2019 World Champs Preview: Hosszu Aiming for 5th 400 IM World Title


  • All sports: Friday, July 12 – Sunday, July 28, 2019
  • Pool swimming: Sunday, July 21 – Sunday, July 28, 2019
  • The Nambu University Municipal Aquatics Center, Gwangju, Korea
  • Meet site
  • FinaTV Live Stream
  • Live results

Women’s 400M Individual Medley

Continuing the 2019 World Championships previews, we will now look into the final women’s individual event to hand out medals, the 400 IM.

Many names have graced the 400 IM, but none are compared to the Iron Lady Katinka Hosszu. As the world-record holder and 3-time reigning world champion, not too mention her 2009 title, Hosszu will be aiming for her 4th-consecutive and 5th overall title in the 400 IM.

Currently, Hosszu holds 7 of the top 10 times in 400 IM history, with 4 of them under the 4:30 barrier. This year, Hosszu remains at #2 in the world rankings with her season best time of 4:32.52 from the Mare Nostrum series 2 weeks ago. Yet the question spectators have for this event is not who will win, but who will take the silver and the bronze?

Peering into the world rankings, lifetime bests, and past Worlds results, 3 swimmers from 3 different continents all have a shot at sneaking into the top three. Among them is Japanese swimmer Yui Ohashi, who holds the top time in the world with a 4:32.00 from the 2018 Kosuke Kitajima Cup. Ohashi comes in the meet as the 2018 Asian Games champion, as well as the 4th-place finisher from 2017 Worlds. Her lifetime best standing at 4:31.42, tenths off of 2-time Worlds runner-up Mireia Belmonte.

The Spaniard Belmonte enters with a plethora of medals behind Iron Lady Hosszu, including the bronze from the Rio Olympics and two silvers from the 2013 & 2017 Worlds meets. Belmonte’s season best comes in at a 4:36.09, the 4th-fastest time in the world. After Belmonte’s round of injuries and health complications from fall 2018, she looks to have the best shot at performing well in this event despite missing the FINA “A” cut in her signature 200 fly.

Coming in as the 2017 bronze medalist behind Belmonte is Canadian record-holder Sydney Pickrem. Pickrem’s season best came from her Canadian trials title time of 4:35.15, the 3rd-fastest time in the world. One thing about Pickrem is that she has yet to win a non-domestic gold medal in the 400 IM, including the NCAA Championships, Pan Ams, Olympics, and Worlds. This makes Pickrem all the more hungry for a gold medal, especially after narrowly getting defeated by Hosszu in the 200 IM at the Indy stop of the FINA Champions Series.

With Hannah Miley missing qualifying for this year’s Worlds meet, the lone Great Britain qualifier in the event goes to 2018 Commonwealth Games champion Aimee Willmott. Willmott rounds out the top 5 times in the world with a 4:36.98, although her lifetime best is at 4:33.01. Willmott’s last Worlds appearance was in 2015, where she finished 7th in the final. At the 2018 European Championships, Willmott finished in 4th place behind champion France’s Fantine Lesaffre. Lesaffre will swim her first LC Worlds meet, yet has recently won bronze at the 2018 SC Worlds meet. In the world ranks, Lesaffre sits at #8 with a 4:37.40, four seconds off her French record and European champs winning time of 4:34.17.

Canadian women’s swimming has sky-rocketed over the last 3 years, and joining Pickrem for 400 IM contention is fellow native Emily Overholt. At the 2015 Worlds meet, Overholt took bronze in the event. This year, Overholt’s season best remains at 4:37.88. However, her lifetime best of 4:32.52 is three-tenths fastest than Pickrem’s LTB of 4:32.88. With 4 years past her last Worlds appearance, Overholt and Pickrem can team up to continue Canada’s momentum.

Shiwen Ye in the prelims of the 2015 FINA world championships in Kazan Russia (photo: Mike Lewis, Ola Vista Photography)

Do not forget about China’s Ye Shiwen, re-emerging into the spotlight after her many attempts to come back from her 2012 Olympic titles. Shiwen has made many attempts to return with her World Championships performance, including her 7th place finish in 2013 and 15th place finish in 2017. But recently, the former world-record holder has begun to slowly find her way her former elite status. To continue with her medley versatility, Shiwen has already swam a 2:08.72 in the 200 fly and a lifetime best in the 200 breast with a 2:22.53. In the 400 IM, Shiwen’s season best is a world #10 time of 4:37.57, nearly 10 seconds off her lifetime best of 4:28.43 from the London Olympic final.

