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


In This Story


  1. Lol says:

    Chase kalisz will make the team.

    • Irish Ringer says:

      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.

    • Lol says:

      Told you

  2. PK boo I\'m sad my name is too short now says:

    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?

  3. Simon says:

    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 says:

      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 says:

      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.

  4. Walker H says:

    Go dawgs sic em’ ????

  5. bobo gigi says:

    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.
    I don’t what to expect from Clary at that meet. I really have no idea. In any event.
    About the youngsters, I want a world junior record by Sean Grieshop and a 13/14 NAG record by Carson Foster.

    • Gabrielle says:

      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!

  6. Smoothswimmer says:

    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

  7. thezwimmer says:

    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 says:

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

      • thezwimmer says:

        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!

    • Skoorbnagol says:

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

  8. Laptop says:

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

  9. Lp Man says:

    I think Lochte has the luxury of not being being in 2012 form and winning this at Omaha. He won in London with a 405 low and that was with one of the worst finishes in olympic history. So in my mind, he should have been a 4:04 mid. I think a 4:07 is reasonable for him. I predict he and Kalisz go a pair of 407s and Lochte’s final underwater giving him the room he needs to hold off a charging Kalisz

  10. SUNY Cal says:

    Don’t see Clary making team in this event. In fact, think it will be hard for him to go to Rio in any event!

  11. Chris says:

    Poor Tyler Clary, top seed in two events, gold medalist in 2012, and hated and ruled out by most commenters. I hope he proves everyone wrong in omaha

    • Lauren Neidigh says:

      I don’t think anyone hates him, but I think people are being skeptical based on recent performances.

    • GoClary says:

      I agree, I think swimswam is being too dismissive of him. They are predicting him to go a time (tapered) slower than he’s gone in at least the past 8 years. He went 4:10 last year, and 4:09.03 the year before! Not to mention in that race he battled Chase head to head and put him away. Clary knows how to race and so does lochte. They are both taper machines and I have a feelin this is an event where the young guns won’t be able to get the crafty veterans. Calling it now, lochte 1st, clary 2nd, holding of chase that final 50.

      • Irish Ringer says:

        Wasn’t he 4:11.71 last year? 4:10 flat sounds pretty good when up against that, but lets not split hairs. He has put up some good times since 2012:

        2013- 4:10.39
        2014- 4:09.03
        2015- 4:11.71
        2016- 4:18.12

        I know the 2016 isn’t fair because there’s no taper in there, but in 5 swims in 2016 here’s what we have:

        1/16/2016 4:18.12
        1/16/2016 4:19.42
        4/14/2016 4:24.25
        4/14/2016 4:27.81
        6/4/2016 4:34.42

        2016 hasn’t been kind to the old boy. Hopefully he’s working harder than ever and the times are a reflection of that, but recent performances and the fact he ratted out Phelps along with skipping the White House visit probably adds up to people being dismissive of him.

        • phelps swims 200 breast rio says:

          What do you all think of the recent 4:34? Exhaustion?

          • Irish Ringer says:

            I’m not his biggest fan, but I think Clary could swim a 4:34 in practice on any given day. He more than likely put in some work that day of the 4:34 swim or was sick. It was a small meet and I wouldn’t look too much into it. Physically he looks pretty good, but I haven’t read anything about how his training has gone. He’s a big taper guy and usually performs above expectations.

        • Danny Boy says:

          What did clary rat phelps out on?

          • Irish Ringer says:

            Just how he wasn’t putting in 100% effort in training. Everything he said was probably factually correct, but it was leading up to trials and wasn’t the time to bring that up. In team sports it’s somewhat of a brotherhood and you don’t air dirty laundry, you keep it within the locker room so to speak. I don’t think it bothered Phelps much and he and Clary cleared the air prior to London.

            At the time Clary was a bit upset that Phelps was wavering on whether or not he would swim the 400IM in London and felt slighted by Phelps in the past. Other than that I haven’t seen anything from Clary that indicates he’s a bad guy. I think he was just going through some emotional stuff leading up to trials and let loose with that info, but here are the quotes:

            “I saw a real lack of preparation (from) him,” Clary said during an interview at the pool here where he trains.

            “Basically, he was a swimmer that didn’t want to be there,” Clary said of Phelps. “They can talk about all of these goals and plans and preparation they have. I saw it. I know. It’s different. And I saw somebody that has basically been asking to get beat for the longest time.”

            “The fact that he doesn’t have to work as hard to get that done, it’s a real shame,” Clary said. “I think it’s too bad. You see that all too often, where you get athletes that are incredibly talented that really take it for granted. I think the things he could have done if he’d worked as hard as I do would have been even more incredible than what he has pulled off.”

            “I’ve always called myself more of a blue-collar worker, as far as swimming goes,” Clary said. “I work my (butt) off all the time. That’s not to say that everybody else doesn’t. But the fact that I know I work harder than he does makes me appreciate every little goal and every little gain that I make.

            “The day that it happens, when I finally beat him, is going to be a huge deal in my mind because it would be complete satisfaction,” Clary said of Phelps, who qualified for eight Olympic events and will be competing in seven. “And the only thing that would be better than that is breaking the world record.”

