Women’s 400 Medley Relay Final: Big Changes and Momentum in Play on Sunday


In the women’s 400 medley relay final, all 8 finals relays are very good relays (as were some relays that didn’t make finals). This makes the field feel very deep. But when you really drill down on paper, it seems like a three team race between Australia, the USA, and Canada, the same three teams expected to contend for medals coming into the meet and the same three teams that won medals at the 2019 World Championships.

I don’t think it will be the same 3-second gap that we saw from 3rd place to 4th place at the World Championships, and China could still have something to say here, but the three favorites are where the focus will be.

The US dominated that race at Worlds in 2019, breaking the World Record, but this US team isn’t quite firing on all of the same cylinders as that one was. Australia, meanwhile, has swum mostly very well, and most of the Canadian contingent is swimming better than the one at the 2019 Worlds, with the same likely four legs, did.

Ultimately, this feels like a USA vs. Australia for the gold. On paper it’s nearly a dead-heat. In practice, Australia has momentum and the USA doesn’t. That should set up for a thrilling final on Sunday morning.

Possible substitutions:

Note: this doesn’t mean that the teams WILL make these substitutions. In some cases, like the Australian anchor, there’s a case to not make the substitution. This just lays out the options.

Canada (1st Qualifier)

Canada – Prelims Substitutions
Taylor Ruck – 59.64
Kylie Masse – 57.72
Sydney Pickrem – 1:07.03
Kelsey Wog – 1:07.73
Maggie MacNeil – 55.82 N/A
Kayla Sanchez – 52.68
Penny Oleksiak – 52.59
Total Time – 3:55.17

Canada has some big moves to make here. Kylie Masse is on fire, so that’s a big one. Penny Oleksiak is swimming well, so that’s another one. Those two alone should get Canada conservatively a two-second bump from prelims. That gets them down to the 3:53-low that should wrap up a medal. The breaststroke leg is the big question mark – have to believe that Sydney Pickrem’s scratch of the 400 IM and 200 breast were a precursor to her being on this finals relay, but none of the country’s three breaststrokers at the meet (Kelsey Wog, Kierra Smith) have been great. So the other three are going to have to lift their teammate up, because that’s what relays are about. They’ve got 3 really strong swimmers capable of doing just that.

USA (2nd Qualifier)

USA – Prelims Substitutions
Rhyan White – 59.19
Regan Smith – 58.05 (57.6 on a mixed medley)/
Lilly King – 1:05.51
Lydia Jacoby – 1:04.95
Claire Curzan – 57.65
Torri Huske – 55.73
Erika Brown – 52.83
Abbey Weitzeil – 53.23
Total Time – 3:55.18

The US will probably go wholesale changes here, though there’s some argument to leave Erika Brown or sub in maybe Natalie Hinds on the anchor leg. The U.S. seemed hesitant to use Abbey Weitzeil on the mixed medley final on a similar double, so if they feel the same way tonight, that makes sense. But, based on coaching decisions we’ve seen so far, suspect they’ll go by the book and run with Weitzeil on the anchor.

Huske and Jacoby were slower than their flat-start times on the mixed relay, so if the US wants to hold off Australia for gold, that’s something to clean up. Regan Smith, though, was way faster (in prelims) on the mixed medley relay leadoff, so if she repeats that effort, that gives the young Jacoby and Huske some confidence in the middle of the relay.

Australia (3rd Qualifier)

Australia – Prelims Substitutions
Emily Seebohm – 59.37
Kaylee McKeown – 57.47
Chelsea Hodges – 1:06.16 N/A
Brianna Throssell – 57.51
Emma McKeon – 55.64
Mollie O’Callaghan – 52.35
Cate Campbell – 52.52
Total Time – 3:55.39

Australia will swap 3 of the 4 legs here. With other sprinters performing well, it makes sense to put Emma McKeon on the fly leg rather than free, even though she won gold in the free and bronze in the fly. Australia has a big decision in that anchor leg still between O’Callaghan and Campbell. O’Callaghan has been lights-out on her relay swims all week, forcing Australia into tough decisions. Last time, they chose to leave her off finals – and on paper, that cost them time in the 800 free relay final.

