Women team up for World Records in Rio

Heading into an Olympics it is always difficult to predict, even though always a fast meet, the quantity and origin of World Record breaking swims over the eight days of competing. However, for those who look out for these sort of things the Women’s relays are looking like they could be the most reliable source. For those, like us, who are partial to a sporting statistic and swimming time, then enjoy the article that follows…

Here at SwimWords we will summarise and predict how these World records maybe broken in the women’s relays a few weeks from now at the Games in Rio De Janeiro. Let us know if you agree by commenting at the bottom of this article. We will look at the current form of the international teams, their recent relay performances at the World Championships in Kazan last year, and compare this to the standing WR’s.  First up…

WOMEN’S 4×100 FREESTYLE RELAY

World Record – 3.30.98 AUSTRALIA – Commonwealth Games, Glasgow, 2014

With the recent form of the Australian ladies in 2016 this is probably the most likely WR to be surpassed through the whole competition. The Campbell sisters and Emma McKeon, who were three of the quartet who broke the World Record in Glasgow 2014, will represent Australia once again in Rio alongside Brittany Elmslie. Below shows the individual form of the top four swimmers in 2016 for likely podium favourites in Rio De Janeiro:

AUSTRALIA USA NETHERLANDS
Campbell, C 52.06 Weitzeil 53.28 Kromowidjojo 53.14
Campbell, B 52.58 Manuel 53.52 Heemskerk 53.72
McKeon 52.80 Weir 53.72 Steenbergen 54.43
Elmslie 53.54 Ledecky 53.75 Van Der Meer 54.55
TIME 3.30.98 3.34.27 3.35.84
RANK

1

2

3

Note: If reading on mobile phone, then turn on side to see full table.

As you can see not only are the Australian team some way ahead of the pack, their combined time from their individual performances in 2016 equals the current World Record time. This helps obviously with the blistering time of 52.06 and a World Record itself by Cate Campbell only last month, but with three women (out of only four – the Swede Sjoestroem being the other) swimming under the elusive 53 second barrier this year it is no surprise their current favourite status.

When you take into account that normally it is swimming custom to take 0.5 seconds (on average) off each of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th relay legs, 1.5 seconds for the full relay, due to the advantage of rolling starts (as the outgoing swimmer can already start their diving action – as long as one body part is still touching the block before the incoming swimmer hits the timing pad), then this World Record could get beaten by some margin. Further to this, when the Australian girls took the Gold at World championships in 2015 swimming a time of 3.31.48 they were able to find more speed and drop more time in their relay performances than the average. Bronte Campbell who went 52.52 in the final of the 100 freestyle individual was able to produce a 51.77 and 51.78 in her two relay finals. If her sister, Cate, can find extra speed like this in relays, she could post some meteoric relay times if all falls into place.

What does this all mean? Well, if the Australian freestyle quartet come to Brazil in the same 2016 form, then they are going to be FAST and that World Record could not only be beaten but it could even be obliterated!

Australia are some way ahead of the field and firm favourites for Gold, but USA will be hoping to improve on their Bronze medal in Kazan last year (3.34.61) and take the Silver ahead of The Netherlands (3.33.67 at Worlds) reversing the result from Russia. With the improvement of Abbey Weitzeil this year and the now more experienced Simone Manuel, on current form the Americans look the slightly stronger team to take that second place.

SwimWords Olympic Prediction:

GOLD SILVER BRONZE
Women’s 4×100 Free Relay AUS USA NED

 

WOMEN’S 4×200 FREESTYLE RELAY

World Record – 7.42.08 CHINA – World Championships, Rome, 2009

This world record comes from Rome when the ‘super’ neoprene suits were still available (before the change in regulations in 2010). These controversial ‘super-suits’ aided the swimmer’s compression and buoyancy quite dramatically and therefore resulted in some lightening quick times. Many of the relay world records are held from the Rome World Championships (particularly on the Men’s side where swimmers could wear suits covering their full body compared to now and the knee-length jammers) and therefore no surprise with the overall distance (800 metres) of this relay that teams have struggled to get close to the time since. In 2015 the USA won the 4×200 Free relay in a time of 7.45.37, and although they won by an imposing margin (Italy 7.48.41 and China 7.49.10), they are still over three seconds away from the WR line.

