Rio 2016 Olympic Previews: Horton Threatens Sun Repeat In M 400 Free

Men’s 400 Free 

  • 2012 Olympic Champion: Sun Yang (CHN), 3:40.14
  • 2015 World Champion: Sun Yang (CHN), 3:42.58
  • World Record (2009): Paul Biedermann (GER), 3:40.07
Courtesy of Swimming Australia

Mack Horton (Photo: Swimming Australia)

The men’s 400 freestyle at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games looks like it’ll bring a lot more competition than the field in 2012, with 8 men already under 3:45 this year. Headlining those men is Australia’s up and comer Mack Horton, who’s been rising in the ranks since he won 5 gold medals at the Junior World Championships in 2013. Horton is the fastest swimmer in the world this year after blasting a 3:41.65, making him the 2nd fastest Australian of all time behind only Ian Thorpe. Last summer, Horton swam times at Australian Championships that would’ve won a silver at worlds, but was unable to replicate his performance at the big meet. He wound up 11th in the 400 free, failing to make the final.

Horton’s performances in Kazan were at least partially hindered by a parasitic bug that caused him to lose over 10 pounds within 2 days of his arrival. Given the drastic impact the bug had on his health at Worlds, it’s likely we’ll see Horton perform better on the big stage this time around. He’s got a great shot at a medal, and is looking like a big contender for gold as we head into the Games.

Also qualifying for Rio and placing 2nd behind Horton was David McKeon, who swam a 3:45.09 at Australian Olympic Trials. McKeon represented Australia in this event in London, placing 14th with a 3:48. He’s represented Australia in this event at both Worlds meets since then, but didn’t advance to the final in either. This summer in Rio, McKeon could make his big break and get into the championship final, especially when considering his personal best 3:43.71 from 2013 Australian Nationals, but his recent trend on the global stage hasn’t been good.

2014 Pan Pacific Championships (courtesy of Scott Davis)

Park Tae Hwan (Photo: Scott Davis)

Park Tae Hwan, one of the top 400 freestylers in the world since 2012, will officially be in Rio despite controversy surrounding a positive doping test in 2014. Park served an 18-month ban after positively testing for banned testosterone, and was initially ruled out of the Rio Olympics due to an additional 3-year suspension placed on him by the KOC. Park appealed to the Court Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and the CAS ruled in his favor, establishing his elligibility for the Games. The KOC then overturned its own ban on Park, allowing the Olympic champion to represent South Korea in Rio.

It’s clear that Park has obstacles to overcome, as he was out of international competition until June of this year and was far from his best with a 3:44.26 at Korean Olympic Trials. However, Park has his Olympic history on his side, and his time indicated he’s in good enough shape to at least challenge for a spot in the final. Park heads to Rio as the defending silver medalist, and owns the 400 free gold medal from 2008. His career best is a 3:41.53 from 2010, and he’ll need to get back down to that time if he wants a shot at gold. In this Olympic cycle, his fastest swim has been a 3:43.15 from 2014 Pan Pacs.

Park isn’t the only top contender in this event who has dealt with doping controversy. Defending Olympic champion Sun Yang, a distance star out of China, has dealt with his own issues. Following a positive doping test in 2014, he was deemed unwelcome to train in Australia and ties were severed with his coach, Dennis Cotterell. Sun has won this race at the last 2 World Championships, and will look to earn back-to-back Olympic titles with his swim in Rio.

This season, Sun swam to a 3:43.55 at the Arena Pro Swim in Santa Clara, which currently ranks him 2nd in the world. Interestingly, he swam that time in prelims before scratching out of finals, so it’s possible he hasn’t shown all his cards yet. His winning time in London was a 3:40.14, but his fastest since has been a 3:41.59.

The Americans will bring back Conor Dwyer in this event after he placed 5th in 2012. Dwyer had been slightly off his best times since he moved from his training base at Florida and eventually wound up with Trojan Swim Club in California. At 2016 Olympic Trials, however, he had a break through swim to qualify for his 2nd Olympic Games with a personal best 3:44.66. That swim put Dwyer 7th in the World Rankings, and he’ll look to make another finals appearance this summer.

Connor Jaeger (Photo: Peter Sukenik)

Winning the event ahead of Dwyer at trials was Connor Jaeger, who placed 4th in this event at last summer’s World Championships. He dropped a second from his best time to take the event in 3:43.79, a time that ranks him 3rd in the World and puts him in the Olympic medal conversation. Jaeger is coming off a very strong year in 2015 that saw him set a new American Record in the 1500. If he can keep his momentum going through Rio, he’ll be there to challenge for a podium finish.

Germany’s Florian Vogel and Italy’s Gabriele Detti have broken into the world’s top 8 this year with their performances at their respective national meets. Vogel sits 8th on the list, qualifying for Rio with a 3:44.89, while Detti is a few slots up at 5th in 3:43.97. Detti will be swimming in his 2nd Olympics, as he’s already represented Italy with his swim in the 1500 at the 2012 Games.

James Guy, GBR. Men's 200 freestyle World Champion. Day 3 of 2015 World Championships. (courtesy of Tim Binning,

James Guy (Photo: Tim Binning)

Great Britain’s James Guy was the silver medalist in this event in Kazan. Guy enters the meet with his 3:43.84 from British Olympic Trials, which has him ranked 4th in the world. He was slightly faster than that with a 3:43.75 at Worlds, where he set a new British Record and became the first British male to win an individual World Championship title in the 200 free.

A two-time Olympic medalist, Canada’s Ryan Cochrane is more well-known for his performances in the 1500 free, but he’s shown off his 400 free speed over the past couple of years. He clocked a lifetime best 3:43.46 at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and swam his way to a bronze medal at Worlds last summer. This season, he’s been off that with his 3:48.54 at Canadian Olympic Trials, but could end up racing in the final if he can bring his time back down to the low 3:40s.

Men’s 400 Free Top 8 Predictions:

Place Swimmer Country Best Time (Since 2012 Olympics) Predicted Time
1 Sun Yang CHN 3:41.59 3:41.2
2 Mack Horton AUS 3:41.65 3:41.9
3 James Guy GBR 3:43.75 3:43.2
4 Connor Jaeger USA 3:43.79 3:43.5
5 Park Tae Hwan KOR 3:43.15 3:44.0
6 Conor Dwyer USA 3:44.66 3:44.3
7 Gabriele Detti ITA 3:43.97 3:44.7
8 Ryan Cochrane CAN 3:43.46 3:45.3


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King in da norf
4 years ago

Where’s Waldo
Sun of Trimetazidine
The British Guy

4 years ago

Horton and Mckeon both miss final, again.
All 3.42
400free in Olympic year always ends up jacked, great race coming.

Reply to  Skoorbnagol
4 years ago

Unfair to say Horton won’t final he was ill in Kazan wasn’t in his best form physically by his times this season he should be making the final 99.9%

4 years ago

Come on SwimSwam, not every Aussie is going to add time come Rio, just because someone if from Australia does not make them Magnussen.

Reply to  Track
4 years ago

I totally agree, I expect Horton to go much quicker, he has already stated that his goal is to eventually beat the WR. The question is can Sun go with him, he hasn’t been in the 3.41s for 3 years now.

Reply to  Track
4 years ago


Reply to  Track
4 years ago

Exactly. Seems a bit strange how they consistently slow the Aussie times compared to other nations; especially the US.

About Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona (2013-2015) and the University of Florida (2011-2013). While her college swimming career left a bit to be desired, her Snapchat chin selfies and hot takes on Twitter do not disappoint. She's also a high school graduate of The …

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