The Most Electric Time Trial In Swimming History


With all eyes on him, Jake Mitchell delivered one of the most memorable Olympic qualifying swims in U.S. Trials history.

As the third night of finals from the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials wound down on Tuesday night, up stepped Mitchell to the blocks—all on his own—to race a time trial in the men’s 400 freestyle.

The plan for a time trial popped up after winner Kieran Smith was the only one under the Olympic qualifying time of 3:46.78 in the men’s 400 free final on Sunday night. Smith touched first in 3:44.86, and Mitchell placed second in 3:48.17.

It was a situation we’ve never seen before at the U.S. Trials, so we had to dig into the selection criteria to figure out exactly who could snag that second Olympic spot.

Since Zane Grothe, who placed 11th in the 400 free prelims, had been under the ‘A’ cut inside the Olympic qualifying period, he would earn the Olympic spot if no one else who had finished ahead of him at Trials went under the standard inside the period, which ends on June 27.

As the event’s runner-up, that gave Mitchell first dibs on a potential spot—all he had to do was get under 3:46.78, and it was his (even if someone else went faster, since he finished ahead of them in the Trials final).

So, swimming all on his own, with an electric crowd on its feet, the 19-year-old Carmel Swim Club member went out with reckless abandon in the race, flipping two seconds faster at the 100 and more than three at the 200 compared to his time in the individual final.

His second 200 was split similarly, and he ultimately crushed the qualifying time by close to a second in 3:45.86, torching his 2019 best time of 3:47.95 by over two seconds.

Split Comparison

400 FR Final 400 FR TT
26.28 25.16
28.34 (54.62) 27.47 (52.63)
28.98 (1:23.60) 28.47 (1:21.10)
29.32 (1:52.92) 28.76 (1:49.86)
29.47 (2:22.39) 29.13 (2:18.99)
29.28 (2:51.67) 28.90 (2:47.89)
28.71 (3:20.38) 29.13 (3:17.02)
27.79 (3:48.17) 28.84 (3:45.86)


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Mitchell moves up from 24th to 11th all-time among Americans in the event, and will likely earn his first Olympic berth provided the number of roster spots don’t exceed the limit (26 per gender).

You can watch the full race via Jared Daigle on Instagram below:


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1 year ago

What I would do to swim by myself in a glowing arena with everyone cheering for me.

1 year ago

Hey swim swam? Would like to know how this happened this way. All the Qs Nolan is asking

1 year ago

is this what everyone is talking about

1 year ago

Jake Mitchell Time Trial > Durant’s 49 – 17 – 10 game tonight.

Faulty Touch Pad
1 year ago

This man just put the US ON HIS BACK and absolutely clutched it… goosebumps to say the least. Congrats Jake having the, by far, most impressive time trial I have ever seen.

1 year ago

I give you Zane Grothe, a true sportsman:

Reply to  M L
1 year ago

That’s a class act. So much better than bullying teenage girls in the ready room.

Reply to  BearlyBreathing
1 year ago

That really bothered me too.

Reply to  BearlyBreathing
1 year ago

Please explain?

Reply to  Confused
1 year ago

Lily King said she likes to psych out her rivals in the ready room. Tried it on Jacoby but she didn’t wilt

Reply to  2swim2
1 year ago

I am not sure why this is brought up more about King. She is notorious for being a bully to other swimmers. But yet Rowdy and Michele Tafoya thought it was funny that she was trying to mess with Jacoby before their race. If you are that good, doesn’t your swimming speak for you?

1 year ago

my man took it out ian thorpe style

1 year ago

He is a phenomenal swimmer to be sure, but he got to swim in smooth water the whole time while everyone else has had to do it in a crowded pool full of churned up water. As a scientist who looks to minimize variables as a way to make things equitable, this does not seem fair.

Reply to  Questions
1 year ago

I’m not certain, but I do believe that Zane Grothe, in theory, could’ve registered with 4 friends for the time trial just to create chop.

There’s always gotta be a balance at a selection meet between fair and choosing the best team. Their option here was to sacrifice fairness in exchange for choosing a guy who was 2nd in the race over a guy who was 11th.

I would maybe like to see the procedure tweaked to where Zane gets a shot to beat the time. The rules were probably not written with this scenario in mind – where a swimmer has an A cut but is so far down the standings.

Reply to  Braden Keith
1 year ago

This kind of scenario happens all the time in track and field, where not all of the top three finishers atvtrials make the standard and someone else gets picked who did it in a previous meet. But as far as I know, in track they don’t do time trials.

Reply to  DLSwim
1 year ago

Track trials during some years for Worlds or Olympics have been far enough out that there have been plenty of years the USATF have allowed athletes to spend a couple weeks standard-chasing at sone of the many second tier meets in Europe after Trials if they had the place but not the time. (Selection criteria changes have made this less common recently)

Reply to  Questions
1 year ago

Anyone at the meet can swim up to four races in time trials, and it’s not unusual for swimmers with no time trial competitors. Hopefully they got the okay from FINA since I could see them arguing the time trial wasn’t part of the meet.

Reply to  Questions
1 year ago

Also he’s rested with no heat this morning. I don’t get it.

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 …

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