Blueseventy Swim of the Week: Jay Litherland’s Insane Double


Disclaimer: BlueSeventy Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The BlueSeventy Swim is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.

Jay Litherland has long been known for his closing speed. His national breakout moment – running down defending Olympic champ Ryan Lochte to make the U.S. Olympic team in the 400 IM last summer – is maybe the best example, but last weekend, Litherland took it to the next level.

A 400 IM is arguably the most grueling race in swimming, switching up strokes every 100 to tax different muscle groups, with the last 100 meters of freestyle typically turning into a drag race to the finish between cars that have just gone through a demolition derby. The close is about finding speed through heavy fatigue; it’s a contest of wills but also about the actual physical limits of each swimmer’s energy systems.

Last week, in one of the most impressive ‘training swims’ we’ve seen in awhile, Litherland took that 100 meters of finishing freestyle and tripled it.

Litherland swam the A final of the 400 IM at the Santa Clara Pro Swim Series, then went back-to-back with the 200 freestyle. And he won that too.

The events were separated by just two heats of women’s 200 free and a short interview segment. For many swimmers coming off of a 400 IM, that’s the amount of time it takes just to see straight again.

Litherland went 4:13.79 in the IM – a season-best and the second-best time of any American this season. It also ranks 13th in the world so far this season. To do it, he closed in a 57.9, not far off his field-best 57.3 from Olympic Trials last summer. He came back just one event later to not only swim the 200 free but win it, going 1:49.28. He topped a field that included 4×200 free relay Olympic gold medalists Conor Dwyer, Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger along with Olympians Long Gutierrez (Mexico), Dion Dreesens (Netherlands) and Chase Kalisz (USA).

All-in-all, Litherland wound up leading all swimmers in Santa Clara with 18 Pro Swim Series points. That included his absurd Saturday night double along with a tie for the win in the 200 IM and a runner-up finish in the 400 free.


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Pack Mack

Given the speed he has to win the 200 FR and the strength to win a 400IM, how could he not win the 400FR? Seems 400 FR should be in his sweet spot.


If I remember correctly he placed second to Clark Smith in the 400 Free too.


With that logic Phelps would have broken the WR in the 400 free.


Phelps wanted it. He had a goal sheet shown in an interview after Beijing that included a 3:39.5 400 free. He never found room in his event schedule to swim it at a major meet with the 400IM as one of his better events.


Phelps did swim 400 free at a major meet.

He didn’t swim 400 IM in 2005 World Championships, and swam 400 free instead. He didn’t qualify to final.


Huh, I didn’t know that. Perhaps that was why the 4IM ended up taking priority for him. Thanks for the info!


Swimming is not linear.
People expect that if you are good in events A and B, then you must be good also in event C. It doesn’t work that way.

phelps swims 200 breast rio

He won the 400 fr in 2009 at Santa Clara 3:48

Sean Justice

In 2003 nationals in Maryland, Phelps swam the 400 free and broke the american record ( 3:46.73). So I wouldn’t put it past him to be able to break the WR.

Mr G

And the other cool thing was he got to swim next to his two brothers in the 400 IM final (they were all in consecutive lanes).


that was insane indeed . Did that ever happened in swimming history before ?

Coach John

what, that double or that closing speed? yes to both (think Ledecky and Shiwen)

Team Rwanda

No, 3 brothers in the same final


Thanks Team Rwanda – thats exactly what i meant …..

Coach John

sorry, on mobile the comments show up all linear. we have triplets on our team and I have coached another set of 2/3 triplets but I cant recall any high level triplets performing at a national level

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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