2016 US Olympic Trials Preview: Can Lochte Hold On To The 400m IM?

The 400m IM at the 2016 U.S Olympic Trials looks to be another case of old vs new, pinning multi-time Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte and Olympic gold medalist Tyler Clary against a top tier group of collegiate standouts.

Lochte And Clary

Ever since Lochte won gold in the 400m IM at the 2012 London Olympic Games, he hasn’t had a single international medal in the event. In fact, he hasn’t even competed in the event internationally since London. His lack of international appearances in this event beg the question of whether or not the 31-year-old Lochte will swim it at trials.

Considering the fact that he posted a very strong 4:12.66 at the Arena Pro Swim Series at Austin, he’s definitely in the running to make the Olympic team in the event, it just depends where is focus lies. His win in Austin was the first win he’s had in the 400m IM since 2013. Lochte loves to race, and he’s proven time and time again when he steps up on those blocks he’s ready.

Tyler Clary (photo: Mike Lewis)

Tyler Clary at Duel in the Pool (photo: Mike Lewis)

Clary trains with Lochte at SwimMAC Carolina with head coach David Marsh, and has been targeting this event throughout the last quadrennial. Last summer he finished fourth at the World Championships in this race. Besides his silver medal at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships, Clary hasn’t exactly been the medley stud the United States is used to seeing in the hindsight of the Michael PhelpsRyan Lochte battles of the past.

The 400m IM has still proven to be one of Clary’s best events over the best quadrennial and once that he’ll likely target for Rio.

The New Leader In American Medley: Chase Kalisz

Having both Phelps and Lochte step down from the 400m IM over the last four years has given way to a new king of American medley, and his name is Chase Kalisz. The Georgia swimmer finished third last summer at the World Championships just ahead of Clary, and has proven to be one of the top IMers in the world since taking silver in this event at the 2013 World Championships.

Kalisz is a world contender, there’s no doubt about that. He was a 4:12.80 already this season at the 2015 Winter Nationals, a stones throw away from Lochte’s leading American time. If Lochte doesn’t swim this race, Kalisz is the favorite ahead of Clary. He’s proven his speed this season and over the last quadrennial.

The Emerging Talent 

Younger athletes from the NCAA knocking off the older American veterans should be one of the most enticing storylines of the 2016 U.S Olympic Trials. Just like several other events, the 400m IM is no different and features plenty of new blood that will be in the running to make the team.

_Prenot_ Joshua, California, Joshua Prenot, JR, Prenot_TBX_8875

Josh Prenot (Courtesy of Tim Binning)

Topping off that list is Cal’s Josh Prenot. Prenot won the 400 IM at the 2016 NCAA Championships with a very swift 3:35.82 to come very close to Kalisz’ American record time of 3:34.50. Prenot also blasted a sub 1:50 200 breaststroke and a 1:40.14 200 IM. In the long course pool, he’s ranked 17th this season for the 4:15.07 that he threw down in Austin.

With the breaststroke speed that Prenot has, he’s a dangerous threat to both Lochte and Clary whose strengths lean more towards fly, back and free.

Another top breaststroker swimmer with a killer IM is Will Licon out of Texas. Licon finished second to Prenot in the 400 IM at the NCAA Championships this season, throwing down a swift 3:37.40. But Licon elected not to enter the event at Olympic Trials, instead focusing on the 100 breast on the same day.

Prenot could ultimately go that way, too. He’s entered in both the 400 IM and 100 breast, but could still scratch one or the other closer to the meet. For now, we’re including him in our picks, as the 400 IM seems like a better shot at an Olympic berth than the 100 breast.

400 IM third seed, Jay Litherland of Georgia. Photo Credits: Tim Binning/TheSwimPictures.com

400 IMer Jay Litherland of Georgia. Photo Credits: Tim Binning/TheSwimPictures.com

Jay Litherland hails from the University of Georgia where Kalisz trains and has already shown some very impressive performances as a member of the US Junior National team. Litherland took home a gold medal in the 400m IM at the 2015 World University Games, and was the third ranked American in the event at the completion of last season. His time ranked him seventh in the world overall. Just like Prenot and Licon, Litherland has the chance to overthrow Lochte, Clary, or Kalisz.

Litherland’s Georgia Bulldogs teammate Gunnar Bentz is another rising young talent. Bentz was 4:14.16 at Nationals last summer and should be right in the hunt for a finals spot with his unique blend of versatility and endurance.

Andrew Seliskar is the last remaining collegiate swimmer that could really make a stand in the 400m IM. Seliskar was an age group standout and is now one of the top all-around swimmers in the NCAA. He boasts a 4:16.06 personal best in the 400m IM from the 2014 Junior Pan Pacific championships. He’s been a 3:37 in yards and will be up there to make the final and fight for a spot on the team.

