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BARCELONA, Spain, August 1. THE women’s 800 freestyle relay could feature an epic battle between the United State and Australia tonight, and both countries will have what they believe to be the best squad available for the event.
As expected, the United States will use Katie Ledecky, Shannon Vreeland and Missy Franklin. They were the top three finishers in the 200 free at the world trials. The big question of the day was: Who would be the fourth person? Chelsea Chenault, Karlee Bispo and Jordan Mattern each put up respectable times in prelims today, and made the decision tough for coaches.
Bispo will be the fourth swimmer and will race in her first world championship final. Bispo has some international experience in the 800 free relay, winning gold in the 2011 World University Games. She placed seventh in the 200 free at the U.S. nationals, and was brought onto the team when Katie Ledecky opted out of the 200 free. That moved Vreeland up to the individual 200 free, and Bispo into second alternate.
Australia will be tough, with Olympic bronze medalist Bronte Barratt and fellow Olympians Kylie Palmer, Brittany Elmslie and Alicia Coutts on tonight’s relay. Barratt, Palmer and Coutts swam on this relay last year in the Olympics, winning a silver medal.
France placed third in last year’s 800 free relay in London, and will have three of those swimmers returning tonight: Camille Muffat, Coralie Balmy and Charlotte Bonnet. Also joining them will be Mylene Lazare.
China, the country that holds the world record at 7:42.08, will have Ye Shiwen, Shao Yiwen, Guo Junjun and Qiu Yuhan on their squad tonight. China is the top seed in the event tonight.
The Spanish spectators will cheer loudly for their team to get into medal position. Melanie Costa, Patricia Castro, Mireia Belmonte and Beatriz Gomez will swim tonight. These were the same four swimmers that competed in the relay this morning, so their seed time of 7:54.90 might not be improved greatly.