Olympics: Italy Set Pace in Men’s Medley Relay; U.S. Sneaks in as Seventh Seed

Jul 26, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Thomas Ceccon (ITA) in the men's 100m backstroke semifinals during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
Italy's Thomas Ceccone; Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

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Olympics: Italy Set Pace in Men’s Medley Relay; U.S. Sneaks in as Seventh Seed

The prelims are always a balance from the relay perspective. Yes, for medal contenders, you want to spread the wealth and reward the guys that got you there. For the top swimmers who are taking part in individual events, there’s a certain protection you want to offer against overwork. And if you keep a little something in reserve, that maybe gets in a rival’s mind after prelims.

Jul 29, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Andrew Wilson (USA) in the mixed 4x100m medley heats during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Grace Hollars-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Wilson of the United States; Photo Courtesy: Grace Hollars-USA TODAY Sports

But the fine line is all about getting there. If you best relay swimmers are waiting in the stands, they might never get a chance to show their stuff in finals if the prelims squad doesn’t get the job done. Ask the Great Britain men’s 400 freestyle relay. And, were it not for a DQ and a miniscule margin, you could’ve asked the United States men.

Its streak of 14 wins from 14 non-boycotted Olympic Games nearly came to an end in prelims Friday night in Tokyo, the U.S. sneaking into the final with merely the seventh-fastest time. The B team of Hunter Armstrong, Andrew Wilson, Tom Shields and Blake Pieroni clocked in at 3:32.29, fourth in their heat. They were to be tied for seventh with Brazil before its relay in the final heat was disqualified. Instead, the U.S. draws an outside lane for Sunday morning’s final. It’s likely none of the four from prelims will be in that squad.

The Americans’ margin of error to elimination was just .33 seconds back to ninth-place Poland. Canada was the lucky beneficiary of the Brazil DQ, getting in in eighth in 3:32.37. It’s the second Canadian men’s relay to final at these games.

The pace was set by Italy, which cruised to victory in 3:30.02. The Italians deployed more or less their full A squad, with Thomas Ceccon, Nicolo Martinenghi, Federico Burdisso and Alessandro Miressi. Great Britain followed comfortably in 3:31.47 with an Adam Peaty-less foursome. Russia is the third seed in 3:31.66, though neither Evgeny Rylov nor Kliment Kolesnikov participated, making them a front-runner. China, Japan and Australia round out the eight finalists.

Men’s 400 medley relay

  • World record: United States (Aaron Peirsol, Eric Shanteau, Michael Phelps, David Walters), 3:27.28 (2009)
  • Olympic record: United States (Ryan Murphy, Cody Miller, Michael Phelps, Nathan Adrian), 3:27.95 (2016)
  1. Italy (Thomas Ceccon, Nicolo Martinenghi, Federico Burdisso, Alessandro Miressi), 3:30.02
  2. Great Britain (Luke Greenbank, James Wilby, James Guy, Duncan Scott) 3:31.47
  3. Russia (Grigory Tarasevich, Anton Chupkov, Mikhail Vekovischev, Vladislav Grinev) 3:31.66
  4. China (Xu Jiayu, Yan Zibe, Sun Jiajun, He Junyi), 3:31.72
  5. Japan (Ryosuke Irie, Ryuya Mura, Naoki Mizunuma, Katsumi Nakamura) 3:32.02
  6. Australia (Mitch Larkin, Zac Stubblety-Cook, David Morgan, Kyle Chalmers), 3:32.08
  7. United States (Hunter Armstrong, Andrew Wilson, Tom Shields, Blake Pieroni), 3:32.29
  8. Canada (Markus Thormeyer, Gabe Mastromatteo, Josh Liendo, Yuri Kisil), 3:32.37


  1. avatar
    Bob Hopkins

    what is the finals line up?

    • avatar

      Murphy, Andrew, Dressel, Apple

  2. avatar

    Murphy, Andrew, Dressel, Apple

  3. avatar

    Murphy, Andrew, Dressel, Apple.

  4. avatar

    How comes everyone is ignoring Italy? They got the best time in the Heats? Genuinely curious.

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