In our new series, Roadmaps – Mapping the Journey of US Swimming Stars, we will explore how modern-day Olympians climbed their way to the top, starting from as early as 8 years old all the way to their elite level today.
The men’s 400 IM final at the 2016 Olympics was the first event final since 2004 that did not feature American IM greats Michael Phelps or Ryan Lochte. Instead, it was headlined by two new American names, Chase Kalisz and Jay Litherland. During the final, Kalisz valiantly finished with a silver medal while Litherland finished in a tight 5th place. After that, Kalisz became the world event champion in 2017 while Litherland rose to a World silver medal in 2019.
Fast forward to 2020, Kalisz and Litherland are the only two American men who have swum under 4:10 in this Olympic cycle. Despite this, versatile 2016 Olympian Gunnar Bentz, college stars Charlie Swanson, Sean Grieshop, Bobby Finke, Sam Stewart, and age group phenom Carson Foster are all under 4:14, which would have easily rattled the 2019 World final. Who are these 8 American IMers and how do their unique specialities propel their 400 IM success? Find out in this installment of U.S. Roadmaps.
2016-2021 Olympic Cycle: US Men’s 400 IM LCM
|1||Chase Kalisz||1||4:05.90||2017 World Championships|
|2||Jay Litherland||4||4:09.22||2019 World Championships|
|3||Charlie Swanson||10||4:11.46||2019 Pan American Games|
|4||Gunnar Bentz||11||4:11.66||2017 Summer U.S. Nationals|
|5||Sean Grieshop||17||4:12.72||2018 Summer U.S. Nationals|
|6||Bobby Finke||24||4:13.15||2019 Summer U.S. Nationals|
|7||Carson Foster||26||4:13.39||2019 Summer U.S. Nationals|
|8||Sam Stewart||30||4:13.65||2018 Summer U.S. Nationals|
How Long Have They Been Good At the 400 IM?
Middle School Days
The 400 IM could arguably be each of these swimmers’ best event based off current Olympic cycle rankings. However, USA Swimming’s Power Point system can also argue that the 400 IM has not always been their best event, unless you’re Gunnar Bentz. His best event was the 400 IM when he was just 12 years old before earning more power points in the 200 IM once in the 13-14 age group. Chase Kalisz‘s best event when he was 14 was also the 400 IM, but his best power point event when he was 12 was in fact the 200 back.
Carson Foster dominated sprint fly during his 12&U career, but shifted towards the 200 IM and the 400 IM after nailing the 2016 Olympic Trials cut when he was 14. Similarly, Sam Stewart‘s sprint back talent in his 11-12 age group days contributed to his 400 IM capabilities once in the 13-14 age group. Charlie Swanson didn’t have the IM events on his radar during his middle school days and focused on breaststroke and sprint free instead.
Stroke versatility is a key component towards a good IM race, however, so does endurance when it comes to the 400 IM. During his middle school career, Bobby Finke had the most power points in the 800/1500 free events, but the 400 IM was a close 3rd-/4th-best event. Before Sean Grieshop saw collegiate successes in distance free, he had the most power points in the 200 back when he was 12 before switching to the 400 IM. As an age grouper, Jay Litherland (and his triplet brothers) had both stroke versatility and endurance, who racked up power points in the 400 free and 200 back before his international IM success.
Best LCM Event (By Age Group/Power Points)
|Chase Kalisz||200 BK||400 IM|
|Jay Litherland||400 FR||200 BK|
|Charlie Swanson||50 FR||200 BR|
|Gunnar Bentz||400 IM||200 IM|
|Sean Grieshop||200 BK||400 IM|
|Bobby Finke||800 FR||800 FR|
|Carson Foster||50 FL||400 IM|
|Sam Stewart||100 BK||400 IM|
Entering Senior Competition
Once a swimmer enters late high school/college, their stroke specialty becomes more solidified. Since he was 14, Gunnar Bentz‘s best event based on USA Swimming Power Points has been the 200 IM. Nevertheless, Bentz’s stellar fly/free talents has lead him to success in both IM events. Meanwhile, both Chase Kalisz and Charlie Swanson‘s best event at 16 was the 200 breast before the 400 IM was solidified into their repertoire. Jay Litherland‘s 15-16 backstroke talent also carried over into his senior 400 IM career.
Of all members in this 400 IM group, Sean Grieshop is the only swimmer to have the most points in the 400 IM in every age group since he was 13. After Carson Foster and Sam Stewart‘s early success in the 400 IM, they began to explore their own event versatility, which arguably made the 200 IM their best events throughout high school (and college). Bobby Finke is the only swimmer of this group that never had the 400 IM as their “best event”, finding more success from his distance freestyle events.
Best LCM Event (By Age Group/Power Points)
|Chase Kalisz||200 BR||400 IM||200 IM|
|Jay Litherland||200 BK||400 IM||400 IM|
|Charlie Swanson||200 BR||400 IM||400 IM|
|Gunnar Bentz||200 IM||200 IM||200 IM|
|Sean Grieshop||400 IM||400 IM||400 IM|
|Bobby Finke||1500 FR||1500 FR||800 FR|
|Carson Foster||200 IM||200 IM||N/A|
|Sam Stewart||200 IM||200 IM||200 IM|
Simulating a U.S. Roadmaps Men’s 400 IM Final
If these eight Americans swam their current lifetime bests in the same final, Chase Kalisz would have led the entirety of the race while Jay Litherland and would have also sealed a medal from start to finish. However, what would the rest of the group’s races look like? Fly/back specialists Carson Foster and Sam Stewart would have kept up with the lead pack during the first 200, yet would likely get caught by Kalisz and Charlie Swanson during the breast leg. Once into the free leg, Gunnar Bentz, Sean Grieshop, and Bobby Finke would utilize their versatility/endurance to take down Foster and Stewart for 4th-6th place.
|Swimmer||1st 50||2nd 50||1st 50||2nd 50||1st 50||2nd 50||1st 50||2nd 50|
Single Age Progression: US Men’s 400 IM LCM (Ages 11-25)
Single Age Progression: US Men’s 400 IM SCY (Ages 11-23)
2016-2021 Olympic Cycle: International Men’s 400 IM LCM
|1||Chase Kalisz||USA||4:05.90||2017 World Championships|
|2||Daiya Seto||JPN||4:06.09||2020 Kitajima Cup|
|3||David Verraszto||HUN||4:07.47||2019 54th Sette Colli Trophy|
|4||Jay Litherland||USA||4:09.22||2019 World Championships|
|5||Max Litchfield||GBR||4:09.62||2017 World Championships|
|6||Wang Shun||CHN||4:10.13||2019 7th CISM Military World Games|
|7||Kosuke Hagino||JPN||4:10.30||2018 Asian Games|
|8||Qin Haiyang||CHN||4:10.41||2019 7th CISM Military World Games|
Single Age Progression: International Men’s 400 IM LCM (Ages 13-28)
More from U.S. Roadmaps:
- Men’s 100 Free
- Women’s 100 Free
- Men’s 100 Back
- Women’s 100 Back
- Men’s 100 Breast
- Women’s 100 Breast
- Men’s 100 Fly
- Women’s 100 Fly
More from Roadmaps 2.0: