The women’s 4x100 metre medley relay event is a staple in the FINA World Championships, first appearing in 1973. The event sees each member of the four-person team use a different stroke, testing the depth of skill within the team. The 19th FINA World Championships in Budapest start next week, with the women’s 4x100 metre event taking place on 25 June. With this in mind, we look back at the world record progression for this event over the years.

German Democratic Republic | Part I

1973 was the first time the event took place, at the 1st FINA World Championships in Belgrade. This event was prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, so Ulrike Richter, Renate Vogel, Rosemarie Kother and Kornelia Ender were representing East Germany. The East German team performed spectacularly throughout the championships, but the world record time of 4:16.84 in the medley relay, where each swimmer swam the equivalent of a world record, was the highlight.

German Democratic Republic | Part II

Image Source: Tony Duffy - Getty Images Europe

Nearly a decade later, in 1982, at the 4th FINA World Championships in Ecuador, after that iconic 1973 team had disbanded, a new East German team managed to break the record in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Kristin Otto, Ute Geweniger, Ines Geißler, and Birgit Meineke managed to cut the 1973 time down by more than 10 seconds to achieve a new world record of 4:05.88. This achievement was in line with East German performances at the time, with the country enjoying a period of swimming dominance and record-breaking at the FINA World Championships and the Olympic Games throughout the 70’s and 80’s.


In 1994, much of the debate at the 13th FINA World Championships in Rome was about whether the USA or China, the new swimming superpower, would have the better showing. China broke multiple records during the event, but He Cihong, Dai Guohong, Liu Limin and Le Jingyi broke the world record in the 4x100 women’s medley relay with a time of 4:01.57.


Image Source: Adam Pretty - Getty Images AsiaPac

Shortly after China’s battle with the US throughout the 90’s, Australia began dominating the women’s medley relay event. After strong performances at the Olympic Games Athens 2004 and the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Emily Seebohm, Leisel Jones, Jessicah Schipper and Libby Lenton set a new world record time of 3:55.74 in front of a roaring home crowd at the 12th FINA World Aquatics Championships in Melbourne. This marked the first time that the record was taken below the four-minute mark at a FINA World Championships.


Image Source: Clive Rose - Getty Images Europe

In 2009, fresh from losing out to the Australians at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, in their home Olympics in Beijing, Team China returned to Rome – the site of their 1994 triumph, when China first set a record at the event. This time, the outcome was no different as Zhao Jing, Chen Huijia. Jiao Liuyang, and Li Zhesi set a new record of 3:52.19 – shaving half a second off the record that was achieved at the previous summer during the Olympic Games Beijing 2008.

USA | Part I

2012 marked a turning point for the USA women’s medley relay team, with the team winning gold and setting a new world record at the London 2012 Olympic Games. But the 2017 team managed to break the record once more at the 17th FINA World Championships in Budapest, the site of this year’s instalment. After years of not quite being able to claim the world record at the World Championships, so often finishing closely behind Australia and China, the United States women’s medley relay team (Kathleen Baker, Lilly King, Kelsi Dahlia, and Simone Manuel) managed to finally achieve a world record in the event with a time of 3:51:55.

USA | Part II

At the 18th FINA World Championships 2019 in Gwangju, the USA women’s medley relay team were victorious again. The team, consisting of Regan Smith, Kelsi Dahlia, Simone Manuel and a returning Lilly King, were able to set a new world record of 3:50.40.

The record still stands today and, having beaten the previous record by over a whole second, marks the biggest improvement in a world record since 2007!

With just over two weeks until the women’s 4x100 metre medley relay returns at the 19th FINA World Championships in Budapest, will we see a new world record for the third consecutive event?