Ranking GB’s Olympic Medal Shots: Relays Part 1

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The relay events often deliver some of the most exciting racing at any major championships, and in recent years have produced some memorable moments for Great Britain. Who can forget for example Duncan Scott’s anchor leg heroics in Gwangju or the drama surrounding the women’s 4×200 relay in Fukuoka back in 2001?

Certainly for the men’s squad, recent years have seen the relays become a fertile hunting ground for medals, so having looked at their individual chances, and the equivalents for the women’s team let’s dig into the team hopes on the men’s side

Men’s 4×200 Freestyle Relay

This is the big one. The one everyone has been waiting for with bated breath since the instant James Guy touched the wall 4th in the 200 final at GB trials to round out a quartet with incredible potential.

Duncan Scott in relay action. Pic: ISL/Mike Lewis

It’s a team that has been incredibly successful over recent years with world titles in 2015 and 2017 sandwiching Olympic silver in 2016. There was a hiccup in 2019 with a 5th placed finish in Gwangju in a blanket finish for the podium, but the class of 2021 look set to reverse that outcome.

Headed by the two fastest men in the world this year in Duncan Scott and Tom Dean, joined by a fast improving Matt Richards and rounded out by consummate relay swimmer Guy, the cumulative times from trials push the quartet to the front of the world queue by a healthy margin.

Great Britain

Great Britain

SwimmerTime
Duncan Scott01:44.47
Tom Dean01:44.58
Matt Richards01:45.77
James Guy01:46.04
Total Time07:00.86

Russia

Russia

SwimmerTime
Martin Malyutin 01:44.79
Ivan Girev 01:45.49
Aleksandr Shchegolev 01:45.82
Aleksandr Krasnykh 01:45.88
Total Time07:01.98

Australia

Australia

SwimmerTime
Alexander Graham 01:45.22
Kyle Chalmers 01:45.48
Elijah Winnington 01:45.55
Thomas Neill 01:45.70
Total Time07:01.95

USA

USA

SwimmerTime
Kieran Smith 01:45.29
Townley Haas 01:45.66
Drew Kibler 01:45.92
Zach Apple 01:46.22
Total Time07:03.09

We expected a surge from the US and Australia but that didn’t materialise. The US might play with Caeleb Dressel in this event and Australia have Mack Horton, off colour at their trials but a critical cog in their 2019 world title machine, but neither is certain to make enough difference. Russia (or at least the team of neutral athletes representing Russia, given the farce of the Olympic ban that isn’t) therefore remain the biggest threat.

They showed quite clearly at the European Championships they cannot be written off, delivering a dose of reality to the GB quartet. It was quite clear that they were closer to their potential, base on 2021 times, than Britain was, but it showed that there is no room for complacency and nobody should be handing out the medals just yet. Nonetheless Britain remains a warm favourite in this event and has the capability to deliver a sub 7 minute swim. It’s an event not to miss.

Men’s Medley Relay

If the 4×2 has been a long term success story the medley team has been the coming force with gold and two silvers at the last three global championships, including that anchor in 2019 to snatch gold from the USA at the death.

Luke Greenbank could be the key leg pic: ISL/Mike Lewis

The chances of repeating that feat and mounting the top step of the podium are probably slim, with the likely USA quartet demonstrating great speed at their trials and importantly, Michael Andrew significantly closing the differential to Adam Peaty on the breaststroke leg. With Dressel in there they will be very, very tough for anyone to beat so attention should turn to the podium placings.

Great Britain

Great Britain

SwimmerTime
Greenbank00:53.34
Peaty00:57.39
Guy00:50.96
Scott00:47.87
Total Time03:29.56

USA

USA

SwimmerTime
Murphy00:52.22
Andrew00:58.14
Dressel00:49.76
Apple00:47.72
Total Time03:27.84

Russia

Russia

SwimmerTime
Rylov00:52.12
Prigoda00:59.11
Minakov00:51.17
Kolesnikov00:47.31
Total Time03:29.71

Australia

Australia

SwimmerTime
Larkin00:53.04
Stubblety Cook00:59.69
Temple00:50.45
Chalmers00:47.59
Total Time03:30.77

Japan

Japan

SwimmerTime
Irie00:53.00
Sato00:59.18
Kawamoto00:51.00
Nakamura00:48.23
Total Time03:31.41

What could be key here is the lead off; while Britain can hold its own or surge on the other 3 legs, there is still a deficit on the clock on the backstroke. Luke Greenbank has been improving fast this year cutting swathes from his PB, but he needs to continue to do so and minimise any gap to Russia, Australia and Japan all of whom will have eyes on silver. If he does that, Peaty can then work his magic and Britain stays at the head of the pack in the hunt for silver, a position they hold on paper. It promises to be a great way to draw the swimming competition to a close.

Men’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay

This team is the Johnny-come-lately to the medal chances, with it rarely having been anywhere nears the medal conversation and indeed Britain not having swum it at all until recently. That has all changed for Tokyo, with the continued excellence of Duncan Scott backed up by the emergence of three young guns in this event.

Tom Dean in relay action. Pic :ISL/Mike Lewis

Scott equalled his British record at trials and was followed home by a huge PB from Matt Richards, while since then we have seen Tom Dean and Jacob Whittle further improve their there-and-back speed in Budapest and Glasgow respectively. Remarkably this opens the possibility that GB could field a team with 3 out of 4 members not in the squad that finished a creditable 5th in Gwangju, and one that has pushed itself into the conversation for the bronze medal

Great Britain

Great Britain

SwimmerTime
Scott00:47.87
Richards00:48.23
Dean00:48.30
Whittle00:48.55
Total Time03:12.95

Russia

Russia

SwimmerTime
Kolesnikov00:47.31
Minakov00:47.74
Grinev00:47.85
Morozov00:48.00
Total Time03:10.90

USA

USA

SwimmerTime
Dressel00:47.39
Apple00:47.72
Pieroni00:48.14
Curry00:48.19
Total Time03:11.44

Italy

Italy

SwimmerTime
Miressi00:47.45
Ceccon00:48.14
Condorelli00:48.49
Frigo00:48.54
Total Time03:12.62

Australia

Australia

SwimmerTime
Chalmers00:47.59
Temple00:48.32
Mcevoy00:48.49
Incerti00:48.51
Total Time03:12.91

The Russian team are huge favourites, and they are likely to be challenged hard by the USA, but Britain is in the scrap for the podium with Australia and Italy. It will be a tough ask to make that step, but the rate of progress of the youngsters, the possibility to call on the relay smarts of Guy if needed and the excellence of Scott who might fancy a lead off leg to set a 100 time, given he won’t swim the individual, could just combine to make it a reality.

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