Have to assume they’ll do it again here, because Campbell is their superstar and has been so good on relays. They might have a good enough relay for it to be over by then anyway.

Italy (4th Qualifier)

Italy – Prelims Substitutions
Margherita Panziera – 1:00.55 N/A
Arianna Castiglioni – 1:05.26
Martina Carraro – 1:06.19
Elena di Liddo – 56.74 N/A
Federica Pellegrini – 53.24 N/A
Total Time – 3:55.79

There’s really only one change for Italy to make here, on the breaststroke leg, but after Arianna Castiglioni’s 1:05.26 in prelims, it’s hard to see them making that move. So that leaves Italy to just find seconds from the team already there. The good news is that this is possible – Panziera, even having not been at her best this week, can knock a second off her time. Elena Di Liddo can comfortably drop a few tenths too. If Pellegrini musters one last burst for what will probably be her last Olympic swim, it’s conceivable that they get to 3:53.

Sweden (5th Qualifier)

Sweden – Prelims Substitutions
Michelle Coleman – 1:00.73 N/A
Sophie Hansson – 1:05.61 N/A
Louise Hansson – 56.79 N/A
Sarah Sjostrom – 53.10 N/A
Total Time – 3:56.23

With Sarah Sjostrom’s comeback from a broken elbow progressing nicely, the Swedes put themselves back in the conversation. They’ll use the same foursome in finals that they did in prelims. Everyone else will have to squeeze out every tenth they can for a medal, though. A 4th place finish would match the boycotted 1980 games as the country’s best-ever Olympic finish in the women’s 400 medley relay. They were disqualified in their other two Olympic finals in 1984 and 2008.

Japan (6th Qualifier)

Japan – Prelims Substitutions
Anna Konishi – 59.75 N/A
Kanako Watanabe – 1:06.34 N/A
Rikako Ikee – 57.50 N/A
Chihiro Igarashi – 53.58 N/A
Total Time – 3:57.17

This hasn’t been a great meet for the Japanese women aside from the Yui Ohashi’s IM sweep, so this relay was really a pleasant surprise from them. Most legs swam as well as they have all week. But that also means there’s not a ton of space to drop here, so expect Japan to be at the back of the pack in finals.

Russian Olympic Committee (7th Qualifier)

Russian Olympic Committee – Prelims Substitutions
Anastasia Fesikova – 1:00.26 N/A
Yulia Efimova – 1:06.31 N/A
Svetlana Chimrova – 56.95 N/A
Mariia Kameneva – 53.84 N/A
Total Time – 3:57.36

No changes for Russia to make, they just need to be faster. They seemed flat in prelims, and while they’re not going to contend for medals without Efimova in 1:04 form, but a 3:56 or 3:55 is on the table.

China (8th Qualifier)

China – Prelims Substitutions
Chen Jie – 1:00.62
Peng Xuwei – 59.98
Tang Qianting – 1:05.73 N/A
Yu Yiting – 57.84
Zhang Yufei – 55.64
Wu Qingfeng – 53.51 Yang Junxuan
Total Time – 3:57.70

China has two changes to make – bringing in the electric Zhang Yufei, who has been swimming very fast all week, on the fly leg, and bringing in Peng Xuwei on the back leg. In total, the Chinese could get maybe 3 seconds from those changes if everything hits perfectly.

They’ll hope for a repeat from Tang Qianting and a big improvement for the anchor leg from Yang Junxuan, who split 52.71 on the mixed medley on Saturday. On paper, it doesn’t really add up that they’re in contention, but they’ve been out-racing expectations all week, so who knows?

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5 months ago

I wonder if the women in the mixed relay from yesterday are so rattled that it would be better not to put them on this relay.?
I guess we’ll find out in a few hours’ time.

5 months ago

Surely not. They’re essential to potentially winning. I don’t even rmeneber who the second butterflier is (I don’t think she made the final) so it would be a very odd choice to sub out Huske.

Reply to  Sub13
5 months ago

Curzan and she is off this meet. Huske is a lock. Jacoby is a lock too after her 1:05.0 last night. Smith also a lock. Freestyle could be Hinds/Brown/Manuel/Weitzel and would be justified. Think it will and should be Weitzel with the 1500 between 50s and relay.

