2017 World Preview: Sun’s Sweet Spot in the 400 Free


MEN’S 400M Freestyle

The World Championships field for the men’s 400 freestyle features many of the same well established names in the event, as well as some newer faces. With the top of the field featuring all three medalists from Rio, the battle for gold at Worlds should be another battle. In Rio, Australia’s Mack Horton and China’s Sun Yang separated themselves from the rest of the field early, and battled it out until the finish, with Horton taking the gold. However, I believe that Sun Yang will come into Budapest hungry and ready to reclaim his title in the event.

Sun, the second seed going into the World Championships, holds the fastest time in the 400 freestyle that has been swam in 2017, after going 3:42.16 at Chinese Nationals in April. His time from the meet made him the only man to go under 3:43 so far this year, which shows that he is in prime position to take the gold in this event. Being so close to his time from Rio before his biggest meet of the year is a good sign for him.

On the other hand, Horton’s fastest time from this season is 3:44.18, which he swam at Australian Nationals at around the same time. Horton will definitely go much faster than this time after getting a full taper for Worlds and being in the atmosphere of the meet, but I do not think that it will be enough to beat Sun and his closing speed that has made him so successful.

A darkhorse in this year’s field, and a swimmer who could surprise the field is Italy’s Gabriele Detti. Detti earned a bronze in this event in Rio, but he has already been under his time from Rio (3:43.49) in 2017 at the Italian Championship (3:43.36). Detti’s training appears to have improved over this year, which could put him right up there with Sun and Horton.

Americans Zane Grothe and Clark Smith are both competing in their first World Championship games in 2017, and will look to turn in strong performances as well. Grothe has turned in a very successful 2017 thus far, and he currently seeded 6th for this event. Grothe should be able to continue his improvement in this event, and move up in the field. Meanwhile, Smith looks to make more of a name for himself in the international swimming world, after obtaining his first international experience in Rio. Smith’s experience should help him on this stage, and will surely allow him to make it into the top 8.

As for the rest of the top 8, there are several men that could sneak their way into the final. Perennial favorites like Great Britain’s James Guy, South Korea’s Park Taehwan, and Australia’s David McKeon have shown great form going into Budapest, and should continue their prowess in the event. One athlete that could be a sleeper to make the final is Norway’s Henrik Christiansen. Christiansen is seeded 10th on the psych sheet for Budapest, and could easily jump up into the final.  


Swimmer Country Seed Time Predicted Time
1. Sun Yang China 3:41.68 3:40.70
2. Mack Horton Australia 3:41.55 3:41.12
3. Gabriele Detti Italy 3:43.36 3:41.65
4. James Guy Great Britain 3:43.84 3:41.98
5. Park Taehwan South Korea 3:44.26 3:43.44
6. Clark Smith United States 3:45.74 3:43.80
7. Zane Grothe United States 3:44.44 3:44.7
8. Henrik Christiansen Norway 3:46.37 3:44.8


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4 years ago

1. Sun Yang
2. Gabriele Detti
3. Taehwan Park

Don’t see Guy, Detti or Horton going 3.41 this time: Now real reason why, just haven’t seen much to expect that. Detti possibly the most likely for me.

4 years ago

Sun has to be seen as clear favourite although not impregnable. Other medals look an open book,

Am thinking Detti looks a solid medal bet. Park’s recent form has been excellent but is there much more to give ? Horton is either very good … or ordinary, little if any middle ground. Guy isn’t without a chance but probably prefer him over 200. The times of the US pair aren’t too far away; not out of the question that one of them might rise to the occaision and snag a surprise minor medal.

4 years ago

I like those top 3, though I would switch Detti and Horton. Also those times are ridiculous. For an idea these are the top ten textile preformers:
1. Thorpe 3:40.08 2002
2. Sun 3:40.14 2012
3. Park 3:41.53 2010
4. Horton 3:41.55 2016
5. Hackett 3:42.51 2001
6. Detti 3:43.36 2017
7. Rosolino 3:43.40 2000
8. Dwyer 3:43.42 2016
9. Cochrane 3:43.46 2014
10. McKeon 3:43.71 2013
Only 4 men have broken 3:42 in textile, and only 2 have done it in the last 5 years. You’re expecting 4 people to do it here, 2 of which have never gotten close. I expect time drops from Detti and Guy,… Read more »

Reply to  xzasddhjk
4 years ago

Thorpe was wearing a suit that covered most of his body, way better than a normal textile suit.

Reply to  Swimmer?
4 years ago

Thorpe put up monster times in briefs too.

Reply to  Swimmer?
4 years ago

Very unlikely that that suit was that much of an advantage if one at all,if it was that good of a suit all the other top notch swimmers would’ve wore it as well. I’m curious tho if anyone has any hard data suggesting this suit was a super suit. I would love to be educated about it.

Reply to  Dcrabbe6
4 years ago

It was an extremely expensive suit made just for Thorpe.

Justin Thompson
Reply to  Dcrabbe6
4 years ago

Article speaks to the marketed benefits of his suit. Common sense would tell you the more fabric you have covering your body the more advantage you’ll have. You can test that theory for yourself at anytime. Race with a brief and follow that up with a jammer.

Reply to  Swimmer?
4 years ago

Thorpe broke wr and put up times which would medal today in briefs..

Justin Thompson
Reply to  Rafael
4 years ago

I don’t think anyone is doubting his greatness, but saying that full body suit provided zero benefit is absurd.

Justin Thompson
Reply to  Swimmer?
4 years ago

While not a super suit, the full body suit added some advantage over a traditional brief or jammer.

4 years ago

Why would Smith’s experience put him over Grothe? He swam a relay. I don’t see this logic and I am quite frankly sick of it. A fast time is a fast time and Grothe wrecked Smith at trials.

4 years ago

Clark Smith should have gone 4:05 not 4:08 SCY at NCAAs (he went 4:08 in a small meet earlier and had a groin injury in the big meet. I don’t get why he can’t go faster LCM esp, in the 400 and 800. That 8:33 1000 should get him to about 7:38 in the 800 yet he’s at 7:50 still. Room for improvement LCM for sure.

Reply to  dman
4 years ago

The pressure is going to be ratched up for Clark swimming against a heat of the best 400 swimmers in the world.

For some people, the pressure makes them swim faster.

4 years ago

1. Sun
2. Detti
3. Park

4 years ago

Clark Smith and Zane Grothe are in the same prelim heat alongside Sun Yang and James Guy. Felix Aubock is also in that heat.

Clark and Zane will need to be at their best.

IMs for days
Reply to  marklewis
4 years ago

Holy thats a stacked prelim

4 years ago

Sun Yang should win easily, probably with a sub 3:41.5. Not sure he can break 41.
Horton doesn’t seem in last year’s shape. I’ll be very shocked if he drops a pb here.
Detti is a safe choice for minor medal but I don’t think he has a 3:41 in him.
Park is an X factor. I believe he was tapered at last year’s Asian Champs. He hasn’t put a very solid time this year but he did beat Detti and Horton in Italy, so who knows?

I say
Sun Yang gold 3:41.3
Gabriele Detti silver 3:42.8
Park Taehwan bronze 3:43.1