Women’s 4×200 Free Relay: Who Is Getting Those Finals Spots?

2022 FINA WORLD AQUATICS CHAMPIONSHIPS

The preliminary heats of the women’s 4×200 free relay just concluded, and for the top four finishing teams of Australia, China, the United States, and Canada, big lineup decisions need to be made come time for finals.

United States

Prelims In Reserve (Flat Start PBs)
Alex Walsh – 1:57.94 Katie Ledecky – 1:53.73
Claire Weinstein – 1:58.35 Leah Smith – 1:55.97
Hali Flickinger – 1:57.05
Bella Sims – 1:55.91
Total 7:49.25

With Leah Smith and Katie Ledecky being locks for the finals, two more spots on this U.S. team were up for grabs. After seeing what went down in prelims, that first spot is most definitely going to Bella Sims now. The 17-year-old stepped up big time, clocking a split of 1:55.91 that was the fastest in the entire field. She’s improved significantly from when she was on the prelims of this relay in at the Olympics last year, where she led off nearly three seconds slower in a time of 1:58.59.

The second available spot on this finals relay will be much harder to decide. Aside from Sims, Hali Flickinger had the fastest split time out of all the members in this prelims relay. However, she has the finals of the 200 fly before this relay at night, which might leave her more fatigued than she was in the morning. Then there’s Claire Weinstein, who had the slowest split but the fastest personal best time of her teammates. Just two days ago, she finished tenth in the semifinals in a 1:56.94, which is over a second faster than what she went on this relay. If she’s able to match her individual time and her prelims race was just a fluke, she’s most definitely the strongest choice. Finally, the U.S. had Alex Walsh, who led off this relay in a time faster than Weinstein went but slower than Flickinger. In a scenario where Flickinger is tired after her 200 fly and the U.S. coaches feel that Weinstein can’t match her PB, Walsh could be the option to go with.

Then there’s the question of whether Katie Ledecky will lead off or anchor this relay come time for finals. We are used to seeing Ledecky anchor in the past, but this year, the U.S. might need a different strategy. With a team that is weaker than it has been in the past, the best option might be to have Ledecky lead off so that the Americans will not be lagging too much behind in the beginning of the race. That way, the rest of the team will be able to build off of Ledecky’s lead. But then there’s the argument that Ledecky has historically been better anchoring. While she hasn’t gone sub-1:54 on a flat start since 2016, she has been near her fastest relay split time of 1:53.74 on three different occasions, the most recent one being when she anchored in 1:53.76 on the U.S. Olympic relay last year and pushed her team from bronze to silver medal position.

Canada

Prelims In Reserve (Flat Start PBs)
Mary-Sophie Harvey – 1:57.94 Penny Oleksiak – 1:54.70
Katerine Savard – 1:58.41 Summer McIntosh – 1:55.39
Rebecca Smith – 1:59.03 Kayla Sanchez – 1:57.23
Taylor Ruck – 1:58.21
Total 7:53.59

Canada can go with many options on this finals relay. If you look at the prelims results alone, the obvious choices to put alongside (most likely) Penny Oleksiak and Summer McIntosh  would be Mary-Sophie Harvey, who had the fastest prelims time, and Taylor Ruck, who had the second-fastest time and clocked a 1:56.80 in the individual 200 free on Monday. The Canadians also have Kayla Sanchez, who wasn’t used on the prelims team but has been 1:55-point on previous 4×200 relays. However, she does have the 100 free semifinal that comes before the relay.

McIntosh will also be swimming the 200 fly final before this race, but given that she’s over two seconds faster than any of the prelims splits, there’s enough room for error for her to be a guaranteed a finals swim. The fact that Sanchez wasn’t in prelims might suggest that they are resting her for finals and McIntosh won’t be used at all, which could potentially be a waste of a 1:54 split and seriously hurt Canada. So most likely, that won’t be the case. Oleksiak, on the other hand, was DQed from the individual 200 free semifinals, which could potentially be fuel for her to go faster on this relay. However, she also has to handle the double of the 100 free semis prior to the race.

Australia

Prelims In Reserve (Flat Start PBs)
Leah Neale – 1:57.03 Mollie O’Callaghan – 1:54.94
Lani Pallister – 1:56.86 Madi Wilson – 1:55.86
Brianna Throssell – 1:57.23
Kiah Melverton – 1:56.49
Total 7:47.61

Like many of the other teams, Australia will have to pick two out of their prelims swimmers to go along with their two fastest 200 freestylers in finals. Kiah Melverton makes a strong case for herself anchoring in 1:56.49, the second-fastest split of the field. In addition, she also has a lifetime best of 1:55.94 that’s faster than any of the other women on the Australian prelims squad.

Lani Pallister‘s 1:56.86 off a rolling start and Leah Neale‘s 1:57.03 flat start time are very similar, so it’s going to be difficult to choose between who’s getting on the finals relay out of the two. Pallister has been having a really good meet, having set best times in both the 400 and 1500, while Neale has the experience of being on Australia’s 4×200 free relay at the Olympics last summer.

