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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5 years ago

Chase kalisz will make the team.

Irish Ringer
Reply to  Lol
5 years ago

Kalisz and Lochte (if he swims it), otherwise that second spot is up for grabs.

If Lochte was 4:12.66 in season with maybe a day or two of rest, I think he’s capable of 4:07-4:08.
Kalisz definitely has a 4:06-4:07 in him and this could be he one chance to make the team so I don’t think he’s holding back.
Prenot and Litherland have a lot to drop, 4:14 and 4:13 respectively.
Clary was 4:11.7 last year at WC, but since has been anywhere from a 4:18 to that remarkable 4:34 he swam on 6/4/2016.

Reply to  Lol
5 years ago

Told you

PK boo I\'m sad my name is too short now
5 years ago

I don’t disagree with the picks, just curious why you think Gunnar Bentz is going to go slower at finals than he did last year at Nats?


Yeah.. Not to mention slower than he went at juniors in 2013 as well. Bad prediction IMO.

5 years ago

I feel like Kalisz will make the team. Prenot will be first, Kalisz second. I think Lochte will swim the event, but he’ll be upset by the youngsters. 400 IM is too grueling an event for his age.

Irish Ringer
Reply to  Simon
5 years ago

4:13 best time Prenot is going to drop 5+ seconds to secure first place? I believe he’ll be faster than 4:13, but to think he’ll be 4:07-4:08 range?

ice age swimmer
Reply to  Simon
5 years ago

People a lot older than Lochte have won the Tour de France! (Twenty one days and about 2100 miles – many days up mountains!!!) To be exact, the tour has been won by 31 year olds 5X, 32 year olds 4X, 33year olds 7X, 36 year old 1X, and 34 year olds 5X. I’ll never understand why people think 31 is so old!!! I think as you get older, you’d rather AVOID the grueling training- but if anyone can do it, Lochte can. I don’t think Kalisz can beat him with his relatively weak backstroke, and Lochte just went a 1:02 100Br!!!!! I don’t think it will be close.

Reply to  ice age swimmer
5 years ago

and how is doping in that sport?

ice age swimmer
Reply to  SwimCoachSean
5 years ago

True- cycling has a lot of doping problems, but both the young guys and the older guys do it! So that doesn’t really have do do with the age of the winners.

Walker H
5 years ago

Go dawgs sic em’ ????

bobo gigi
5 years ago

Lochte can swim that event at trials. Even why not win it. But it wouldn’t mean he would swim it in Rio.
Hard to make predictions if we don’t know who swims what.
I don’t know if that’s the result of trials but I think Kalisz and Litherland will represent USA in that event.
Prenot should make a top 5 but his freestyle is weak while Litherland’s feestyle is amazing.
6 years ago I thought Gunnar Bentz would be a star. In 2013 he won 2 world junior titles. No real improvement since then. His backstroke is always awful. I’m still waiting for the big breakout swim. Maybe at trials. But honestly he has disappointed me.… Read more »

Reply to  bobo gigi
5 years ago

Bobo, you’ve just given me another inspiration with your Gunnar Benz disappointment!
I am going to add to my list an excuse for a previous junior star who is not making it. Maybe I’ll just blame it on college system!

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Gabrielle
5 years ago

No, it’s Teri McKeever’s fault.

Irish Ringer
Reply to  Steve Nolan
5 years ago

Good call! You can always fall back on McKeever’s. She apparently is so bad that can tank male swimmers that compete for other programs 🙂

5 years ago

Chase Kalisz 4:08. 84 new PB
Jay Litherland 4:09.49 new PB

Chase Kalisz 4:08.50 for 4th in new PB
Jay Litherland 4:09.19 for 6th in new PB

5 years ago

What, SwimSwam? Kalisz has been the most consistent American performer in this event since 2012, and you don’t have him winning this event at trials or even placing second? You might need to reevaluate your picks. Prenot had a great short course season, but his best shot is the 200 breast, not the 400 IM.

Kalisz 4:08.5
Lochte 4:09.7

Kalisz 4:07.8 Silver or Bronze
Lochte 4:09.0 5th place

Unfortunately, it appears that Rio will see the end of the Americans’ Olympic streak in this event (gold since 92), which may also be the case in the 100 and 200 back (gold since 92)

Coach Huggies
Reply to  thezwimmer
5 years ago

Join the discussioSmall Correction, Gold since 96. Darnyi won in 92. Namesnik was second though.

Reply to  Coach Huggies
5 years ago

Thanks Coach Huggies. What I meant to say was every Olympic gold AFTER 92 in the 400 IM (Dolan, Dolan, Phelps, Phelps, Lochte), the 100 Back (Rouse, Krayzelburg, Peirsol, Peirsol, Grevers), and the 200 back (Bridgewater, Krayzelburg, Peirsol, Lochte, Clary). Go USA!

Reply to  thezwimmer
5 years ago

Chase beating lochte by over a second at the Olympics?
Be interested to know what predicted splits u foresee for this happen?

5 years ago

Jay will make it big time. Unreal swimmer and great guy as well as mick and Kevin ma boys

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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