2020 TOKYO SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES
- When: Pool swimming: Saturday, July 24 – Sunday, August 1, 2021
- Open Water swimming: Wednesday, August 4 – Thursday, August 5, 2021
- Where: Olympic Aquatics Centre / Tokyo, Japan
- Heats: 7 PM / Semifinals & Finals: 10:30 AM (Local time)
- Full aquatics schedule
- SwimSwam Event Previews
- Entry Lists
- Live Results
- Day 1 Prelims Heat Sheet
- Day 1 Prelims Recap
There were no grand surprises, nor grand disappointments, in prelims of the women’s 400 free relay on Saturday morning. With the exception of France falling and Denmark taking their spot, the rest of the top 8 seeds all made the 8-team final for Saturday evening, setting up some big finals battles for minor medals.
Australia, even without Cate Campbell, cruised to a 3:31.73 in prelims, which is the 10th-fastest 400 free relay in history.
It’s hard to see past the Australians for gold, but there is still a great battle to be waged for the silver and bronze medals. That includes the British women, who swam a new National Record in prelims in a race where, if the Olympics had happened on time in 2020, they may not have even entered this race.
They swam their best 4 in prelims and qualified 4th in 3:34.03. While that doesn’t mean they won’t be faster in the final, it makes the pathway to the podium less clear.
|Australia Prelims||In Reserve (flat start best)|
|Mollie O’Callaghan – 53.08||Emma McKeon – 52.19|
|Meg Harris – 52.73||Cate Campbell – 52.12|
|Madison Wilson – 53.10|
|Bronte Campbell – 52.82|
|Time – 3:31.73|
On paper, coming in, Madi Wilson and Meg Harris were the favored choices to join McKeon and Campbell in the final. But after prelims, O’Callaghan and Bronte Campbell have to be in consideration too. While it likely won’t matter for gold, the choices very well could impact the World Record (and who gets their name etched in those books). Right now, based on the safe starts in prelims, it seems like the choice is Harris, plus a coach’s decision between O’Callaghan and Campbell. Hard to see them not choosing Campbell based on honor/politics/experience, with all else being essentially equal.
|Netherlands Prelims||In Reserve|
|Kim Busch – 54.79||Kira Toussaint – 54.58|
|Ranomi Kromowidjojo – 52.50|
|Marritt Steenbergen – 54.32|
|Femke Heemskerk – 51.90|
|Time – 3:33.51 (2nd)|
Big splits from the two dutch legends Kromowidjojo and Heemskerk in this one, but both Stenbergen and Busch should be able to knock at least half-a-second off their prelims splits. If they can maximize their potential in this race, the Dutch are probably in for silver.
There is an opening for Kira Toussaint, who has a busy schedule this week, to enter the relay for finals, probably in place of Busch.
|Canada Prelims||In Reserve (flat start best)|
|Kayla Sanchez – 53.45||Maggie MacNeil – 54.02|
|Taylor Ruck – 54.16|
|Rebecca Smith – 53.73|
|Penny Oleksiak – 52.38|
|Time – 3:33.72 (3rd)|
Ruck doesn’t seem to have fully shaken-off a tough performance at the Canadian Olympic Trials, and her 54.16 on leg 2 for Canada (even with a tight .11 reaction time) was the disappointing leg for the Canadians in prelims. Unless she was on a strict instruction to go less-than-all-out in the heats, it seems that the Canadians will need to make a move to MacNeil in the final, although for MacNeil the race would come after the 100 fly semifinals. She’s swum fast multiple times in a session before, though.
|Great Britain Prelims||In Reserve|
|Lucy Hope – 54.37||N/A|
|Anna Hopkin – 52.65|
|Abbie Wood – 53.55|
|Freya Anderson – 53.46|
|Time – 3:34.03 (4th)|
With a starring split from Abbie Wood, who continues to improve every time she hits the water, the British women are off to a great start. Anna Hopkin‘s NCAA/short course prophecies are bearing out where it counts. Lucy Hope is the key to their medal hopes in the final. She was a 53.8 on a flat-start at the European Championships, and GB needs something more like that in the final.
|United States Prelims||In Reserve (flat start best, qualifying period)|
|Olivia Smoliga – 54.06||Abbey Weitzeil – 53.18|
|Catie DeLoof – 53.42||Erika Brown – 53.42|
|Allison Schmitt – 54.04||Simone Manuel – 52.04|
|Natalie Hinds – 53.28||Katie Ledecky – 53.82|
|Time – 3:34.80||Torri Huske – 53.46|
This is the most intriguing decision of the field.
We know that Brown and Weitzeil will be on the finals relay. As the top two finishers in the 100 free at the Olympic Trials, it would be career-ruining for Greg Meehan to not include them in the final (barring injury or illness).
After that, what does he do next? Natalie Hinds splitting 53.28 and Catie DeLoof splitting 53.42 made his decisions very, very difficult. Schmitt and Smoliga are probably out for the finals relay, especially with Hinds’ split coming on a fairly-safe takeover margin of .43 seconds (DeLoof was more aggressive at .14).
So the question for Meehan and his staff then becomes does he carry forward those two, who he knows are hitting today, or does he take a gamble on either Simone Manuel or Katie Ledecky? Both Manuel and Ledecky train under Meehan year-round, so that ramps up the political pressure to make the right decision here.
Ledecky swam 53.82 on a flat-start before Olympic Trials, so if the coaches think she’s fit coming into the meet, she seems like a good choice to sub in for DeLoof. Manuel is a huge question-mark though. She didn’t even make the final at the Olympic Trials, citing Over Trianing Syndrome as a primary factor behind her 54.17.
But, for the Americans, she’s the fastest of the group all-time, and she was a 53.8 going into Trials. How much progress can she make on her health issues with an extra three weeks rest? Has she demonstrated any recovery in a time trial swim in camp?
And most importantly, is there a serious path to the podium for the Americans without her splitting at least around a 53.0?
This will be the challenge for the US coaches, but it’s what they were brought here for. They will have to choose the gamble versus confidence in the swimmers who have shown their hands. The relay choices this year for Team USA are as tough as they’ve ever been, and US coaches haven’t always hit perfectly on their ‘educated guesses.’ Right now, though, they have more information than anybody else about what to expect.
And that’s all without regard for the real wildcard, the teenager Torri Huske, who didn’t make the team specifically in this event, but who is the fastest American this year with a 53.46 from April. She has the 100 fly semifinals in the morning session on Sunday first. By the way – she’s a future Greg Meehan swimmer, so more conflicts-of-interest in the decision making.
Someone who could make this relay better will be left off. No envy for Meehan in making this decision.
|China Prelims||In Reserve (flat start best)|
|Cheng Yujie – 54.03||Yang Junxuan – 53.21|
|Zhu Menghui – 53.48||Zhang Yufei – 52.90|
|Ai Yanhan – 54.33|
|Wu Qingfeng – 53.23|
|Time – 3:35.07|
Don’t count China out yet. They have two big leg to swap, bringing in their two individual 100 free swimmers. That includes dropping Ai Yanhan and probably Cheng Yujie in place of Yang Junxuan and Zhang Yufei in finals. That could net them well over a second per leg, which they’ll need, as it probably takes a 3:53-mid, at least, to medal. They’ve got that though, if Yang and Zhang are near their bests. This could be the surprise medalist in this relay, especially if th American gamble doesn’t pay off.