After making poor lineup decisions that arguably cost them the gold medal in Tokyo, Australian coaches have a lot of pressure to get things right this time around especially after qualifying for finals as the top seed out of prelims.

China

Prelims In Reserve (Flat Start PBs)
Li Bingjie – 1:57.55 Yang Junxuan – 1:54.48
Lao Lihui – 1:56.91 Tang Muhan – 1:54.26
Ge Chutong – 1:57.92 Zhang Yufei – 1:57.26
Ai Yanhan – 1:56.70
Total 7:49.08

With two members of China’s world-record setting relay (Li Bingjie and Zhang Yufei) not being at their strongest this meet, we might see some new faces on their finals relay today. That being said, China’s lineup looks to be easier to decide than the ones of their rivals. They will likely go with the individual 200 free gold and bronze medalists in Yang Junxuan and Tang Muhan, who were rested for finals. Then, on prelims, Lao Lihui and Ai Yanhan were the fastest two swimmers by far and have made a case to get a second swim.

While Zhang Yufei had an incredible turnaround from winning the 200 fly to splitting 1:55.6 on this relay last year, she probably won’t be in shape to do that this year, considering that she added over a second on her mixed medley fly leg right after swimming the 200 fly semifinals yesterday.

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Taa
5 months ago

3 sandpipers and Ledecky

OLOAP
5 months ago

In the end it is

AUS: Wilson-Neale-Melverton-MOC
CHN: Tang-Li-Ai-Yang
USA: Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
CAN: McIntosh-Sanchez-Ruck-Oleksiak

Bananas
5 months ago

I’m sure all four swimmers were told before prelims that the staff would be picking the final 2 spots from this group of four. Flickinger and Sims were the fastest two swimmers. Flick is not going to be tired from the 200 fly. We’ve seen at NCAAs and ISL that she tends to get better as she swims more events.

Last edited 5 months ago by Bananas
Caleb
5 months ago

Wow… just saw Sims was out in 55.2 this morning..

Swammer
5 months ago

Thinking big picture … aren’t these world championships really about development for 2024? International experience for the younger swimmer? In that case the US would be advised to swim Weinstein. Outside of solid technical /data points arguments for her to be in the finals relay (her flat start Indiv finals time for one; fact that she drops in finals in this event consistency; performance at trials etc) …. It’s like putting money in the bank for the future. The amount weinstein will learn from having to manage herself for this finals race will pay massive dividends for US swimming for 2024. Weinstein has a long bright future ahead. She has the mental toughness, size, strength and dedication to the sport.… Read more »

Caleb
Reply to  Swammer
5 months ago

Tough call… I think she’d be a lot faster at night (like she did in the individual) but hard to leave Walsh off the relay. I’ll get downvoted but I would consider putting both of them on ahead of Smith.

OLOAP
Reply to  Swammer
5 months ago

I think it’s a correct interpretation, to let Claire have another chance in order to be ready for Paris (if she qualifies for it ofc). As I said she and Bella are the driving forces of the US for this relay in the future. Just would have switched Sims-Ledecky

Sherry Smit
5 months ago

What about Grimes? I know she’s 1:58.2 but if she’s tapered and on a flying start, she could go a 1:56-1:57

emma
Reply to  Sherry Smit
5 months ago

i feel like they would’ve tested her out in the prelims if they wanted to use her at all

Ol' Longhorn
5 months ago

Let Katie rip a leadoff just to get the time. The US relay is almost historically weak for them. Why we can’t produce 100 and 200 freestylers (not named Ledecky in her prime) is the same mystery as why we can’t produce 200 and 400 stars for men.

OLOAP
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
5 months ago

I know I’m going be unpopular and it’s been said countless time here but…I guess the main reason is because US girls don’t spend a reasonable amount of time on LCM to develop a proper technique. Seems like at least Nevada Sandpipers is working on this path and IMHO Sims, Weinstein and why not Grimes will represent the backbone of the American 800 free relay from here to LA Games at least…now you can all downvote as much as you want 🙂

OLOAP
Reply to  OLOAP
5 months ago

I would also add Nesty group in Florida who seems to be working correctly

Notanyswimmer
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
5 months ago

B A T H T U B S W I M M I N G

thezwimmer
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
5 months ago

Perhaps because those who are strong 100/200 in short course are relying too much on walls that they don’t have in long course.

As the for the men, ours are seemingly too aggressive in the 200m free (since they’re swimming it like a 200y free) and too conservative in the 400m free (swimming it almost like a distance race)

Adrian Mancebo
5 months ago

Canada might be very dangerous in the final this evening. Sanchez and Oleksiak, as well as McIntosh swim their events at the beginning of the session, meaning that they will have at least 1 hour and half to rest before the 4×200 relay, thereby they will all be quite “fresh”. It is going to be extremely tight between the 4 teams.

Last edited 5 months ago by Adrian Mancebo

About Yanyan Li

Yanyan Li

Although Yanyan wasn't the greatest competitive swimmer, she learned more about the sport of swimming through scoring countless dual meets, being a timer, and keeping track of her teammates' best times for three years as a team manager. She eventually ventured into the realm of writing and joined SwimSwam in …

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