It’s Ladies’ Night: Who’s Dancing on the United States’ All-Time Medley Relay?

Photo: Mary T Meagher and the poster that would have to wait four more years until Los Angeles 1984

It’s the ladies’ turn. If the United States had the chance to put together an all-time medley relay, who would earn a spot on the roster?

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It’s the ladies’ turn. If the United States had the chance to put together an all-time medley relay, who would earn a spot on the roster?


Darth Vader

Back: Natalie Coughlin ( In 2 years will be Franklin)
Breast: Jessica Hardy
Fly: Misty Hyman – She was a pure racer
Free: Jenny Thompson

my 1 cent


I think you have to put Dr. Thompson on the free leg because the 100 fly is oddly a deeper event for the American women and Mary T or Vollmer can handle that leg just fine.


Coughlin, Caulkins, Meagher, Sterkel


This reminds me of a very interesting very much fun exercise organized by John Lohn few years back, where five of us, some of most frequent commenters to swimmingworld were invited by John Lohn to pick a legend for our teams. We picked in order (determined randomly), one by one after each other, until the total swimmers picked reached 100. We cannot pick a swimmer already selected by another person.

This list has been posted to swimmingworld, and the five of us then fielded our own relay teams based on the swimmers in our stables. Those posts created so much fun debates and discussions

This is our list:
(with thanks to John Lohn)
1. 1. Paddles (Shane Gould)
2. 2. John Lohn (Michael Phelps)
3. 3. David Rieder (Tracy Caulkins)
4. 4. Aswimfan (Kriztina Egerszegi)
5. 5. Nadador (Ryan Lochte)
6. 6. Nadador (Natalie Coughlin)
7. 7. Aswimfan (Mark Spitz)
8. 8. David Rieder (Ian Thorpe)
9. 9. John Lohn (Janet Evans)
10. 10. Paddles (Kosuke Kitajima)
11. 11. Paddles (Penny Heyns)
12. 12. John Lohn (Aaron Peirsol)
13. 13. David Rieder (Alexander Popov)
14. 14. Aswimfan (Mary T. Meagher)
15. 15. Nadador (Sun Yang)
16. 16. Nadador (Yana Klochkova)
17. 17. Aswimfan (Roland Matthes)
18. 18. David Rieder (Inge de Brujin)
19. 19. John Lohn (Dawn Fraser)
20. 20. Paddles (Kirsty Coventry)
21. 21. Paddles (Dana Vollmer)
22. 22. John Lohn (Matt Biondi)
23. 23. David Rieder (Susie O’Neill)
24. 24. Aswimfan (Tamas Darnyi)
25. 25. Nadador (Norbert Rózsa)
26. 26. Nadador (Amanda Beard)
27. 27. Aswimfan (John Hencken)
28. 28. David Rieder (Michael Gross)
29. 29. John Lohn (Leisel Jones)
30. 30. Paddles (Dennis Pankratov)
31. 31. Paddles (John Naber)
32. 32. John Lohn (Grant Hackett)
33. 33. David Rieder (Rebecca Soni)
34. 34. Aswimfan (Galina Prozumenshchikova)
35. 35. Nadador (Pieter van den Hoogenband)
36. 36. Nadador (Dara Torres)
37. 37. Aswimfan (Jenny Thompson)
38. 38. David Rieder (Lenny Krayzelburg)
39. 39. John Lohn (Petria Thomas)
40. 40. Paddles (Kieren Perkins)
41. 41. Paddles (Gary Hall Jr.)
42. 42. John Lohn (Brendan Hansen)
43. 43. David Rieder (Rebecca Adlington)
44. 44. Aswimfan (Vladimir Salnikov)
45. 45. Nadador (Michael Troy)
46. 46. Nadador (Satoko Tanaka)
47. 47. Aswimfan (Shirley Babashoff)
48. 48. David Rieder (Domenico Fioravanti)
49. 49. John Lohn (Melissa Belote)
50. 50. Paddles (Debbie Meyer)
51. 51. Paddles (Claudia Kolb)
52. 52. John Lohn (Gunnar Larsson)
53. 53. David Rieder (Diana Mocanu)
54. 54. Aswimfan (Britta Steffen)
55. 55. Nadador (Michael Klim)
56. 56. Nadador (Kate Ziegler)
57. 57. Aswimfan (Rowdy Gaines)
58. 58. David Rieder (Daniel Kowalski)
59. 59. John Lohn (Donna de Varona)
60. 60. Paddles (Jonty Skinner)
61. 61. Paddles (David Wilkie)
62. 62. John Lohn (Don Schollander)
63. 63. David Rieder (Sippy Woodhead)
64. 64. Aswimfan (Laure Manadou)
65. 65. Nadador (Steve Lundquist)
66. 66. Nadador (Samantha Riley)
67. 67. Aswimfan (Stephanie Rice)
68. 68. David Rieder (Laszlo Cseh)
69. 69. John Lohn (Libby Trickett)
70. 70. Paddles (Tom Dolan)
71. 71. Paddles (Anthony Ervin)
72. 72. John Lohn (Victor Davis)
73. 73. David Rieder (Ian Crocker)
74. 74. Aswimfan (Jim Montgomery)
75. 75. Nadador (Jeff Rouse)
76. 76. Nadador (Jessica Schipper)
77. 77. Aswimfan (Bruce Furniss)
78. 78. David Rieder (Therese Alshammar)
79. 79. John Lohn (Missy Franklin)
80. 80. Paddles (Karen Moe)
81. 81. Paddles (Amy van Dyken)
82. 82. John Lohn (Martin Zubero)
83. 83. David Rieder (Dave Berkoff)
84. 84. Aswimfan (Tom Jager)
85. 85. Nadador (Rick Carey)
86. 86. Nadador (Anita Nall)
87. 87. Aswimfan (Sarah Sjoestrom)
88. 88. David Rieder (Mike Barrowman)
89. 89. John Lohn (Lorraine Crapp)
90. 90. Paddles (Jodi Henry)
91. 91. Paddles (Tracey Wickham)
92. 92. John Lohn (Johnny Weissmuller)
93. 93. David Rieder (Otylia Jedrzejczak)
94. 94. Aswimfan (Federica Pellegrini)
95. 95. Nadador (Gary Hall Sr.)
96. 96. Nadador (Emily Seebohn)
97. 97. Aswimfan (Murray Rose)
98. 98. David Rieder (Katie Hoff)
99. 99. John Lohn (Catie Ball)
100. 100. Paddles (Rick Demont)


