2017 Worlds Preview: New Faces Scramble for W400 IM Minor Medals

You can find links to all of our event-by-event previews and a compilation of our predicted medal-winners here.


In Rio, Katinka Hosszu had her most impressive performance in the 400 IM, decimating the competition en route to setting the world record by over two seconds. She touched almost five full seconds ahead of silver medalist Maya Dirado. Hosszu has only been 4:33.71 this year, the 2nd-fastest time of 2017. She has not looked as good this year as she did in-season last year– before Rio, she had already broken 4:30 and been in the 4:30-lows. Whether the rumors of her harder-than-ever training regimen are true or not, Hosszu does not need to go a 4:26.3 to win this race in Rio.

First in the world this year, and by a solid margin, is Japan’s Yui Ohashi. She exploded for a Japanese record 4:31.42 in April at the Japanese Nationals, bettering the old mark by more than three seconds. One of the new faces in this 400 IM crowd, Ohashi works with Norimasa Hirai, who helped coach Kosuke Kitajima and Kosuke Hagino into international stars.

“When I told her she could swim a 4:35, she didn’t believe me and she did it,” Hirai said in an interview with Japanese news agency Kyodo News. Hirai is referring to the 4:35 that Ohashi dropped in February. “I told her 4:31 for today and she managed that, too. So the next time I tell her she can do something, she better not doubt me — even by a single percent.” It’s anyone’s guess as to what Hirai plans for Ohashi in Budapest, but the 21-year-old breakout performer has Hosszu and the rest of the world chasing her down as the world leader this year.

Mary-Sophie Harvey is another new face to international competition in this event. One of many rising Canadian teenagers, Harvey comes in with a 4:36.48 from the Sette Colli Trophy in June. That’s actually faster than the 4:36.60 that she swam at Canadian Trials to qualify for the meet, and Harvey did say in an interview at the Mesa PSS that she had been slammed with a virus after the 400 IM at Trials that left her bed-ridden. Of course, one week after that virus, Harvey was able to get back up and beat Katie Ledecky in the 400 IM in Mesa. She’s a versatile talent, and could surprise with a big swim in Budapest. Meanwhile, her fellow Canadian Sydney Pickrem posted a 4:35.43 at Canadian Trials, and while Pickrem is better in the 200 IM, the two women will likely represent Canada in the 400 IM final in Budapest.

The 400 IM in Indianapolis nearly sent two new faces to Budapest (in this event, at least) but for the infamous DQ of Ella Eastin for the Lochte Rule. Leah Smith, with her world #3 time 4:33.86, was still safely qualified in this race, but Eastin’s DQ bumped Elizabeth Beisel up to the 2nd spot. Beisel had an elongated break after Rio, but she credited her Bluefish coach Chuck Bachelor and UF coach Gregg Troy for her “huge swimming base” that kept her in shape after that break. Smith, meanwhile, alluded that she didn’t come down to a full-blown taper for Indy because she had confidence in her races. The 400 IM time for her was a surprise for most swim fans watching, and if she really does have more to whittle down in Budapest, Smith will be a medal contender– especially because of what she can do on the last 100 meters.

Finally, two veterans will swim to keep the rising talent at bay and shoot for podium finishes. Spain’s Mireia Belmonte and GBR’s Hannah Miley are regular names in this event, and last summer in Rio, Belmonte knocked Miley out for bronze at 4:32.39 to Miley’s 4:32.54. They’ve posted similar times this year already– Miley a 4:34.12, Belmonte a 4:35.01. Miley has not medalled in this race since 2011 Worlds, while Belmonte has picked up the silver in Barcelona in 2013 and bronze in Rio last summer. Miley does have an edge, however, as Belmonte will have to contest the 400, 800 and 1500 free before the 400 IM on the last day of competition– Miley is only swimming the 400 IM. That said, Belmonte has been here plenty of times before, and she has a knack for finding her way to the podium.

1 Katinka Hosszu Hungary 4:26.36 4:28.0
2 Yui Ohashi Japan 4:31.42 4:31.8
3 Mireia Belmonte Spain 4:32.39 4:32.5
4 Hannah Miley GBR 4:32.54 4:32.5
5 Leah Smith USA 4:33.86 4:33.1
6 Mary-Sophie Harvey Canada 4:36.48 4:34.5
7 Sydney Pickrem Canada 4:35.43 4:35.3
8 Elizabeth Beisel USA 4:34.38 4:35.9

Dark horse: Vien Nguyen of Vietnam. She was just three hundredths away from making the final in Rio with a 4:36.85, and since Rio, she’s posted a solid 4:37.71 which won her gold at the 2016 Asian Championships in November of 2016. That time set a new meet record.

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3 years ago

I think Smith and Beisel will be faster. I’m not sure if Hosszu will win by that much this year. :0

3 years ago

This is on Day 8 of the meet (versus the Olympic Day 1), so I am expecting a number of surprises here. Oddly enough, I see a medal for Smith here moreso than in some of her freestyle events.

IMs for days
3 years ago

1. Hosszu 4:28.1
2. Ohhashi 4:30.5
3. Belmonte 4:32.4

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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