U.S. Olympic Trials: An Early Look at the Men’s 400 Free Relay

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Analysis by David Rieder

OMAHA, Nebraska, June 30. AROUND the pool deck at the CenturyLink Center, we have noticed a noticeable buzz about the shortcomings of the men qualified to represent the U.S. in the 400 free relay. Swimming World's own John Lohn wrote on Thursday about the unimpressive times we saw in the lead-up to last night's final, where no American broke 48 seconds. Remember that both James Magnussen and James Roberts swam well under that vaunted marker at Australia's Olympic Trials in March. In fact, Magnussen swam exactly one second faster in March than Adrian swam to win last night.

With that in mind, we wanted to take a look at how the relays shape up on paper headed into the Games. Here, we consider any and all times that athletes have swum in the year of 2012, whether at a Trials or not.

James Magnussen, 47.10
James Roberts, 47.63
Matt Targett, 48.32
Eamon Sullivan, 48.53
Total Time: 3:11.58

Nikita Lobintsev, 48.21
Danila Izotov, 48.27
Andrey Grechin, 48.29
Vladimir Morozov, 48.56
Total Time: 3:13.33

Yannick Agnel, 48.02
Fabien Gilot, 48.38
Amaury Leveaux, 48.48
Alain Bernard, 48.61
Total Time: 3:13.49

United States
Nathan Adrian, 48.10
Cullen Jones, 48.46
Jimmy Feigen, 48.48
Michael Phelps, 48.49
Total Time: 3:13.53

Obviously, Australia remains the clear favorite for gold with a big battle brewing for the minor medals. Still, these virtual relays are not perfect. Phelps has yet to swim the 100 free at a championship meet this season, and most expect him to lead-off the relay at the Olympics. The coaches could still consider Ryan Lochte an option for the Olympic relay if he swims well in his other events in London.

As for France, both William Meynard and Jeremy Stravius, members of silver medal-winning relay from Worlds last year, under-performed at French Trials in April, so both could contribute to the Olympic relay. The Australian team could feature young talent Cameron McEvoy, while the Russian Evgeny Lagunov is a veteran of past Olympic teams. Certainly, though, France and the U.S. have the most flexibility of the top contending teams.

As we have seen in the past, the swimmers swim the relay, not the analysts. In 2008, only the unimaginable could push the Americans past the French in the 400 free relay. We can't expect heroics like Jason Lezak's 46.06 every year, so the U.S., France, and Russia have a lot of work to do to catch the Australians in the 400 free relay.