A lot of strategy, thinking, and swimming history were employed in picking our swimmers, not only because our swimmer have to score medals in our fantasy swimming competition, but they also have to swim relays.


Oh, for fun information (looking at you POL), I actually picked 9 (NINE) american swimmers to be in my fantasy swimming team.


Here’s my All Time US women medley relay:

Nathalie Coughlin – Catie Bell – Mary T. Meagher – Jenny Thompson

The hardest part is picking the freestyle leg but I have to go with Thompson, as she is the only american swimmer to have broken w100 free WR after 1930s (a shocking fact, I know), and she is a more than proven in relays (amazing relays stats to many to write here). She was beaten by a chinese in 1992 Barcelona, and she didn’t make into 100 free individual swim for 1996 beaten by both Angel Martino (cough) and Amy van Dyken (cough cough).

The easiest to pick is Meagher. Absolute legend, best butterflier, men or women in the past 100 years.

Viva la Bang

Thompson got smashed by Jodie Henry in Athens!

Bad Anon

Chuffed to see Kirsty Coventry in the top 20 on that list. One of Africa’s finest…


Viva la bang,

Thompson was already way past her peak. Thompson set her 100free WR in 1992, mind you. While 2004 was Henry’s absolute peak and prime.


Bad Anon,

Yes, Coventry is one of the greatest swimmers of all time. Her four individual medals in both 2004 and 2008 is very underrated.
But the list is not a ranking. It shows the order of the picks. So, in the first turn, paddles selected Shane Gould, and then John Loh picked Michael Phelps, and so on. The most versatile swimmers with multiple individual Olympics golds were usually get picked first.


Mary T


Oops it should be 3 individual medals in 2004 and 4 individual medals in 2008 for Coventry. Her seven individual medals are, if my memory serves me right, the most won by a female swimmer. I really can’t think of any other female swimmer with seven or more individual Olympics medals.


