2022 FINA WORLD AQUATICS CHAMPIONSHIPS
- June 18-25, 2022 (pool swimming)
- Budapest, Hungary
- Duna Arena
- LCM (50-meter format)
- Meet Central
5 women in the history of swimming have swum a 400 IM in a time faster than 4:30. Those 5 women are Katinka Hosszu, Ye Shiwen, Stephanie Rice, Kirsty Coventry, and, the only one to do it since 2016, Summer McIntosh.
In March 2022 Summer McIntosh added her name to the exclusive list by swimming a 4:29.12. In addition to making herself the 3rd fastest swimmer in history, McIntosh took a full 21 seconds off her former PB and smashed the former Canadian record.
While the 4:29.12 she swam didn’t count as a world junior record, the 4:34.86 she swam a few weeks at Olympic Trials later did. With a 4:29.12 and a 4:34.86 in the books, McIntosh has the 2 fastest times in the world this season among those who will be racing the event at Worlds (Kaylee McKeown swam a 4:31.74 but is opting out of the event).
So even if she matches her time from Olympic Trials and is 5 seconds slower than her best, McIntosh would still be faster than any of her competitors have been this season. While that makes McIntosh a solid contender in Budapest, it doesn’t necessarily make her the favorite.
The most obvious candidate to catch McIntosh off guard is reigning Olympic champion Yui Ohashi of Japan. While she has a personal best time more than 2 seconds slower than McIntosh, Ohashi has experience racing at the highest level.
Between 2016 and 2021 Ohashi collected 400 IM hardware at the 2016 Asian Championships (bronze), 2017 Summer Universiade (gold), Asian Games (gold), Pan Pacs (gold), World Championships (bronze), and finally, at the Olympic Games (gold).
Ohashi’s times from the two most recent international meets are a 4:32.33 from 2019 Worlds and a 4:32.08 from 2021. She got down to a 4:30.82, however, at the 2018 Japan Swim.
In order to decide whether McIntosh or Ohashi is the pick for gold in Tokyo, we need to balance recency with consistency. While McIntosh popped this year and showed recent speed, Ohashi is both a proven entity at the top level.
As the reigning Olympic champ and one of the few active swimmers who has been under 4:31, Ohashi is our pick for this event, with McIntosh close behind.
So, who is the pick for bronze?
The American entrants in Budapest will be Emma Weyant and Katie Grimes. Weyant won silver in Tokyo with a 4:32.76, while Grimes has a best time in the event of 4:36.17. That puts Weyant in a better position for reaching the podium than Grimes, but it doesn’t lock anything in.
The 16-year old Grimes is still regularly dropping time like the age grouper that she technically still is. In the 400 free, for example, she went from a 4:13 at the 2021 US Olympic Trials to a 4:06 at the 2022 World Championship Trials. She also went from a 4:41.37 PB in January 2022 to a 4:36.17 to make the team in the 400 IM in April. Between the two Americans, it seems that either of them could make a bid for the podium, but there’s a long list of women in that same boat.
In fact, since January 2021, a total of 4 more women who we expect to race at World Championships have been faster than Katie Grimes‘ season-best of 4:36.17. Those 4 women are Olympic finalists Katinka Hosszu, Aimee Willmott, Mireia Belmote, and Viktória Mihályvári-Farkas.
There’s a case to be made for Katinka Hosszu here, who hasn’t been at her best in recent years. Hosszu won gold in the 400 IM at Rio 2016 with a 4:26.36 world record. Her fastest swim since then is a 4:29.33 in 2017 and got to a 4:30.39 in 2019. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hosszu’s best time is a 4:34.79 at the 2021 European Championships. A few weeks later she placed 5th at the Tokyo Games with a 4:35.98.
Fast forward to earlier this week when Hosszu hit a 4:35.95 at Mare Nostrum to hit #3 worldwide for 2021-2022. It might take more than a 4:35 to hit the podium in Tokyo, but that time is a 2022 best for her and feels like a big step in the right direction.
At just 17 years old, Hosszu’s countrymate Viktória Mihályvári-Farkas threw down a 4:35.99 during prelims in Tokyo before finishing 6th overall with a 4:37.75. While she doesn’t have any long course swims since Tokyo, she has progressed some in short course meters (though nothing that will blow anyone away). She hasn’t raced yet in 2022, though she was pre-qualified for the World Championship team, so it is difficult to predict exactly where she’s at.
Aimee Willmott reached similar territory with her prelim swim of 4:35.28, but won’t be racing at Worlds as she retired in November 2021.
Olympic champion Mireia Belmonte made her return to racing at the Mare Nostrum series but swam a 4:50.93, which is her season-nest. She has not been at her best in the 400 IM in a few years so while she could get herself into the final if she races the event this year but isn’t a lock to get into the top 8.
Our #7 pick for the 400 IM is Japan’s Ageha Tanigawa who qualified for Worlds in March by swimming a 4:36.45 400 IM, marking a huge drop from her 4:41.76 PB at the Tokyo Games. Tanigawa’s drop this season indicates that she’s ready to get into a major international final.
Tanigawa’s trajectory is similar to that of Australia’s Jenna Forrester who entered this season with a 4:39.46 and recently hit a 4:36.77 at Australian Trials. Forrester is the 7th fastest woman in the world this season and will be repping the gold and green in the absence of national champ McKeown. While Tanigawa and Forrester seem to be the most promising new entrants into the 4oo IM final, don’t count out China’s Yu Yiting or Canada’s Cieplucha.
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