However, in this Olympic year the women’s 200 freestyle event has moved on at the country’s respective Olympic trials events, and in particular the USA team who will once again be favourites to hear their National Anthem booming across the Olympic pool in Rio De Janeiro. Let’s look at the 2016 form of the top nations in more detail:

AUSTRALIA USA NETHERLANDS CHINA
McKeon 1.54.83 Ledecky 1.54.43 Heemskerk 1.55.85 Shen 1.55.82
Barratt 1.55.95 Franklin 1.56.18 Neumann 1.57.85 Qui 1.55.84
Groves 1.57.74 Smith 1.56.47 Steenbergen 1.57.87 Al 1.56.86
Neale 1.57.97 Schmitt 1.56.52 Vermeulen 1.57.93 Zhang 1.57.06
7.46.49 7.43.60 7.49.48 7.45.58
3 1 4 2

Above confirms that the USA are some way ahead of their 2015 form, resulting in a combined time of individual swims nearly two seconds faster than that of Kazan’s gold medal. If you then consider the 1.5 second deduction for rolling starts the USA ladies are going to be very close to that 7.42 low benchmark. With the experience of the reigning 200m Freestyle Olympic champion, Allison Schmitt, as the fourth member; the fast improving Smith; the superstar that is Missy Franklin; and Katie Ledecky, who is capable of posting a special 1.53, anchoring the team; the USA will be very close to this 7-year-old record come the final.

Behind the USA quartet on their form this year is likely to be the Chinese. The Bronze medallists from the World’s last year posted some strong times at their Olympic trials with Shen and Qui both finishing on 1.55.8s. Although Australia have Emma McKeon in their armoury with a magnificent 1.54.83 in 2016, over the complete quartet, the Chinese look the stronger overall to take the second place just in front of Australia. These three teams should be comfortably ahead of the remainder of the field, who although have stars like Pellegrini for Italy, Heemskerk for Holland and Sjoestroem for Sweden, do not have quite the depth to compete across the full 800 metres.

SwimWords Olympic Prediction:

GOLD

SILVER BRONZE
Womens 4×200 Free Relay USA CHN AUS

 

WOMEN’S 4×100 MEDLEY RELAY

World Record – 3.52.05 USA – Olympic Games, London, 2012

A much younger record than the 4×200 Freestyle but no easier to beat. The World Championships in 2015 was won by China clocking a time of 3.54.41 some way off the pace set by the Americans at #London2012. However, in 2016 teams from Australia and USA have hinted with individual form at their respective 2016 Olympic trials, that on their day with perfect takeovers, could get close to breaking the World’s best ever medley relay swim. Below we compare the best line ups for the two teams and breakdown the splits necessary to beat this elusive record.

AUSTRALIA USA WR – USA
Seebohm 58.73 Smoliga 59.02 Franklin 58.50
Bohl 66.12 King 65.20 Soni 64.82
McKeon 56.89 Worrell 56.48 Vollmer 55.48
Campbell, C 52.06 Weitzeil 53.28 Schmitt 53.25
TIME 3.53.80 3.53.98 3.52.05
RANK 2 3 1

On 2016 form the Australians have the fastest combined time this year (but only just!), and have really developed their team after taking a Bronze in Kazan in 2015. This certainly has come from the rapid improvement of Georgia Bohl on the Breaststroke discipline, who wasn’t in the team in 2015, and obviously the blistering pace of Cate Campbell already mentioned on the freestyle leg. The Americans finished fourth and uncharacteristically missed out on a medal in Russia, but they too have made vast improvements in their line up in 2016. Helped greatly by the huge breakthroughs for first time Olympians Lilly King and Kelsey Worrell who are now ranked No.1 and No.2 in their breaststroke and butterfly events respectively.