Reply to  Sub13
5 months ago

Claire Curzan bombed in the semifinals of the women’s 100 butterfly. At the age of 17, Claire Curzan was not ready for prime time.

Reply to  Smith-Jacoby-Huske-Weitzeil
5 months ago

Club coaches preparing athletes for international racing shouldn’t just keep their swimmers racing at their home pools.

Reply to  Coach
5 months ago

hopefully she gets in more practice afterwards, she’ll be 19 at the next trials so still a lot of time for her

5 months ago

i mean Lydia outsplit King without goggles. she should be fine

5 months ago

No chance. Jacoby did a good job in the MMR – no woman breaststroker is going to look good against Peaty goggles-on and especially goggleless. Huske was less good – but Curzan has not had a great week – too many milkshakes in Hawaii is my guess – although her time will come.

Last edited 5 months ago by Jamie5678
Reply to  Jamie5678
5 months ago

Huske was trying to swim fly in a washing machine in the MMR. Give her clean water again, she’ll be fin.

Reply to  Jamie5678
5 months ago

Jacoby was 105 flat despite the goggle mishap so I think she can be 104 low/mid. Huske was 56.2 despite fighting the wash and starting far behind so I think she can be 55 mid/high. The big question marks are Smith and the free leg. Can Regan repeat her 57.6 from the medley relay ? But the biggest question is if the free leg can produce a 52 high and who do u trust with that?

Reply to  Jamie5678
5 months ago

You do realize you are talking about a 17 year old child… “milkshakes in Hawaii” is uncalled for. She’s probably more disappointed than anyone.

Her family and coach did not have her travel to meets to prepare and that is showing here.

Reply to  SwimMom
5 months ago

Yes – that’s a good point SwimMom. It’s hard travelling at that age. It was a joke – I don’t really think she’s been drinking milkshakes in Hawaii. Besides, she’s an Olympian at 17 and I don’t think she’s got anything to feel bad about at all. Apologies if I upset anyone.

Coach Mike 1952
Reply to  Jamie5678
5 months ago

Excuse me, but the “joke” was in extremely poor taste – jokes like that are not funny at all.

Reply to  SwimMom
5 months ago

I don’t fault them for that. She’s a child. The focus should be on school and being a teenager. She may also have siblings in various other sports. If she’s able to be this good with minimal travel experience, I think it bodes well for her future. Perhaps once college rolls around and sponsorships help her make a living for herself, she’ll be able to do more travel (when not in college season!)

5 months ago

Will McKeown be able to get 0,4 sec like in individual start over Smith?
Will Hodges be around 1sec behind King/Jacoby individually?

I guess if so, then it will be a toe-to-toe on a last leg, if not then they’ll lack a bit to fight for gold.

Canada is a lock for bronze IMHO*

*yeah, I know, there’s no such thing as being a lock since Aussie 4x200m women relay…

Reply to  Piotr
5 months ago

I wouldn’t count out China tbh. On paper they’re not in it, but on paper they shouldn’t have even medaled in the 4×200 and they broke the world record

Bill G
Reply to  Sub13
5 months ago

Why were we all surprised by China in this relay?

The Chinese 4×200 relay team had the 4th place finisher in the individual (ahead of Ledecky), 3rd and 5th in the 400m free (both ahead of USA’s Paige Madden) and Zhang Yufei with an Emma McKeon-esque resume here (silver in 100 fly, 200 fly gold and entered in the 50m free).

They had their top swimmer improve her individual 200m free a bit in the lead-off and the other three split in the 1:55s.

5 months ago

Expecting a big swim from Regan Smith later. Her reaction to her great swim in the 200 fly was the first time I’ve seen looking happy rather than haunted since 2019. Her subsequent prelim swim in the mixed medley was huge and it looked like a massive weight had gone.

The lead-off rematch between Smith, McKeown and Masse will be epic and less pressurised than the individual – so I think the world record goes down.

If Smith gets to the wall ahead of McKeown – the US wins this relay.

