Overreacting: Seto, Hosszu Struggle In 400 IM, Americans Come Out Firing


The first session of Olympic swimming from Tokyo is in the books, meaning it’s time to overreact to what went down and theorize what it could mean for the rest of the meet.

Seto, Hosszu Fade Late In 400 IM Heats

Two of the biggest question marks coming into Day 1 came in the 400 IMs, where many wondered what kind of form defending Olympic champion Katinka Hosszu and three-time world champion Daiya Seto would show up in.

As it turned out, neither were great.

First up was the men’s event, and Seto was actually looking strong early, leading his heat by over a second through the breaststroke leg. But it all came crashing down on freestyle, as the Japanese superstar slowed coming home, splitting 1:00.72 to ultimately post a time of 4:10.52 which was only good enough for ninth overall.

4:10.5 is by no means a bad swim. The time would be good enough to advance to the final in essentially every other major international meet in history, and would’ve even won bronze in the World Championship final two years ago. But Seto didn’t look like he was holding much back through the early portions of the race, and he paid for it late.

He’s still a medal contender in the 200 butterfly and 200 IM later in the meet, but it’s clear he’s not on the career-best form he showed in early 2020, where a gold medal in the 400 IM seemed to be all but a lock.

As for Hosszu, she wasn’t as aggressive as Seto in her prelim swim, but still slowly faded back in the pack as she ended up clocking 4:36.01 for seventh overall. That will give her an outside lane in tomorrow’s final—somewhat reminiscent of the position Michael Phelps found himself in in 2012—though she’s still less than three-quarters-of-a-second outside of the second-place swimmer (4:35.28, Aimee Willmott).

What does this mean for Hosszu over the course of the next week?

While she could rebound with a strong 400 IM final, her heats swim showed she’s nowhere near where she’s been in previous years. She’ll still be the one to beat in the 200 IM,  but other than that, her medal hopes have severely dimmed.

Americans Go 11-For-11

The U.S. team came flying out of the gates on Saturday night, advancing all 11 of their swimmers/teams through to the morning session.

Chase Kalisz and Jay Litherland set the tone with solid showings in the men’s 400 IM, and the rest of the team followed suit.

Torri Huske had a great Olympic debut in the women’s 100 fly, qualifying fourth in 56.29, while Kieran Smith and Jake Mitchell came through in the clutch to qualify into the men’s 400 free final. Recently-turned 17-year-old Claire Curzan also advanced through in the women’s 100 fly, getting that first swim under her belt in 57.49.

Emma Weyant joined Mitchell as the only two Americans to go faster than their Trials times (or best times) in the women’s 400 IM, all of a sudden finding herself as one of the gold medal favorites after qualifying first by almost two seconds in 4:33.55.

Hali Flickinger safely advanced into the women’s 400 IM final as well, and Michael Andrew (58.62) and Andrew Wilson (59.03) easily made their way into the men’s 100 breast semis.

If there was a weak spot it was in the women’s 400 free relay, as the U.S. was back in fifth with a time of 3:34.80. They’ll bring in their top-two finishers from the Trials in Abbey Weitzeil and Erika Brown, and with no one really asserting themselves in the prelims, Simone Manuel could potentially get a spot in the final despite finishing ninth in Omaha.

All told, we knew the women’s 4×100 free would be maybe the Americans’ weakest relay, and overall the team looks well prepared and well on their way to another big medal haul.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Australians looked strong as well, led by Brendon Smith‘s National Record to start things off in the men’s 400 IM (also qualifying first for the final). Emma McKeon followed with a Commonwealth Record in the women’s 100 fly, Elijah Winnington and Jack McLoughlin were well in control in the men’s 400 free, and the women’s 400 free relay was superb despite missing their top-two legs.

Notable Finals/Semi Misses

*Pickrem was a DNS in the women’s 400 IM

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 month ago

Neither were great, correct, but 4:10.5 is relatively a bad swim because 1. Seto is capable of faster as he’s swum faster in the past, and 2. This is the Olympics and not any international meet. The expectation to swim fast is much higher, considering he’s swimming in his native country. Using the argument that his race would have made any 400 IM final previously in history is null because overall swimmers get faster each Olympic cycle; it’s illogical to compare today’s times to those of 1984.

1 month ago

Seto been training USRPT?

That looked like MA trying to finish an IM swim….

Reply to  Yup
1 month ago

I think he’s been watching some Carson foster

Reply to  PsuFan
1 month ago

This comment will look dumb over the next quad

Example Dressel 2016

Reply to  PsuFan
1 month ago

Clearly not from yesterday.

The unoriginal Tim
1 month ago

Was Seto coasting the free and then got caught out or did he die? That M4IM was cut throat. 4.10.40 was the time of the 20th best performer ever prior to this meet and 8 went under that.

The W4IM was much slower historically with 4.37.3 being about equal to the 64th best performer ever.

Last edited 1 month ago by The unoriginal Tim
Reply to  The unoriginal Tim
1 month ago

Looked like he was gassed by the time it came to the free leg. He couldn’t be coasting and allowing four guys to overtake him.

Reply to  The unoriginal Tim
1 month ago

Was leading until the last 15m. Pulled a MA.

1 month ago

First prelims weren’t particularly encouraging for the ROC team, or Aussie’s breastrokers (at least Wilson)

Last edited 1 month ago by pianoback
Reply to  pianoback
1 month ago

Not to worries about Stubbletty cook. He just has no speed at all. 2nd 50 was strong.

Wilson didn’t look great.

Reply to  pianoback
1 month ago

Our 100 breastroke s were never expected to semi. Just tough for our relay.

1 month ago

yea Weyent!

1 month ago

No part of me thinks Hosszu will be able to defend her medals this time, she hasn’t been the same swimmer since her personal life got messy.

Reply to  Sarcastic
1 month ago

Hosszu is 32 years old. Father Time is undefeated.

Reply to  Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
1 month ago

It is not IMHO age only. Hosszu was slowly fading but still remained the dominent IMer in 2019, while she performed quite poorly (to her standard) in 2020, when she was clearly out of form. I think she still can drop 2 sec but not much more. We’ll see. She needs sub 4:33 to medal.

Big Kicker
1 month ago

Is there any hope for Seto against MA in the 2IM? Maybe he’s missing the endurance but still has the speed?

The unoriginal Tim
Reply to  Big Kicker
1 month ago

Seto has always been better at 4IM imo. Scott to win 2IM

Reply to  Big Kicker
1 month ago

If Andrew replicates his 1:55 low he wins. But that’s still an if

Reply to  Big Kicker
1 month ago

No. It’s gonna be Scott and Ma

1 month ago

The amount of time dropped between 2016 and now to get into the 4 IM final would be like it taking 47-mid to get to top 8 in the 100 free (which honestly might happen lol)

Reply to  DCSwim
1 month ago

Or the potential in the 2 breast being 2:07 low to get into the final.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

Read More »