Chenault, DiRado, Mattern and Bispo Fighting For One Spot in 800 Free Relay Final
FINA World Championships editorial coverage is proudly sponsored by SpeedoUSA. For all the latest coverage, check out our event coverage page.
BARCELONA, Spain, August 1. THE four athletes racing for the United States this morning in the women’s 800 freestyle relay prelims at the FINA world swimming championships are battling not just for a lane in the final, but for one available spot in tonight’s foursome.
With Missy Franklin, Shannon Vreeland and Katie Ledecky sitting out the prelims, only one of the four swimming this morning will compete tonight. Typically, two spots are up for grabs with the top-two swimmers in the 200 free getting the break from prelim duty. But when Katie Ledecky decided to skip the 200 freestyle individual event after qualifying for it at the U.S. trials, Shannon Vreeland moved up to the individual event, and Karlee Bispo was added to the world team for relay alternate duty.
Chenault will swim the relay this morning as the leadoff swimmer with Bispo, Maya DiRado and Jordan Mattern to follow. The athlete who contributes the fastest split will likely participate in the final, though the final decision on relay participation is always in the hands of the coaches on the USA squad. Whichever one is picked for the final, it will mark their first appearance in a world championship final. Bispo, Chenault and DiRado all come in with experience at the World University Games, certainly a top-level competition in its own right. Mattern is experiencing her first major international competition with this morning’s swim, and will be looking to join former Colorado Stars teammate Franklin in the final.
Could Megan Romano also be considered for relay duty? After her 52.60 relay anchor split on the 400 freestyle relay Sunday, her name will likely be thrown around as a possibility. USA relay section policies dictate that anyone on the USA team is eligible to swim relays, whether or not they qualified for them at trials.
Australia is likely to be the Americans’ biggest threat in the final. Their top two swimmers, Bronte Barratt and Kylie Palmer, are not swimming as well as expected, but Alicia Coutts is having a good meet, and is swimming this morning in the relay. Coutts swam in the relay final in London to help the Aussies win silver behind the Americans. She’s joined this morning by Brittany Elmslie, Emma McKeon and Ami Matsuo. Palmer and Barratt will likely participate in the final.
Though Franklin and Vreeland don’t have to swim in the 800 free relay prelims, they are racing next to each other in the eighth of eight heats of the 100 freestyle. Also racing in the 100 free is reigning Olympic champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo, in heat seven, and 2009 world champion and world record holder Britta Steffen, racing in heat six next to defending world champion Jeanette Ottesen Gray. Aliaksandria Herasimenia, who tied with Gray in the 100 free in the 2011 worlds, is skipping the meet.
Similar to the men’s 200 butterfly, the women’s 200 breaststroke will be looking for a worthy — but seemingly temporary — replacement at the top of the mountain. Rebecca Soni, the 2009 and 2011 world champion as well as reigning Olympic champion, is taking the year off from competition but is in Barcelona to take in the competition. Rikke Moeller Pedersen will race in the final heat, and is close to joining Soni as the only swimmers in history under 2:20 in the event. Pedersen swam a 2:20.53 at the Danish Open in March.