Last edited 5 months ago by Jamie5678
Reply to  Jamie5678
5 months ago

Canada has a good shot of winning as well. The women have been coming in clutch I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Chinese 4×200 kind of swim from them.

Reply to  Prettykitten
5 months ago

If it was a backstroke – fly – freestyle relay, would be ahead of the US and racing Australia for gold. Unfortunately there’s a breaststroke leg, we’ve seen how important they are, and Canada are giving away 1-2 seconds.

Last edited 5 months ago by Jamie5678
Sean C.
Reply to  Prettykitten
5 months ago

The gap between Jacoby and Pickrem is realistically going to be too wide for Mac Neil and Oleksiak to claw back.

If Canada was an authoritarian regime, the federation would probably have told Sydney after 2019 Worlds that she was training nothing but the 100m breaststroke henceforth.

Reply to  Sean C.
5 months ago

Let’s face it – either her or Kelsey Wog was supposed to have it and giving a 1:06 low should have been an expectation whether they are completely focused on just that race or not. But clearly, something is up with the breaststroke/IM group in Canada since the group overall has not been the most spectacular group this meet (wondering if it is coaching considering what they had been able to do in 2019, 2020, and early 2021).

Reply to  ALDASP
5 months ago

Yes wog was under 107 at trials… and i thing has done mid 106. She also didn’t perform overly well at 2019 worlds at least in the 100..and pickram did the relay there. Perhaps nerves get the better of her? We also had a junior but i think she is injured at the moment .. can’t think of her name. I wonder if knowing you are the ‘weak link’ also puts more pressure on you.

Bill G
Reply to  Prettykitten
5 months ago

Mac Neil and Oleksiak didn’t swim in yesterday’s final session – unlike their Chinese, American and Australian competitors.

Masse will be the key. Regan Smith (USA) is a wild card – she has struggled with consistency (missing the 200m back at US trials) but has the ability to post a fast time. CAN and US must be hoping the “curse” of “struggling” in relays the day following an individual gold (for Dean (GB) and Titmus (AUS)) hits McKeown.

Reply to  Bill G
5 months ago

I think realistically Canada will have to fend off China and Sweden
Canada main weakness is breaststroke and could be slower by 1.5 than sweden, china seems slightly better.  Unless they have other swimmers for the back though and masse can do at least 58 low. Canada would be about a 1.5 second advantage there. The back half of bother teams is relatively strong although Canada and China have the edge as Swedens butterfy will be a bit behind.  That being said China surprised in the 4×2.  Good news is that except for masse everyone on the Canada team at least 1 day rest.   And i think Penny really want one more medal

5 months ago

why wouldn’t china put in yang junxuan?

5 months ago

Exciting battle between USA, Australia and Canada for the medals. The breaststroke leg will be decisive. Being honest, I don’t see Jacoby with a massive split making the difference for the US team, so it’ll be close.

Last edited 5 months ago by KnifeSmile
Reply to  KnifeSmile
5 months ago

Bro Jacoby swam 1:05.0 with goggles off

Reply to  Hswimmer
5 months ago

Yep I thought that will be the clincher. Jacoby.

Reply to  Hswimmer
5 months ago

In theory, Jacoby should swim even faster with the goggles on.

Reply to  Smith-Jacoby-Huske-Weitzeil
5 months ago

Big if true

5 months ago

China will use Yang Junxuan on their anchor leg.

5 months ago

Coming into this meet I gave the Aussies no chance but they’ve really stepped it up. I still give USA the edge, but if Kaylee can swim close to her best (she pulled a 58.14 yesterday after a double!) and Chelsea doesn’t lose too much time, Australia should have a very slightly better fly leg (although Emma has a double and Tori doesn’t) and at least a half second better free leg, possible more.

So Australia can do this but they need to all swim their best. USA has a tiny bit of time to spare but they can probably only afford one leg that’s not perfect is Australia is firing.

Reply to  Sub13
5 months ago

Hodges needs to be 1:05 or it’s all over

McKeown did great yesterday, not only swimming after 200back but also swimming in Murphy’s wash

Steve Nolan
5 months ago

This is gonna come down to weak legs – Canada and Australia’s breaststroke and the US’s freestyle – like the GB v US in the men’s medley.

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Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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