Butterfly Weakness Looking To Be Australian Women’s Opportunity in 400 Medley Relay At Pan Pacs

Each day through August 19 (US), Swimming World will provide medal predictions for the Pan Pacific championships. We invite you to offer your thoughts on who is in line to win medals in the comments section!

Commentary by David Rieder

CHARLESTON, South Carolina, August 19. THE American women won the 400 medley relay over Australia by a two-second margin at the World Championships in Barcelona last summer, but look for the hometown team to get their revenge this time around. A breakout of young talent from Down Under, combined with some veteran faces from the American side not returning from last year’s Worlds, will put Australia on top of the podium for the first time at a big meet since 2008.

On the leadoff leg, call the battle between Missy Franklin and Emily Seebohm a draw, as their rematch from the individual 100 back should be tight as the original. Lorna Tonks could improve slightly on the 1:06.84 that Sally Foster – now Sally Hunter – clocked last year, while Jessica Hardy, Breeja Larson, or Micah Lawrence should stake the Americans to a slight lead. The big change comes on the fly. Without Olympic gold medalist Dana Vollmer in the lineup, the entire feel of the American relay changes.

In the previous three years, all years when the U.S. has won the either the World or Olympic titles, Vollmer has taken a lead and ballooned it. Now, the Americans have the options of Kendyl Stewart, Claire Donahue, and Felicia Lee for the fly leg. Australia’s Madeline Groves or Alicia Coutts should take a slight lead going into the free, where Cate Campbell could obliterate Simone Manuel if the American sprinter is unable to replicate her amazing anchor leg from the Duel in the Pool to help Team USA win the meet.

The huge void created with Vollmer’s absence will cost the Americans dearly here, and frankly, the emergence of Campbell as the world’s dominant sprinter could make the point moot. Meanwhile, I’ll take Canada over Japan in the battle for bronze. Since the retirement of Aya Terakawa, Japan doesn’t have the one go-to leg to establish them a big enough lead, and Canada should have a strong front half with either Sinead Russell or Brooklyn Snodgrass.

Women’s 400 medley relay medal predictions:
Gold:
Australia
Silver: United States
Bronze: Canada

The American men dominated the medley relay final at Worlds last year but came away with nothing to show for it after Kevin Cordes’ false start. With almost the same relay back in action this time, not much should change. Matt Grevers, Cordes, and Nathan Adrian all return, while Michael Phelps or Tom Shields will take over for Ryan Lochte on the fly leg. Cordes will need to secure his position as the best in the country in the 100 breast after an extremely disappointing finals swim at Nationals, where he finished third.

The Australians ended up with the silver medal behind France at Worlds after the American DQ, and they won the Commonwealth title last month with a team of Mitch Larkin, Christian Sprenger, Jayden Hadler, and James Magnussen. The key leg for the Aussies will be breaststroke now that Sprenger has withdrawn from the meet. Deficits on back and fly would be too much to make up even with Sprenger at 100 percent anyway.

After searching for one the past decade, Japan still can’t find a freestyler, but they should have no trouble securing bronze here. Ryosuke Irie provides an excellent leadoff leg, and Takuro Fujii has long been a capable flyer. Without Kosuke Kitajima on the Pan Pacs team, the Japanese will turn to one of their three 100 breaststrokers ranked in the world top-20, Yasuhiro Koseki, Naoya Tomita, or Hiromasa Sakimoto.

Men’s 400 medley relay medal predictions:
Gold:
United States
Silver: Australia
Bronze: Japan

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Author: David Rieder

David Rieder has been a contributor to Swimming World since 2009. A native of Charleston, SC, he currently attends Duke University, where he works as the public address announcer for the varsity swim team.

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