US Olympic Swimming 2012: Why Medley Relay Teams Should Be Unbeatable

Dan HopeContributor IIIAugust 4, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 03:  Michael Phelps of the United States looks on ahead of the Men’s 100m Butterfly Final on Day 7 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre on August 3, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Saturday is the final day of swimming competition within the pool, with the final two events of the competition being the women’s and men’s 4x100-meter medley relays. Given the personnel that is expected to compete on those two medley relay teams, the U.S. men’s and women’s swimming teams have a great chance to each finish with another gold.

The men and women both boast star-studded lineups. The men are expected to be led by Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all-time with 17 golds and 21 overall medals, swimming the butterfly leg of the competition. For the women, 17-year-old phenom Missy Franklin, who has already won three golds and four overall medals in her first Olympics, is expected to swim the backstroke.

The medley relay consists of four swimmers, each swimming a 100-meter leg of the race in their specialty event. Therefore, the hypothetically best possible team for a medley relay in this year’s Games would be made up of the gold-medalists from the 100-meter backstroke, 100-meter breaststroke, 100-meter butterfly and 100-meter breaststroke.

The U.S. men have three of the four gold-medalists: Matt Grevers swimming the backstroke, Phelps in the butterfly and Nathan Adrian on freestyle. This gives the U.S. a massive advantage over the entire field.

Only two other nations—South Africa and Australia—have two medalists in the corresponding events, let alone gold-medalists, to make up their roster. Australia, whose team will be led by James Magnussen in the free and Christian Sprenger in the breast, should be the United States’ top competition, while South Africa failed to qualify for the final.

That said, this race could easily be a runaway.

The United States can make up a roster of four 2012 medalists in the corresponding events, with the inclusion of Brendan Hansen, who earned bronze in the 100-meter breaststroke.

The U.S. men have a complete team, with swimmers capable of out-splitting the competition on each leg.

As long as all four swimmers swim up to their ability, the team should be able to earn what would be Phelps’ 18th career gold medal and 22nd overall gold medal, for a perfect ending that would make four consecutive golds in the final four races of Phelps’ Olympic career, assuming he stays true to his word and does not return for the 2016 Games.

The U.S. women’s team also has a lineup that makes them major favorites to win the medley relay. The team should feature Missy Franklin, the 100 back gold-medalist; and Dana Vollmer, the 100 fly gold-medalist. They are expected to be joined by Rebecca Soni, the 100 breast silver medalist who also won gold in the 200 breast; and Allison Schmitt, who is tied with Franklin with four overall medals.

Franklin and Vollmer were not only the fastest swimmers in the corresponding events in London, they also both swam world-record-breaking times in those races. Soni also set a world record in a dominant 200 breast victory, while Schmitt won gold in the 200 free and anchored the gold-medal-winning 4x200-meter freestyle relay team, along with the bronze-medal-winning 4x100 free relay team.

The U.S. should expect their toughest competition to come from Australia, Japan and China, each of whom have two medalists from the corresponding events. None of them, however, have a gold-medalist in a corresponding event, while the U.S. has two gold-medalists from corresponding events.

The U.S. has three swimmers who have broken world records in London, combined with Schmitt, arguably the world’s most complete freestyle swimmer, given her ability to contend in the 100, 200 and 400 free.

Franklin, Soni and Schmitt each won two individual medals in the strokes they will swim Saturday, while the four expected members of the team have a combined eight total golds in London (Franklin, Schmitt and Vollmer all won gold as members of the 4x200 free relay).

If all goes as expected on Saturday night, The Star Spangled Banner will be played during the final two medal ceremonies for swimming competition at the London Aquatics Center.


Thanks for reading!

Dan Hope is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist covering the 2012 Olympic Games. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Hope.