The Up and Comer

Highschool senior Sean Grieshop of Nitro Swimming has proven to be very, very quick in the IMs. His 400m IM personal best sits at a 4:15.67 from last summer’s World Junior Championships where he took home the gold medal. He’s proven his speed and he’s proven that he can throw it down when it counts.

The main  swimmer who kind of eschews these categories is Wisconsin alum Michael Weiss. He’s a few years removed from the college ranks, but isn’t yet as established as Lochte or Clary. But the 25-year-old Weiss has a lot more youth than the veterans and quite a bit more experience than most of the youngsters. He swam a lifetime-best 4:12.00 at World University Games in 2013, plus competed at Pan Pacs in 2014 and Pan Ams in 2015. He struggled some in this event at Pan Ams, but could still be a finalist if he gets back to his 2013 form.

Top 8 Picks

Name Best Time Since 2012 Predicted Time Training Location
Ryan Lochte 4:11.36 4:08.8 SwimMAC Carolina
Josh Prenot 4:13.15 4:09.2 California Aquatics
Chase Kalisz 4:09.22 4:09.5 Arizona State University/NBAC
Tyler Clary 4:09.03 4:12.1 SwimMAC Carolina
Jay Litherland 4:12.43 4:12.2 Athens Bulldog Swim Club
Andrew Seliskar 4:16.05 4:14.4 California Aquatics
Sean Grieshop 4:15.67 4:15.0 Nitro Swimming
Gunnar Bentz 4:14.16 4:15.6 Athens Bulldog Swim Club


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8 years ago

Kalisz definetly makes the team in this event. I like prenot but there’s no way I see him making the team over kalisz.

Swim Nerd
8 years ago

Definitely should be Phelps and Kalisz (http://actuarialsports.com/olympic-team-predictions-swimming/).

RJ Cid
8 years ago

chase and clary. i see lochte skipping this. if he stays, chase and lochte

Danny Boy
8 years ago

Predictions are too slow. Keep in mind this is the first event for everyone swimming this event at trials so they should all be at their best. I expect Kalisz to win, but its hard to tell. Litherland has been looking REALLY good lately, prenot has had a great season, lochte is capabale if his heart is in it, and clary is a BIG wildcard. This is the only event that clary has a good chance of making the team IMO. I hope he realizes that and has been training accordingly. Goodluck to all these guys for having the balls to train for the toughest event (:

8 years ago

I’m gonna make a wild prediction and say that the top 2 spots go to Kalisz and Seliskar. I don’t think Lochte even swims the race.

Reply to  Bfunk
8 years ago

He’s already on the sheet. Why would he sratch it after a 4:12 this year? Seliskar is 4:16, even tapered, I wonder if he can break 4:10. Lochte has got it in the bag.

Marla M.
8 years ago

Ryan Lochte will likely surprise even himself with how well he will swim this week. Dropping 4 seconds in the 400 Im is not just possible for him, is probable. I’m predicting he will swim a 4:08:29 . We’ll see soon enough.

8 years ago

I think he goes a 4:08 something at trials, but wins. Ok? And I think he goes 4:07 or faster at Rio for a silver or gold. And don’t say Hagino goes 4:05. His best time is 4:07.6, I doubt he’ll break 4:06. And he could go slower, or faster. But Lochte is at least going to get silver in my opinion.

Reply to  SwimmerFoxJet
8 years ago

I firmly believe Hagino has the potential to go 4:05, but it’s not going to happen at this Olympics unless he’s figured out his mental game. It will be at some random in-season meet in like 2018 or so.

Reply to  Sven
8 years ago

As for the rest of the field, if Lochte swims the 400 IM, he makes the team and finishes no lower than silver in Rio. The young pups are catching up, but I think that, in terms of being a four-stroke swimmer, he’s still head and shoulders above everyone but Hagino.

If I had to make a call right now, I’d say Lochte’s out like a bat out of hell as usual, Hagino makes a big surge on freestyle, and the winner is decided by less than .2. Just did a coin toss. Lady Luck says Lochte wins.

Reply to  Sven
8 years ago

Lochte is going to make it a good one, but even if he doesn’t win, or even medal, or even make the team, he will have done his best. Not many have broken 4:20, much less 4:15 breaking 4:10 is world class. 4:05 is World Record class. He went 4:05. He already showed he could do this, doesn’t need to prove it again.

Reply to  Sven
8 years ago

Yea, but not now, maybe in 2020 but in 2016, too early.

8 years ago

Kalisz went 4:11 in Texas a few weeks ago and it’s hard not to call him the favorite, IMO. But this should be a great race. Lots of medal contenders, no clear standout.

About Mitch Bowmile

Mitch Bowmile

Mitch worked for 5-years with SwimSwam news as a web producer focusing on both Canadian and international content. He coached for Toronto Swim Club for four seasons as a senior coach focusing on the development of young swimmers. Mitch is an NCCP level 2 certified coach in Canada and an ASCA Level …

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