Another contender for the top 8 is Hungarian Zsuzsanna Jakabos, whose last World final appearance was in 2013, where she took 6th place. Jakabos quietly sits at #14 in the world with a 4:38.89, yet has a promising lifetime best of 4:34.50. In the last two years, Jakabos placed 12th at the 2017 Worlds meet and 4th at the 2018 European Championships. Jakabos will also join Hosszu in the 200 IM this year, where she has placed 6th in 2013 and semi-finalled in 2015 and 2017.

Top 8 Picks:

Place Swimmer Country Season-Best Lifetime-Best
1 Katinka Hosszu Hungary 4:32.52 4:26.36
2 Sydney Pickrem Canada 4:35.15 4:32.88
3 Yui Ohashi Japan 4:32.00 4:31.42
4 Mireia Belmonte Spain 4:36.09 4:31.21
5 Emily Overholt Canada 4:37.88 4:32.52
6 Aimee Willmott Great Britain 4:36.98 4:33.01
7 Fantine Lesaffre France 4:37.40 4:34.17
8 Ye Shiwen China 4:37.57 4:28.43

Darkhorse: Americans Ally McHugh and Brooke Forde come in as the best US distance swimmers. This will be their first senior international meet, with a big torch to carry on from past American 400 IMers. While the duo are both ranked out of the world top 10, their respective personal bests of 4:34.80 and 4:35.09 can easily earn them a spot into the top 8.

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Samuel Huntington
2 years ago

I feel like Ohashi has got to be the favorite for silver and then tight between Belmonte and Pickrem for bronze

2 years ago

You’re predicting that neither of the American girls will be in the final. Hmmm. Not much confidence they can drop their times.

Samuel Huntington
Reply to  marklewis
2 years ago

Well, all 8 girls listed have faster lifetime bests than the Americans. And they have all looked good this year. Brooke and Amy will need big PBs to final

PK Doesn’t Like His Long Name
Reply to  Samuel Huntington
2 years ago

Prediction: An American with the same last name as some sportswriter will sneak into finals with a 436 then unleash a 432.high in finals.

2 years ago

1. Katinka Hosszu 4:30.39
2. Yui Ohashi 4:31.77
3. Sydney Pickrem 4:32.48 *National Record*
4. Kim Seoyeong 4:35.32 *National Record, home World Championships – I think she will do well*
5. Fantine Lesaffre 4:35.79
6. Ye Shiwen 4:35.89
7. Brooke Forde 4:35.93
8. Mireia Belmonte 4:36.80

Reply to  Seans
2 years ago

Good that you mention Kim Seoyeong, but for me it would be disappointing if 4:35 would be enough for 4th. I think at least one out of Ye/Belmonte/Overholt will break 4:35 and i also think that a british or italian girl will make the final.
Edit: I think Belmonte won’t swim 400/800/1500 free, so she should be close to her peak in the 400 IM and 200 fly.

Reply to  AnEn
2 years ago

Agree with you.

2 years ago

Despite not having swum well this season, Cusinato will make the final. Take that!

Reply to  Eras
2 years ago

If the italians repeat the improvements they showed at the european championships last year, then Cusinato might even medal …

2 years ago

Hosszu is a lock for gold imo. The other medals should be between Overholt/Pickrem/Ohashi/Ye/Belmonte.

Awsi Dooger
Reply to  AnEn
2 years ago

Definitely the favorite but strange things happen to swimmers on the other side of 30. Unexpected clunkers. The Chinese are always a wild card. At least one of them is going to jump up and pull a surprise win

2 years ago

1. Hosszu
2. Pickerem
3. Ohashi
4. Suyeong
5. Ye
6. Forde
8. Willmott

Texas Tap Water
2 years ago

Hosszu don’t need Texas Tap Water to win this outright.

Book it!

tea rex
2 years ago

Ye is looking gooood this year, if she can translate her individual strokes into the IM. Adding up her individual 200s, she is in the same range as Hosszu/Ohashi.

About Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro started swimming at age 11, instantly becoming drawn to the sport. He was a breaststroker and IMer when competing. After joining SwimSwam, the site has become an outlet for him to research and learn about competitive swimming and experience the sport through a new lenses. He graduated in …

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