2021 U.S. Olympic Trials Previews: Margalis Looks For 400 IM Olympic Debut

See all of our U.S. Olympic Trials previews & picks here.

2021 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials

Women’s 400 IM

  • World Record: Katinka Hosszu (HUN) – 4:26.36 (2016)
  • American Record: Katie Hoff – 4:31.12 (2008)
  • US Open Record: Katinka Hosszu (HUN) – 4:31.07 (2015)
  • World Junior Record: Yu Yiting (CHN) – 4:35.94 (2021)
  • 2016 Olympic Champion: Katinka Hosszu (HUN) – 4:26.36
  • 2016 US Olympic Trials Champion: Maya DiRado – 4:33.73
  • Wave I Cut: 4:51.79
  • Wave II Cut: 4:47.72

The women’s 400 IM is among 2 women’s events in which both 2016 Olympians for the United States have now retired from the sport, the other being the 200 backstroke. Elizabeth Beisel and Maya DiRado‘s retirements have left the field open for 2 different 400 IMers to pick up first and second-place finishes at US Trials.

The top 8 swimmers in the event throughout the Olympic Trials qualification period (November 28, 2018 – May 30, 2021) is currently lead by Melanie Margalis‘ 4:32.53 which is followed by a fairly congested pack of 4:35 – 4:38s:

US Women’s Long Course 400 IM Rankings (11/28/2019 – 05/13/2021)

  1. Melanie Margalis – 4:32.53 (2020)
  2. Emma Weyant – 4:35.47 (2019)
  3. Brooke Forde – 4:36.06 (2019)
  4. Ella Eastin – 4:37.18 (2019)
  5. Madisyn Cox – 4:37.23 (2019)
  6. Hali Flickinger – 4:37.55 (2021)
  7. Kay Sargent – 4:37.95 (2019)
  8. Ally McHugh – 4:38.09 (2019)

While most of those top-ranked swimmers haven’t improved upon their swims from 2019, many of the same names appear in the top 8 ranked women for the 2020-2021 season.

US Women’s Long Course 400 IM Rankings (09/1/2021 – 05/13/2021)

  1. Melanie Margalis – 4:35.18
  2. Hali Flickinger – 4:37.55
  3. Madisyn Cox – 4:39.10
  4. Ally McHugh – 4:39.11
  5. Emma Weyant – 4:39.18
  6. Leah Smith – 4:40.48
  7. Brooke Forde – 4:40.59
  8. Katie Grimes – 4:41.39

Melanie Margalis has established a significant gap between herself and the field with a 4:32.53 last March which was actually the second-fastest swim in the world for 2019-2020, behind Katinka Hosszu‘s leading 4:32.30. Margalis hasn’t yet had an opportunity to show her potential on the major international scene, having only qualified to swim the 200 IM at 2017 and 2019 Worlds while Elizabeth Beisel and Leah Smith raced the 400 in the former and Brooke Forde and Ally McHugh took over in 2019.

Margalis’ 4:32.53 swim in 2020, however, was quicker than all 4 of those swimmer performances at the last 2 World Championships and was a decent drop from her previous PB of 4:35.50 from 2018. Considering her recent improvement and leading margin, Melanie Margalis is our pick for gold at the upcoming US Olympic Trials.

Hali Flickinger has been USA’s resident 200 butterflier for a few years now, 9th in Budapest at 2017 Worlds, and took silver in the event at 2019 Worlds in Gwangju. In March 2021, however, Flickinger posted a 4:37.55 400 IM which made her the second-fastest to Margalis over the past 2 seasons and gives her the 8th fastest time in the world for 2020-2021.

2020-2021 LCM Women 400 IM

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More recently, Flickinger swam to victory in the women’s 400 IM at the Indianapolis stop of the 2021 Pro Swim Series by posting a 4:37.73 for gold which was just shy of her 4:37.55 PB.

McHugh was also present in Indianapolis and finished second to Flickinger with a 4:40.89, trailing her season-best of 4:39.11 by just under 2 seconds while staying a decent bit over her PB of 4:34.80. McHugh raced the event for the US at 2019 Worlds, winding up in 6th place with a 4:38.34.

McHugh had a solid 1500 free performance earlier on in the meet, cracking 16 minutes for the first time with a 15:59.54. That 1500 swim makes McHugh the 8th fastest in the world this season. While she was out-swum by Flickinger in Indy, McHugh’s 1500 power combined with her 400 IM history make her a strong candidate for the A final in Omaha and could be enough to get her on to the Tokyo team.

