13
28 days ago

And Australia wins a 4×50 mixed free quite handily

Take Down
Reply to  Sub13
28 days ago

Mckewon, Williamson, Throssel, McEvoy in long course mixed 4x50m relay hard to beat

Reply to  Take Down
26 days ago

McKeown: 27.08
Williamson: 26.76
Perkins: 25.92 (faster than Throssel)
McEvoy: 21.06

Armstrong: 23.71
Fink: 26.45
Walsh: 25.11
Weitzeil: 24.00

Not even close. We have no great 50 breast or 50 fly of either gender which completely hamstrings us.

29 days ago

wow, obviously I knew AUS and USA would be ahead of the rest of the world but by that much is crazy

29 days ago

‘the implementation of this relay could put certain swimmers into difficult positions regarding event load’

This is something that people do not give enough credit for, especially for the top countries like US & Australia. Whereas it’s great that the swimmers from these countries have opportunities to win more medals, it’s also the work load put on them.

So sometimes swimmers who get multiple medals due to swimming the 100 free should get the allocates as their workload increases

Reply to  Robbos
29 days ago

Yeah there’s no foolproof system. A relay medal isn’t the same as an individual medal, but it also needs to be given some weight because it takes effort. Eg if relays didn’t exist then MOC could have arguably been in medal contention in 3 additional individual events.

Reply to  Sub13
29 days ago

Oh don’t get wrong, a relay gold is not anything like a individual gold.

29 days ago

Next do mixed 4×200 free and medley!!

Reply to  GatorGuy
29 days ago

I did an example mixed 4×200 medley in a comment below. I haven’t run the numbers but pretty sure a 4×200 mixed free would be the same outcome: AUS and USA 1-2 and both well ahead of everyone else.

Reply to  Sub13
29 days ago

Here’s the mixed 4×2 free:

#1 AUS
1:45.79 Taylor
1:45.19 Chalmers
1:52.85 O’Callaghan (flat)
1:52.41 Titmus

Note: Could’ve used Taylor’s 1:44.56 if Chalmers swum a tapered flat start this year.

#2 USA
1:44.87 Hobson
1:44.47 Smith
1:54.39 Ledecky
1:54.64 Sims

#3 GBR
1:44.30 Richards
1:43.84 Dean
1:55.85 Anderson (flat)
1:56.16 Colbert (flat)

#4 CHN
1:44.65 Pan
1:45.71 Wang (flat)
1:55.57 Ai
1:55.46 Liu

Reply to  Troyy
29 days ago

Interesting! You’re using Mollie’s flat start so theoretically you could use two splits for the boys if you wanted. Obviously that wouldn’t happen in reality but hey, this isn’t a real event.

But if you insist on two men leading off, then Giuliani (1:46.23) and Taylor (1:44.56) would be 2 tenths faster I think?

Reply to  Sub13
29 days ago

Good get. I didn’t even look at any 1:46s for Australia tbh.

Chalmers is pretty much always a 1:45 flat start in peak shape and doesn’t usually drop much with a relay start in a 200 so he might be better to lead off in 4x2s. The men’s 4×2 order in Fukuoka should’ve been Chalmers Taylor Graham Neil.

29 days ago

Transferring to NCAA again, using only A or B finals times for 200 yd events.

Virginia 7:24.66 (Tiltman,Douglas,A Walsh,Canny)
Texas 7:28.77 (Bray,Elendt,Sticklen,Pash)
NC St. 7:42.14 (Muzzy,MacCausland,Arens,Webb)

No real surprise here in UVa win. No other team put someone in all four finals, which did surprise me.

ACC fan
Reply to  Jimbo
28 days ago

Love this!

tea rex
29 days ago

Rhyan White back (2:05.77) and Regan Smith fly (2:03.87) drops USA 1.51 seconds.
And since we’re doing a hypothetical relay, wouldn’t a 5×200 MR (with a 200 IM) be more fun?!

Reply to  tea rex
29 days ago

5×200 would be super fun!

Reply to  tea rex
28 days ago

It wouldn’t be straightforward either because it’s hard to find an IMer who isn’t the top 200 swimmer in their country in another stroke. You’d have to get creative.

Southerly Buster
29 days ago

If Australia’s top 200m breaststroker Jenna Strauch had been available Australia’s time would have presumably been somewhere in the 8:23 range.

Reply to  Southerly Buster
29 days ago

Several teams have stuff like this that they could say (ie CAN with Penny on free)

Southerly Buster
Reply to  ScovaNotiaSwimmer
29 days ago

Yes when talking about a hypothetical relay I got tempted to add a further hypothetical. Oleksiak is certainly a game changer for Canadian relays and is usually in form in Olympic years.