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4x100 Relay Gold 'Australia's To Lose'

Jul 19, 2012  - Craig Lord

One Missile, One Rocket, One Targett and One Chef to make the Aussie broth boil beyond the mighty United States for gold in the 4x100m freestyle for the first time since Thorpey out-touched Hall Jr and had his teammates smashing guitars on the burning deck at Sydney 2000.

Relay gold is Australia's to lose, relay team coach John Fowlie told the media at the holding camp in Manchester: "stupid'' technical or tactical mistakes is what could let the US and the likes of France, Russia and set fire to a paper exercise that grants the Dolphins a massive advantage going into the Games in London.

James Magnussen, 47.10, James Roberts, 47.63 lead the way for Australia, with Matthew Targett at his best this season and foodie Eamon Sullivan close to best ever too (in textile) - but an analysis of paper possibilities that take into account career bests, as opposed to what we've seen so far this season, makes the race much closer and supports Fowlie's view that small mistakes will cost Australia big time. 

Here's how the top three quartets stack up with their best career textile times (names based on top 4 available in London per nation):

  • AUS: 3:11.52 - Magnussen; 47.10; Roberts, 47.63; Targett, 48.32; Sullivan, 48.47
  • FRA: 3:12.27 - Meynard, 48.00; Agnel; 48.02; Bernard 48.12; Gilot 48.13
  • USA: 3:12.76 - Adrian, 48.05; Phelps 48.08; [Lezak 48.17 (04); Ervin 48.33 (01)]; Jones 48.46

Shiny suits in 2008 undoubtedly contributed to the fastest 100m relay split ever seen - Lezak's triumphant 46.06, the sweep past Bernard, Phelps' eight golds alive in Beijing. But Lezak has a very fine record for serving his team and country better than he serves himself in solo events: even in textile he is the best America has ever had - 47.32 at Melbourne 2007 world titles. 

The top five textile splits ever:

  • 46.70 Van Den Hoogenband 2003
  • 47.00 Magnussen 2011 (bringing home Aussie medley relay)
  • 47.03 Bousquet 2003
  • 47.07 Cielo 2011
  • 47.18 Magnini 2007

Next on the list is a 47.20 from one Ian Thorpe at Pan Pacs in 2002

On the day, Fowlie, personal coach to Roberts, believes, Australia will win if it makes no mistakes: "I really do believe if we do our job and swim to our potential, the gold medal's ours. It's just really making sure we don't do something stupid and screw it up."

He did not rule out the possibility of Magnussen blowing off the cobwebs in heats - and hinted that Missile and Rocket may well be used up front in the final to get the Australians way out front. "Traditionally, the men's 4x100 it's catch me if you can," Fowlie told reporters. 

Meanwhile, Commonwealth Games golden girl and near-miss at Shanghai 2011 world titles Alicia Coutts, also under Fowlie's guidance, has asked not to be considered for the heats of the 4x100m freestyle. Conscious that a big multi-event programme, one that worked well in Commonwealth waters, cost her dearly in Shanghai, Coutts wants to focus purely on the 100m butterfly and 200m medley. The 4x100m free coincides with heats and semis of the 100m butterfly, in which Coutts is a medal chance.

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