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)
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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.
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?