Simone Manuel to Anchor 400 Free Relay for US, Following Brown, Weitzeil, Hinds

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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Simone Manuel will make her Tokyo debut tonight, anchoring the 400 free relay.

The finals relay for the U.S. will start with Erika Brown, then Abbey Weitzeil, then Natalie Hinds before Manuel takes the anchor.

Team USA coach Greg Meehan had plenty of options to pull from in the final since ultimately relays are a coach’s decision.

Swimmers who are relay-only swimmers at the meet have to swim at least once, either in prelims or finals. Natalie Hinds, Olivia Smoliga and Catie DeLoof were the USA’s relay-only swimmers in this event and they all swam during prelims, along with Allison Schmitt, who was a relay-only swimmer for this event, but has an individual swim in the 200 free.

The 100 free individual qualifiers were Weitzeil and Brown, and they were both not on the prelims relay. The prelims squad saw Smoliga lead off in 54.06, followed by DeLoof in 53.42 and Schmitt in 54.04 before Hinds’ 52.28.

Meehan also had other options like Simone Manuel, the defending 100 free gold medalist. But she missed making the 100 free, or even the relay, at the U.S. Olympic trials, though she made the team later in the 50 free. Katie Ledecky was also an option as was teen sensation Torri Huske, who just missed joining this relay from trials as well.

Ultimately, Meehan had to make what he thought the best decision for the U.S. is, which means Smoliga, Schmitt and DeLoof could all still win medals but not swim in the finals.

Australia took the top seed in the event during prelims. Australia swam the prelims in 3:31.73, followed by the Netherlands (3:33.51), Canada (3:33.72), Great Britain (3:34.03), the U.S. (3:34.80), China (3:35:07), Denmark (3:35.56) and Sweden (3:35.93).

The Dolphins’ prelim squad of Mollie O’Callaghan, Meg Harris, Madison Wilson and Bronte Campbell easily bested the opposition, a performance of 3:31.73 good for the top seed for the championship race by nearly two seconds.

And, Australia has its biggest weapons to come.

The Aussies headed into these Games as the overwhelming favorites for gold, and their opening-round squad did nothing to change that opinion. After O’Callaghan led off in a split of 53.08, Harris popped a mark of 52.73, with Wilson going 53.10 and Campbell closing out the session with an anchor of 52.82. The lineup only gets stronger in the morning, when Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell are added to the mix.

The Aussies will go with Bronte Campbell, Meg Harris, Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell.

Canada has Kayla Sanchez, Maggie MacNeil, Rebecca Smith and Penny Oleksiak. MacNeil takes the place of Taylor Ruck, who swam in the prelims.

The Netherlands send Kim Busch, Ranomi Kromowidjojo, Kira Toussaint and Femke Heemskerk.

Great Britain’s squad is Anna Hopkin, Abbie Wood, Lucy Hope and Freya Anderson.

Denmark’s is Pernille Blume, Signe Bro, Julie Kepp Jensen and Jeannete Ottesen.

China’s team is Cheng Yujie, Zhu Menghui, Al Yanhan and Wu Qingfeng.

Sweden’s team is Sarah Sjostrom, Michelle Coleman, Louise Hansson and Sophie Hansson.

The U.S. will try to vault their way into the finals and Simone Manuel could end up being the difference-maker.

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