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FINA World Championships Predictions: Men's and Women's 400 Freestyle Relay

Published:July 6, 2013

Australia 400 free relay 2011
Courtesy of: O Sports via USA Today Sports
Swimming World's predictions of the FINA world championships is proudly sponsored by Speedo USA

PHOENIX, Arizona, July 6. THE first day of pool swimming competition at the FINA world championships in Barcelona, Spain, is bound to produce interesting storylines that will carry through the remainder of the eight-day meet. Our daily predictions of each of the 40 swimming events set to be held at the Palau Sant Jordi later this month continues with the always-exciting 400 freestyle relay, which will end the first day of swimming competition.

Swimming World correspondents Jeff Commings, David Rieder and Julia Wilkinson-Minks offer their medal predictions for each event throughout this series, with a brief analysis of their top-three selections.


Rieder

Men 400 free relay:
Gold:
United States
Silver: Australia
Bronze: France
Darkhorse: Brazil

The field appears to have taken a step back since the Olympics last year. Only two people have swum under 48 seconds this year, while Australia appears much more vulnerable after their collapse at the Olympics last year. Nathan Adrian enters Barcelona as one of the top 100 freestylers in the world, while Jimmy Feigen and Anthony Ervin both impressed at U.S. nationals. Australia still has James Magnussen, but their depth behind Magnussen falls off slightly compared to last year. France's Yannick Agnel provided the stunner last year when he overtook Ryan Lochte down the stretch to earn France the gold, but he'll need 50 specialist Florent Manaudou to step up his game. Brazil left Cesar Cielo off their prelim relay in London, but with Marcelo Cherighini having swum a 48.11 after his strong NCAA performance this year, they could threaten.

Women 400 free relay:
Gold:
Australia
Silver: United States
Bronze: Netherlands
Darkhorse: Germany

As the reigning Olympic gold medalists, the Aussies look too strong for the field in Barcelona with Cate Campbell entering the championships as by far the top-ranked 100 freestyler in the world. Missy Franklin, though, stands second, and she leads an American squad that surprisingly got four swimmers under 54 at Nationals, whereas 53.96 won Olympic Trials a year ago. The Dutch, meanwhile, have seen half their squad that dominated from 2008 to 2011 start to lose its luster as age sets in, but the exploits of Ranomi Kromowidjojo should help that foursome remain on the podium. Meanwhile, Germany has former world champion Britta Steffen and some depth behind her, and that could, at the very least, push them into the final heat.

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Wilkinson-Minks

Men 400 free relay:
Gold:
Australia
Silver: Russia
Bronze: USA
Darkhorse: France

There is no doubt that after a disappointing fourth-place finish at the Olympics last summer, Australia is arriving with something to prove. It doesn't hurt that the Aussies are led by James Magnusson, who boasts the top time in the world this year. Russia was third in this relay last summer, and all four of their swimmers have returned with a vengeance and ranked in the top 14 in the world, including second-ranked Vladimir Morozov, only the second man under 48 seconds this year. At U.S. Trials, the Americans did not post the times we are used to seeing in the 100 freestyle, but will no doubt be podium finishers, making a run at that gold medal. Naturally, it is hard to ignore the Olympic gold medalists when making predictions, especially in relays. Florent Manadou is the only swimmer from France in the top 10 in the world this year, but they picked their team early, and have been waiting patiently for this moment to strike.

Women 400 free relay:
Gold:
Australia
Silver: USA
Bronze: Netherlands

This was a hard pick for me, simply because I think it is going to be a brawl for the gold medal between Australia and the United States. The Australians are the reigning Olympic champions, and the Americans never settle for anything less than gold. The Aussies have Cate Campbell, who broke the 53-second barrier and posted a time that would have earned her a gold medal last summer, and the Americans have Missy Franklin ... enough said. Both countries have deep rosters in this event, and will have no problem qualifying for the final without using their studs. I just think that if Cate Campbell performs the way she should, alongside her strong supporting cast (including sister Bronte), the Australians are going to come out on top again. The Dutch have Olympic gold medalist Ranomi Kromowidjojo, and are historically very strong in this relay, so they are a decent bet for a medal this summer.

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Commings

Men 400 free relay:
Gold:
USA
Silver: Russia
Bronze: Australia

The difference between first and third will be decided by tenths of a second. This race is extremely tough to call, especially given that Australia has the potential to win the race and defend the world title, but the Aussies will need Herculean efforts to pull it off, just as they did in 2011. As Australia proved in winning this event in 2011, a sub-48 second leadoff helps a lot in winning this race, and Magnussen was the only swimmer to do so two years ago. This year, we could have three under 48 seconds leading off: Magnussen, American Nathan Adrian and Russian Vladimir Morozov. Not only will this offer a preview of the individual 100 free, but it will set the tone for the race. The Americans are out for blood after losing to Australia in 2011 and France in 2012, and Adrian will have strong support in Anthony Ervin, Jimmy Feigen and Ryan Lochte (or whomever makes up the final squad). Russia will be tough, since all four of the Olympic bronze medalists from last year are back.

Women 400 free relay:
Gold:
Australia
Silver: USA
Bronze: Netherlands

No country will be able to match the one-two punch of the Campbell sisters, who will give Australia such a boost in this relay. Cate is the fastest in the 100 free going into the meet, and Bronte is ranked fifth. The Americans will have Missy Franklin and Shannon Vreeland as their top two sprinters, but will their third and fourth swimmers be fast enough to compete with the Aussies? The Netherlands doesn't have much support in its relay efforts behind Ranomi Kromowidjojo and Femke Heemskerk, and the rest of the field will likely be too far behind to make any changes in this top three.

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400 freestyle

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