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Coed swim relays at the Olympics?

Oct 1, 2012, 5:44 PM EDT

Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

FINA, swimming’s governing body, is apparently throwing a 4x50m coed medley relay onto the schedule at its World Cup meet in Dubai this week, and maybe seven other events later this year. If all goes well we could soon see the race at the world championships and eventually even the Olympics.

The teams will be made up of two men and two women, and, for sake of strategy and a bit of fun, the teams are allowed to put together their legs of the race however they see fit, meaning they can pit men against women depending on what advantage the group is attempting to gain.

“It will be extremely exciting for the first couple of years,” 100m breast champ Cameron Van der Burgh told the Associated Press Monday. “No one knows what will happen. Who are the favorites? How it will work? Who they will choose? I’m all for making sport bigger.”

While smart money and zealous assumptions would suggest an American team made up of famous names like Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin, and Ryan Lochte… a little math says that none of those gold medal swimmers would have made the cut for a hypothetical American squad in London.

Why? When you look at the results you realize that the disparity between men’s and women’s times in the backstroke and breaststroke is greater than in the butterfly and freestyle by a full second or two, so you’d want to put girls in the latter two strokes and the men in the first two.

In London that probably would have meant the Americans starting with Matt Grevers, who won gold with an Olympic record in the 100m back in London, followed by breaststroke bronze-medalist Brendan Hansen in the second leg. Then you’d definitely put world record holder Dana Vollmer in the butterfly (Team USA’s biggest advantage) and Jessica Hardy, who finished seventh in the 50m freestyle as the anchor.

Sure, you might not want to anchor with your weakest swimmer, so maybe you swap her for Cullen Jones – who won silver in the men’s 50m free – but then you risk giving up an extra second or two by swapping out Hansen for Rebecca Soni in the breaststroke. And can you really leave Phelps, Lochte, Missy, Soni, and Nathan Adrian off this team?

See, this is when it gets fun, and why we can’t wait to see this race added to the Olympics. Fingers crossed.

See also: Germans take first 4×50 mixed relay

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