Olympics+Day+8+Swimming+TVmcL9oByhFl

Vollmer, Soni & Franklin thier World Record performance at the London Olympic Games in 2012. Pic credit: Clive Rose/Getty Images Europe

It is interesting then to compare the splits of these current women to that of the splits in the 2012 World Record performance, and breakdown how close each leg could be to the team of yesteryear. On the backstroke leg, you would expect the Australian Seebhom to hit a similar time to Franklin’s 58.50, as her best time this year is 58.73 and she went 58.26 individually last year. Smoliga for the USA has also had a breakthrough season, but has never been under the 59 marker, so maybe expect her to be a few tenths behind the WR line after the 100 metre mark.

On the breaststroke leg, although Bohl has made big drops this year, she is still some way off the speed of the great Olympic Champion Rebecca Soni. Even with a rolling start Australia would be happy with a 1.05.6 split from Bohl which would put the team +0.6 secs behind the WR time at the half way point. For the 2016 USA team however, Lilly King is swimming times that are on a par with the 2012 Soni, and with a takeover could swim closer to the mid-1.04s. At the 200 metre change USA could have just overtaken the Aussies and be +0.4 behind the record. McKeon and Worrell are quite closely matched on the butterfly leg but do lose some ground on the reigning Olympic Champion Dana Vollmer and that World Record target. Worrell however will be expected to extend the American lead to over half a second over the Australians.

And the USA team will undoubtedly have to in order to fend off the Australian anchor leg. Whether it is Bronte or Cate, one of sisters will be posting a sparkling 51-second 100 freestyle leg that is likely be slightly too much for the American Weitzeil to handle. When the world record was set Allison Schmitt anchored in 53.25, so if McKeon can get the Australians to within 1.5 seconds of the WR line after her butterfly dash (a big ask as her best time is a second slower than Vollmer’s at the time – but possible if Seebohm and King are at their best) then the record from 2012 is under serious threat. The beauty of these relays is that everyone on the team has to turn up and contribute, otherwise not only will the World Record be out of grasp the Gold medal maybe lost too.

The Gold and Silver race is expected to be fought out by USA and Australia, but the battle for the third place finish and the Bronze is a very intriguing and tight one (when reading this on mobile phones; turn the screen on to it’s side):

RUSSIA SWEDEN CHINA DENMARK
Ustinova 59.78 Lindborg 61.41 Cheng 59.55 Nielsen 58.73
Efimova 65.70 Johansson 66.63 Shi 66.29 Pedersen 67.12
Chimrova 57.79 Sjoestroem 55.68 Chen 56.82 Ottesen 56.83
Popova 54.33 Coleman 53.54 Qiu 53.9 Blume 54.26
3.57.60 3.57.26 3.56.56 3.56.94
6 5 3 4

On combined individual performances in 2016, China are the third ranked team and are the reigning World Champions (3.54.41). However, Denmark and Sweden are very close behind and breathing down the necks of the Chinese. Denmark, who have world-beating performers in Nielsen and Ottesen in their ranks, will depend on Pedersen to use her experience (she is already swimming faster than last year) and particularly Blume on the freestyle to bring it home if they are able to snatch the Bronze medal.

483494104

Ecstatic Swedish team being presented their Silver medals in Kazan last year. Pic credit: Getty Images

Sweden you feel have the greatest opportunity for big improvements from their 2016 combined time, but it depends on the personel they select to swim each stroke discipline. Johansson and Sjoestroem are fairly self-explanatory selections with their dominance in those strokes in Sweden. However, when Sweden broke the European Record in 2015 on the way to winning a World Championship silver medal for their country, Michelle Coleman (predominantly known for her freestyle) lead the relay off with Backstroke (60.74) and Louise Hansson swam the freestyle leg. In that relay Hansson produced a split of 53.59 to anchor the team to the second position, but this year she has only been able to produce a 55.23 on the individual which is some way off the mark. If Hansson can get back to that form or Sweden have another freestyler that can get to a similar speed, then it would make sense for Coleman to take the backstroke leg once again (61.18 in a minor meet this year) and Sweden would be well set to beat China and Denmark.

SwimWords Olympic Prediction:

GOLD SILVER BRONZE
Womens 4×100 Medley Relay AUS USA SWE

 

Let us know whether you agree with these predictions and insight. We will be comparing the Men’s relays in a similar article soon.

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