Madisyn Cox has a lifetime best of 4:37.23 but hasn’t yet been within range of what it will take to make the team this season, holding a season-best thus far of 4:39.10. She swam that time at the Mission Viejo stop of the Pro Swim Series which was a significant improvement from her 4:47.90 swim back in January of this year. Considering that she was un-rested and in a heavy training block during that 4:39.10, Cox certainly has the potential to be competitive in the event once she’s tapered next month.

Another solid competitor will be Stanford swimmer Brooke Forde who recorded a 4:35.09 back in 2018 and place 9th in the event at 2019 World Championships with a 4:39.74. With a 4:40.59 season-best, the Stanford swimmer recently showed her strength by swimming to a gold medal in the yards version of the event at 2021 NCAAs. While Forde hasn’t been under a 4:40 yet this season, she certainly still has the potential to throw her name in the ring next month in Omaha.

Emma Weyant and Katie Grimes sit at #6 and #7 on our list and currently hold the 5th and 8th place national rankings this season. Weyant swam a 4:35.47 to take gold at the 2019 Phillips 66 Summer Nationals and has gotten under 4:40 another 3 times in the form of a 4:39.64 in December 2019, a 4:39.18 in March 2021, and a 4:39.38 in April 2021. She’ll likely need a near PB to have a shot at the Olympic team but considering her 2019 victory, Weyant is certainly not yet out of the picture.

Grimes on the other hand has seen impressive improvement upon her PB this season, getting down from a 4:51.13 from 2019 to a 4:41.39 which she hit in April 2021. 15-year-old Grimes will race at her first-ever Olympic Trials this year, fighting to get down under a 4:40.

Ella Eastin is arguably the biggest question mark on the list of top-ranked swimmers during the Olympic Trials eligibility period. Eastin holds a PB of 4:37.18 from May of 2019 but hasn’t been very active recently with her most recent 400 IM on record coming from the December 2019 US Open at which she posted a 4:40.12. Eastin has a particularly impressive record in the short course yards 400 IM, having won the NCAA title for 4 straight years from 2016-2019. Without any recent results or clarity on whether or not she will be racing at Trials, we’ll leave Eastin out of our top 8 predictions.


Place Swimmer Lifetime-best Season-best
1 Melanie Margalis 4:32.53 4:37.81
2 Ally McHugh 4:34.80 4:39.11
3 Hali Flickinger 4:37.55 4:37.55
4 Madisyn Cox 4:37.23 4:39.10
5 Brooke Forde 4:35.09 4:40.59
6 Emma Weyant 4:35.47 4:39.18
7 Katie Grimes 4:41.39 4:41.39
8 Emma Barksdale 4:40.20 4:46.19

Dark Horse: Justina Kozan (Lifetime-Best/Season-Best: 4:42.05): USC commit Justina Kozan swam to gold in the 200 IM at the 2019 World Junior Swimming Championships but, in terms of national rankings this season, has seen more success in the 400 IM. She’s currently the 9th fastest Americna woman in the 400 and ranks 14th in the 200. She’s gotten down from a 4:44.45 PB from 2019 to a 4:42.05 at the TYR 18&U Spring Cup – Irvine in April. While a 4:42.05 is still a decent amount away from an Olympic-qualifying swim, Kozan has proven her ability to perform under pressure and should she swim her way into the A final, could put up a solid fight for a podium finish.

Wave I Standout: Nora Deleske (PB: 4:48.70) – Before this season, ASU swimmer Nora Delske had a PB of 4:48.70 in the 400 IM which she set back in August of 2019. Following that swim, Deleske was unable to get back under 4:50 again for more than a year, waiting until her recent swim of 4:48.41 at the 2021 AZ SUN April Meet. The swim improved upon her 400 IM ranking heading into the summer but was still a bit short of the Wave II qualifying time in the event of 4:47.72. Considering her recent time drop and high seed at the Wave I meet, Deleske looks like a solid contender to move on and potentially shave off some more time at Wave II.

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4 months ago

I don’t think McHugh makes it in IM. Her best shot is the 1500, and she’ll have to battle Twichell, Nordin, and Sullivan.

I think Margalis wins it. Weyant or Forde second.

Silent Observer
4 months ago

My money is on flickinger and margalis. I don’t doubt the 200 fly and distance IM training bowman def has flickinger doing.

4 months ago

Weyant at 6th? Ok.

Gowdy Raines
4 months ago

With the 4IM on Day 1, I’ll go with Margalis and McHugh. Both will be fresh and ready to go I think.

PK Doesn't Like His Long Name
4 months ago

The biggest point in favor of Cox making it is the form she showed in going sub 4 in the yards version of the event this spring.