            BTW…I don’t think the last quote ever came to fruition. I think he’s still waiting to beat MP in a major event 🙂

  12. MichaelTran says:

    I’m a Jay Litherland’s fan. I really hope he will make the team especially in the 400m IM or at least men’s 4x200m replay. I knew he can do it. Go Jay!!!!
    Predictions for Jay Litherland
    400IM: 4:09 high – 2nd
    200m free: 1:46 high – 1:47 low – 6th

  13. Skoorbnagol says:

    Great picks, chase reminds me off Tom Dolan, massive guy conditioned to the max.

    Unfortunatly that isn’t enough anymore, think josh 2.08 brs and his technical improvements in his fly will be too much. Chase’s backstroke is too poor.
    He lacks any easy speed and is reliant on his work effort.

    Lochte for the win, crushing last 50 4.07, josh second 4.08/09.

    I can see lochte winning in Rio. Hagino still needs to prove himself. Since London he has been ‘the man’ in 400im yet seto is 4 time world champ ? Since London (2x SC 2x LC)

    Lochtes dominance from Beijing to London was invincible.

    This is more open in my mind than people think.

    • Caleb says:

      I don’t think Lochte has crushed a last 50 in the last 5 years. He seems to take pride in taking it out brave and dying. IMO he’s not gonna make it but the top 4, at least, are really close.

  14. THEO says:

    I think this has the potential to be one of the most exciting races of trials. Lochte, Litherland, Prenot, and Kalisz are all capable of going sub 4:10. I think it is totally possible that they all are within a second of each other. If Lochte swims it, I definitely give him the edge to win. But the other three are a real toss up.

    Also, I think it would be a surprise for Clary to get back on that level ( I also see him around 4:12), but who knows. Maybe there’s 5 guys in that field.

  15. MichaelTran says:

    My dream us team:
    Men’s team:
    50m free: Adrian, Dressel
    100m free: Top 6: 1. Adrian 2. Dressel 3. Conger 4. Rooney 5. Haas 6. Feigen
    200m free: Top 6: 1. Dwyer 2. Haas 3. Lochte 4. Rooney 5. Jay Litherland 6. Clark Smith
    400m free: Jaeger, Smith
    1500m free: Jaeger, Wilimovsky
    100m back: Plummer, Grevers
    200m back: Murphy, Pebley
    100m fly: Phelps, Shields
    200m fly: Phelps, Conger
    100m breast: Miller, Fink
    200m breast: Cordes, Prenot
    200IM: Phelps, Lochte
    400IM: Kalisz, Litherland

  16. russ says:

    It will be a fight for sure, Litherland showed at NCAA’s that he will be lethal on the last 100, Prenot showed strength going out in the fly and of course the breaststroke at NC’s. Of course, that was yards, but they’ve both proven themselves in meters as well: 4:12-4:15’s are very respectable heading into trials.

    But then you can’t forget about Lochte. The guy swam the fastest 400 IM in textile, and showed us his prowess again by putting up a strong 4:12 in January of this year. Who says he can’t smash through 4:10 again and make the team.

    Chase Kalisz, while lacking the front half speed, has the best breast and free of this field, and certainly can’t be counted out, especially since he’s been representing the US internationally in this event since 2013 and has picked up two international medals.

    I can’t wait to see who comes out on top and makes the team. My predictions:

    1. Lochte – 4:08.2
    2. Prenot – 4:08.7
    3. Litherland – 4:09.4
    4. Kalisz – 4:09.6

  17. Karl Ortegon says:

    I see Kalisz and Litherland. Chase has been quiet but put in over 40 grueling days at the OTC this late spring/early summer, which Bowman said on one of MP’s live videos was a record long stay for them. He stumbled in 2015 but he won’t this year.

    Litherland is way too fun to watch on that last 100. I think his Indy PSS performances were pretty fantastic, and while it’s so hard to bet against Prenot and Lochte, I give it to the triplet. He came back from almost four seconds on the free leg at the ATL Classic in May and beat Prenot, and while they’re both great at the event, it’s Litherland’s signature race.

    Should be a great race.

  18. SwimmerForever says:

    I think Chase Kalisz and Lochte make the team, but if Lochte doesn’t swim the 400 IM, then Clary might have a chance for 2nd behind Kalisz

  19. The facts says:

    I will say Bentz has disappointed the last few summers, but remember Townley Haas didn’t rest after his big juniors with his sights set on this Olympic year( imo he showed up pretty well at NCAA’s). Maybe Jack has Gunnar on a similar plan, when he’s off (which if you look at many big meets) he’s still elite but when he’s on he’s on another level. Jay Litherland and Kalisz make the team in my opinion with Bentz and Licon being the wildcards. The old dog’s (Lochte and Clary) days are done

  20. Caleb says:

    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.

  21. SwimmerFoxJet says:

    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.

    • Sven says:

      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.

      • Sven says:

        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.

        • SwimmerFoxJet says:

          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.

      • SwimmerFoxJet says:

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

  22. Marla M. says:

    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.

  23. Bfunk says:

    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.

    • SwimmerFoxJet says:

      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.

  24. Danny Boy says:

    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 (:

  25. RJ Cid says:

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

  26. Swamfan says:

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

Leave a Reply

Name will be published. Email address will not. By commenting you agree to our Terms of Use & Privacy Policy.

About Mitch Bowmile

Mitch Bowmile

Mitch Bowmile is a former Canadian age group swimmer who was forced to end his career early due to a labrum tear in his hip and a torn rotator cuff after being recognized as one of the top 50 breaststrokers his age in Canada. He competed successfully at both age …

Read More »

Don't want to miss anything?

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive our latest updates!