2021 SWIMMING AUSTRALIA OLYMPIC TRIALS
- Saturday, June 12th – Thursday, June 17th
- South Australia Aquatic & Leisure Centre
- Sole Olympic-Qualifying Opportunity
- 2021 Swimming Australia Olympic Nomination Criteria
- Meet Site
- Final Start List
- Live results
- Qualifying Criteria
- Day 1 Prelims Video (Amazon Prime required)
If there’s one thing the Australian men have been known for the better part of the last three decades, it’s middle-distance freestyle, and today Elijah Winnington added his name to a very strong list of Australian stars in the 400 free. Going head-to-head against a strong field that included defending Olympic champion Mack Horton, Winnington, touched first to win with a time of 3:42.65, a time that moves him up to #9 all-time in the event, and makes him the fastest man in the world in 2021.
Top Ten Performers All-Time, 400 Free
- Paul Biedermann (GER) – 3:40.07, 2009
- Ian Thorpe (AUS) – 3:40.08, 2002
- Sun Yang (CHN) – 3:40.14, 2012
- Ous Melloui (TUN) – 3:41.11, 2009
- Zhang Lin (CHN) – 3:41.35, 2009
- Park Tae Hwan (KOR) – 3:41.53, 2010
- Mack Horton (AUS) – 3:41.55, 2016
- Grant Hackett (AUS) – 3:42.51, 2001
- Elijah Winnington (AUS) – 3:42.65, 2021
- Larsen Jensen (USA) – 3:42.78, 2008
The Australian men now account for 4 of the fastest 10 men performers ever in the event. The 400 free has been a strength for the Aussies ever since the 1990s. Kieren Perkins set the world record at 3:46.57 at the 1992 Australian Olympic Trials, and then after losing it to Yevgeny Sadovyi at the 1992 Olympics, he took it back with a 3:43.80 at the 1994 World Championships.
In the late 90s, teenagers Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett burst onto the scene. Thorpe lowered Perkins’ record by nearly two seconds at the 1999 Pan Pacific Championships, then would set it another four times, culminating in a 3:40.08 at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. Those three men would account for 400 free gold medals at four-straight World Championships: 1994 (Perkins), 2001 and 2003 (Thorpe), and 2005 (Hackett), while Thorpe won gold at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics.
Thorpe and Hackett both retired before 2009 (although both have attempted comebacks), and the Australian men wouldn’t win another medal in this event at the Olympics or World Championships until Mack Horton just beat defending champion Sun Yang of China in 2016.
Looking again at the all-time rankings, Winnington’s swim bumped Peter Vanderkaay of the USA out of the top ten. Winnington’s Aussie teammate, Jack McLaughlin, meanwhile, is now 13th all-time, with his time of 3:43.27, and will join Winnington in this event in Tokyo. Horton, meanwhile, finished 3rd with a 3:43.92, and will not make the Olympic roster in this event, a testament to the depth the Australians currently have.
While you can call Winnington’s an upset, considering he beat the defending Olympic champion, it’s certainly didn’t come out of nowhere. He set the Australian 13&U age group record in the 400 free back in 2014, represented Australia at the 2017 World Junior Championships, and set the 400 free (SCM) World Junior record in 2018, among other accolades. He came into Trials with a lifetime best of 3:43.90, which was already under Swimming Australia’s Olympic Qualifying Time of 3:46.34, and he’ll head to Tokyo as a clear contender for gold.