4 months ago

No doubts the 400IM is the best chance for Margalis to be an Olympian in 2021. But i still want to see her on 4×200 relay. Haven’t seen her focusing much on 200FR. This season her best 1:58 75 was shown recently in Atlanta.

Reply to  Yozhik
4 months ago

That’s in season

Reply to  Hswimmer
4 months ago

4:35 in 400IM is also in season and looks much more promising than 1:58.75 in 200free where 12 swimmers are already ahead of her and Manuel hasn’t said a word yet about her plans.

Reply to  Yozhik
4 months ago

It’s about how fast she was at the same meet in 2019 and she split 1:55 in Gwangju.

Reply to  Troyy
4 months ago

But before talking about great performance at big meet she has to earn first the right to compete there. And the competition at 200FR is going to be very strong at Trials.

Reply to  Yozhik
4 months ago

Yes, and qualification doesn’t happen until trials

Reply to  Yozhik
4 months ago

Lmao this troll is really saying Margalis needs to earn the right to compete😂

Reply to  Deepblue
4 months ago

Maya DiRado did not swim the women’s 200 meter freestyle at the 2016 Olympic Team Trials, yet swam in the final of the women’s 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay at the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Reply to  Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
4 months ago

Maya DiRado was indeed in exceptional form in Rio. But her participation in 4×200 relay was a replacement of those who were selected at Trials and were absolutely no good one month later at OG. Franklin couldn’t make even final in individual event.
It is very risky to count that your opponents will become two seconds slower than they were at Trials and coaches will go with you as a replacement. If Margalis plans for the relay it has to be decided at Trials.

Reply to  Yozhik
4 months ago

If Margalis plans for the relay it has to be decided at Trials.

I hope the coaches read comments here because Yozhik has spoken.

Reply to  Troyy
4 months ago

I don’t understand what makes you to make such kind of comments. You perfectly understand that i’m talking about Margalis but not about coaches. I had better opinion about you.
But if it makes you happy – go ahead. I don’t mind.

Reply to  Troyy
4 months ago

Melanie Margalis did not even swim in the heats of the women’s 200 meter freestyle at the 2018 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, yet swam in the final of the women’s 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay at the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships.

Reply to  Yozhik
4 months ago

No it doesn’t.

Melanie Margalis replaced Micah Lawrence on the breaststroke leg in the heats of the women’s 4 x 100 meter medley relay at the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships. Melanie Margalis did not even swim in the heats of the women’s 100 breaststroke at the 2018 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships.

Silent Observer
Reply to  Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
4 months ago

It’s a commonly known fact that the World Champs /Olympic teams have training camps once the rosters are solidified. It is also known that at those team training camps, the athletes partake in time trials to see where they are at after coming down from their tapers to make the team.

Anything can happen at those private time trials and strongly end up determining who the coaches put on relays. The Medley relays are much easier to form, since they are not needing to use any “relay only” swimmers (roster spots from finishing #3-6 set trials) since at the world events “relay only” swimmers MUST be used on the relays they are assigned to. This both explains why Margalis replaced… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Silent Observer
Reply to  Silent Observer
4 months ago

No kidding.

Katie Ledecky finished 7th in the women’s 100 meter freestyle at the 2016 Olympic Team Trials, yet Katie Ledecky swam in the heats and the final of the women’s 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay at the 2016 Summer Olympics.

tea rex
Reply to  Yozhik
4 months ago

In one of the worst scheduling decisions, women’s 200 IM and 200 free are in the same session. It’s a tough call for Margalis – assume she has to go for the IM, and I’m not sure she should be so confident as to try the double.

Reply to  tea rex
4 months ago

If it is so then that is very unfortunate. Melanie is very reliable swimmer.

Reply to  tea rex
4 months ago

That was the schedule back at the 2016 Olympic Team Trials which Melanie Margalis actually navigated:

200 FR – 6th
200 IM – 2nd

4 months ago

The women’s 200 IM/400 IM are the two hardest events to predict. It’s whoever is on that day.

4 months ago

Someone posted this link over the weekend: Postgraduate Scholarship Winners | Pac-12

Eastin graduated from Stanford in 2019 with a degree in human biology. She spent her postcollegiate life focusing on the Tokyo Olympics, but was forced to give up her swimming career because of a condition diagnosed as dysautonomia, possibly from long-haul COVID-19″

Reply to  Walter
4 months ago

That’s rough.

She literally had one of the best TV comeback from adversity storylines from 2017 onward heading into this Olympic cycle.