2016 Olympic Champion: USA (Baker, King, Vollmer, Manuel) – 3:53.13
*For all of our combination occasions under, the primary column (Season-Finest) is the mixture of every leg’s greatest flat-start time between September 2020 and June 2021, not factoring in relay begins. The second column is a bit more predictive, but in addition a bit extra rose-colored glasses, pulling the very best time or break up (that we may discover) for that athlete because the summer time of 2018.
The U.S. ladies are the two-time defending Olympic champs (2012 and 2016) and two-time defending World champs (2017 and 2019) on this occasion, plus the reigning world record-holders. However issues are shaping up for a a lot, a lot nearer showdown in 2021.
Group USA and Group Australia are anticipated to go head-to-head for gold right here, and irrespective of the way you slice it, combination occasions add as much as a really shut battle.
We’ll begin with Australia, which truly holds a really slight edge in combination occasions. The Aussies have lengthy had a stellar near this relay, with the world’s deepest and strongest group of 100 freestylers. Emma McKeonis the nation’s quickest 100 flyer and 100 freestyler, however she’s extensively anticipated to swim fly with former world record-holder Cate Campbellout there to take over the free leg.
Campbell has been a relay monster, with a number of 51-low splits and even a depraved 50.93 break up from 2018 Pan Pac to her credit score. She’s not at her peak anymore at age 29, however ought to nonetheless be loads able to going 51. McKeon’s lifetime-best fly splits have solely been 56-low, however in these meets, she’s usually been 56-mid within the 100 fly. Now damaged into the 55s, there’s a monitor report for McKeon to separate 55-mid or higher right here.
The rise of Kaylee McKeownprovides Australia a star backstroker to match up with the U.S. McKeown is the brand new world record-holder on this occasion.
The one actual query mark is breaststroke, the place Australia misplaced 1.2 seconds to the U.S. at 2019 Worlds. Chelsea Hodges went a lifetime-best 1:05.99 to make the Olympic staff, and has dropped a second and a half over the previous yr.
The U.S. is available in simply hundredths behind the Australians within the combination of season-best occasions, and some tenths again based mostly on relay splits over the quad. Lilly King is probably going the difference-maker because the world record-holder in breaststroke. Nevertheless it’s price noting that whereas she’s been 1:04.1 from a flat begin, she’s not often been sooner with a flying relay begin on the worldwide degree. When she set the world report in 2017, she was 1:04.4 on the medley relay. King break up 1:04.8 at 2018 Pan Pacs after which 1:04.8 and 1:04.9 at 2019 Worlds between the ladies’s and combined medley relays. Projecting a 1:04-mid-to-high might be a good baseline.
Regan Smith is the previous 100 again world record-holder. Perhaps the silver lining of her 200 again Olympic roster miss is that she will be able to focus in on her backstroke velocity for this relay and the person 100 again. Between the 19-year-old Smith and the 18-year-old Torri Huske, there’s plenty of youth on this U.S. roster. That most likely carries the next degree of threat, but in addition the upside of an explosive swim, like Smith’s world-record-setting relay leadoff at 2019 Worlds when she was simply 17.
The massive query is whether or not Abbey Weitzeil holds onto the freestyle leg, or whether or not world champ Simone Manuel returns to type in time to nab the anchor spot on this relay.
Canada might be the bronze-medal favourite, with an opportunity to make some waves within the again half of the relay. They’re constructed pretty equally to Australia, with nice again, fly, and free legs and a breaststroke deficit in comparison with the U.S. Kylie Masse is one more former world record-holder in backstroke, and broke by way of with that 57.70 earlier this month. Maggie MacNeil might be going to be the very best fly leg of any relay within the discipline. And Penny Oleksiak has surged in dash free currently. MacNeil’s 55.5 break up and Oleksiak’s 52.4 break up each got here from 2019 Worlds.
Kelsey Wog is the actual newcomer to this relay internationally. She did swim on this relay at Pan Pacs in 2018, splitting 1:07.2, although she’s been sooner from a flat begin this yr.
Different Medal Contenders
The opposite high medal contenders are most likely Nice Britain and China.
The Brits have an awesome backstroker of their very own, and Kathleen Dawson‘s 58.08 occurred only a month in the past at Euros. Their huge query is perhaps the anchor leg. Freya Andersonhas hit the excessive 52s on relay splits a number of occasions, together with 52.6 at 2018 Euros, 52.9 at 2019 Worlds and 52.8 at 2020 Euros. We truly used Anna Hopkin‘s break up within the projected columb above – she was 52.65 at 2019 Worlds and 52.65 & 52.66 at 2020 Euros.
China’s Zhang Yufei may problem MacNeil for the very best fly break up, and Yang Junxuancan most likely break up higher than her flat-start greatest on free. They’ll want Fu Yuanhuito return to her 59.2 backstroke type from the summer time of 2018 (or higher but, her 58.7 type from the 2016 Olympics). She’s solely been 59.5 to date this season.
Some Sneaky Picks
Italy has a really excessive ceiling – amongst a bunch of groups with weak breaststroke legs, the Italians may take benefit. Each Arianna Castiglioniand Martina Carraro have set the Italian nationwide report in 2021. Castiglioni has break up 1:06-low quite a lot of occasions, and has clearly made enhancements this yr. Federica Pellegrinihas been 52.5 on a relay as just lately as 2019.
Russia has usually used Yulia Efimova on this relay, however the teenager Evgenia Chikunova did beat her at Russian Olympic Trials. Svetlana Chimrova may very well be one other fly possibility – she’s the one whose been 57.3, although that was again in 2018. Kameneva’s 52.80 anchor break up comes from 2019 Worlds and may very well be a key closing leg.
Sweden appears to be like intriguing, with a standout breaststroke leg (Sophie Hansson has been 1:05.69 this yr). If Sarah Sjostrom is wholesome, that relay has 4 actually robust legs.
Japan has plenty of choices. Like Sweden, they’re banking on the return of a star (Rikako Ikee) to full well being. If she’s again, Japan may swim her on fly or free.
The Netherlands may have one of many higher backstroke leadoffs in Kira Toussaint, who went 58.65 this season. They’ll bookend with veteran Femke Heemskerk on free.
Germany has an intriguing lineup, too, with Anna Elendt going 1:06.5 in breaststroke this yr and Annika Bruhn able to a robust anchor leg.