2019 FINA World Championships Predictions: Strategies at Play in Mixed 4×100 Medley Relay

26.07.2017, Budapeszt, FINA World Swimming Championships, mistrzostwa swiata, Matt Grevers (USA), Lilly King (USA), fot. Tomasz Jastrzebowski / Foto Olimpik *** Please Use Credit from Credit Field ***
Photo Courtesy: SIPA USA

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With the mixed 4×100 medley relay now an Olympic event, many countries will be taking this event more seriously as they strategically plan out the best lineup to use. The mixed relays made their debuts at the long course World Championships in 2015 and have become a mind-numbing game of strategy? Is it best to go man-man-woman-woman? Is it safe to go man-woman-man-woman? What about woman-man-man-woman? There are six possible combinations for the order in the mixed relays and not one way is the absolute correct way.

The Americans in 2017 set the world record going man-woman-man-woman. Australia had the fastest time in the world last year going man-man-woman-woman. The correct way is to play to your strengths. Great Britain’s strengths lie in Adam Peaty and James Guy in the breast and fly legs. Australia’s strengths lie in Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell in the fly and free legs. USA’s strengths are everywhere, it’s just a matter of finding the best person for each stroke.

The fact of the matter is, Lilly King is the best female breaststroker in the world and the Americans do not have a male that is comparable so she deserves to be on the relay. Caeleb Dressel is comparably better than Kelsi Dahlia in butterfly, which leaves a woman to anchor (presumably Simone Manuel) and a man to lead off (presumably Ryan Murphy). Murphy and Kathleen Baker are both world record holders, but it is extremely risky to lead-off with two women, so it is safe to go with Murphy (or Matt Grevers) on the backstroke.

A lot of countries decide to anchor with their best woman. Campbell split a 50.9 at Pan Pacs last summer, which is only four seconds slower than what the fastest men in the world currently do on relays. The gap between the men and women in freestyle (roughly five seconds) seems to be smaller than the gap between the best backstrokers (six seconds), breaststrokers (seven seconds) and butterflyers (seven seconds). It is a big game of strategy for the coaching staffs from each country. This is likely why the mixed medley relay was added to the Olympic lineup and not the mixed free relay, since most teams elect to swim man-man-woman-woman in the freestyle relay.

It’s hard to pick a favorite for the mixed medley relay since it is all about who swims what on the day. But now that it is an Olympic event, the mixed medley relay is more of a priority for coaches and athletes instead of just a fun and low pressure event. If the Americans put together their four best swimmers, then they should be gold medal favorites. Great Britain is always competitive and so is Australia. But neither country has the depth the US possesses.

China and Japan were competitive at the Asian Games last summer, but Japan is without Rikako Ikee. China won the bronze in Budapest in 2017 in a tie with Canada. China’s strengths are in Xu Jiayu on backstroke and Yan Zibei on breaststroke, which would give them clear water on the back half. Canada’s strengths are with Kylie Masse on backstroke and they will have to decide whether to put Taylor Ruck on freestyle or Maggie MacNeil on butterfly. The Canadians used Penny Oleksiak on butterfly in 2017 and anchored with Yuri Kisil. Kisil and Markus Thormeyer have been 48s this year in the 100 free, which is five seconds faster than what Ruck has been. Canada’s best male flyer is Josiah Binnema, who is also five seconds faster than MacNeil. It will be a game time decision for the Canadians over who they will decide to put on the relay but they will definitely be competitive.

The Russians should also not be counted out. They have as much depth on their team as anyone and can put together a relay that can win a medal. Their front half is spectacular with Evgeny Rylov or Kliment Kolesnikov handing over to either Anton Chupkov or Yulia Efimova. The Russians will be another unpredictable team in terms of who they will put out, but they will definitely be a medal contender.

Current Records:

World Record: 3:38.56, United States, 2017 – Matt Grevers, Lilly King, Caeleb Dressel, Simone Manuel
Championships Record: 3:38.56, United States, 2017 – Matt Grevers, Lilly King, Caeleb Dressel, Simone Manuel
American Record: 3:38.56, 2017 – Matt Grevers, Lilly King, Caeleb Dressel, Simone Manuel

2017 World Champion: United States, 3:38.56 – Matt Grevers, Lilly King, Caeleb Dressel, Simone Manuel
2018 Fastest Times:

  1. 3:38.91, Australia (Pan Pacs)
  2. 3:40.18, Great Britain (Europeans)
  3. 3:40.45, China (Asian Games)
  4. 3:40.98, Japan (Pan Pacs)
  5. 3:41.74, United States (Pan Pacs)
  6. 3:42.71, Russia (Europeans)
  7. 3:44.85, Italy (Europeans)
  8. 3:45.57, Netherlands (Europeans)

Swimming World’s team of Andy RossDan D’AddonaDavid RiederDiana Pimer and Taylor Covington will be selecting their medalists for the World Championships in each event. Read below who everybody picked.

Andy’s Picks:

  1. United States
  2. Australia
  3. Great Britain

Dan’s Picks:

  1. United States
  2. Australia
  3. Great Britain

David’s Picks:

  1. United States
  2. Australia
  3. Great Britain

Diana’s Picks:

  1. United States
  2. Australia
  3. Great Britain

Taylor’s Picks:

  1. United States
  2. Great Britain
  3. Australia

2019 FINA World Championships Predictions:

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