N. Coughlin
M. Quann
M. Meagher
S. Babashoff

Jim C

Egerszegi also won 7 inclucing gold medals.

Jim C

I meant to say Egerszeci won 7 medals including 5 gold medals.


Jim C,

You are so right. Of course.
Silly me for having ever forgotten the reasons why I selected Egerszegi as my first pick for the fantasy swimming team (see the above list).


Glad to see someone picked Fioravanti, Aswimfan. His career was cut short by heart problems or he would have been the emperor of breaststroke. And Pellegrini.

But i am a bit disappointed no one picked Lamberti. Olympic curse, yes, but a hell of a swimmer and of a relay swimmer. Just watch what he did in Seoul in the 4×200 relay.

Obviously, I am biased 🙂

So Cal Swimmer

Backstroke starts with the obvious – Natalie Coughlin. Her record speaks for itself.
Breastroke is Catie Ball. She was so far ahead of the world in this event (nearly a second and a half) there is no other choice. It was unfortunate she became quite ill at the1968 Olympics when she was ready to go for triple gold.
Butterfly is Madame Butterfly.
Free is a toss-up but I have to give it to Jenny Thompson based on her record in relays.


I’d go: Coughlin, Soni, Meagher, Thompson
Unlike with the men, I wouldn’t make the US the favorites if all countries put out a similar team. Of course there are major questions over the East Germans included in the Germany team, but until FINA or IOC strikes them from the records, I see little choice but to include them.
Germany: Richter, Gewiniger, Ender, Otto
Aus: Seebohm, Jones, Thomas, Fraser
Netherlands: Braun, van staveran, De Bruijn, Kromowidiojo
Denmark and Hungary would seems next in line.


Coughlin, Ball, Meagher, and Shirley B.


Backstroke isn’t so obvious to me. Give me Franklin any day on that leg. Soni on the br, Mary T then Coughlin.

Cayley Guimarães

Yeay! Thank you Aswimfan for reminding of that exercise. It was really fun and insightfull.

There were some difficult choices to make, and a lot of strategies went into the selection proccess!

As for the women´s relay, the first thing that came to my mind is that there seems to be a general consensus over a handfull names from recent eras.

– I wonder whether we are sexist…(and thus know little about other great swimmers?)
– Also, the manner in which great swimmers were overshadowed by then doped athletes: could it have skewed our perception (Babashoff)?
– Are the carreers of female swimmers shorter?

A second thing that comes to mind is how versatile American female swimmers are: Many of them could easily handle more than one leg:
Coughlin – Back, Fly and Free
Franklin – Back and Free
Torres and Thompson (also Martino and Van Dyken) – Fly and Free
Hardy – Breast and Free
Caulkins – well, she could swim anything!

Prelims: Franklin, Soni, Vollmer, Thompson

Finals: Natalie Coughlin, Amanda Beard, Mary T. Meagher and Dara Torres would be my pick.

Thompson was a great swimmer, but what Torres did was phenomenal. She had the fastest split at the Sydney games (53.37 at then the young age of 33) and again the fastest split at the London games (52.27 at the younger age of 41).


Cayley I think you meant Bejing, not London (Torres’ swim)


The US women have had some phenomenal 200 breaststrokers (Beard, Soni, etc) but hasn’t had too many dominant swimmers in the 100 Breast. That’s why I picked Catie Ball, who entered the 1968 Olympics as the biggest favorite among the American swimmers (yes even Debbie Meyer) such was her dominance. She had taken down the records of the great Soviet swimmer Prozumenshchikova. Ball in my opinion is the most dominant American 100 Breaststroker in history and it’s not even close.


There are a number of people, myself included, who are not entirely comfortable with Torres’ second comeback. Her camp was very careful to obey the WADA code to the letter, but I always got the impression that the same camp was frequently looking for interesting things that WADA just hadn’t gotten around to banning yet. She was upfront about being into a lot of different supplements to keep herself quick in the pool.



I think you are speaking out what many close followers of swimmings had in mind. But I leave it at that.

So Cal Swimmer

I agree with KeithM all the way regarding Catie Ball!

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