2020 TOKYO SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES
- When: Pool swimming: Saturday, July 24 – Sunday, August 1, 2021
- Open Water swimming: Wednesday, August 4 – Thursday, August 5, 2021
- Where: Olympic Aquatics Centre / Tokyo, Japan
- Heats: 7 PM / Semifinals & Finals: 10:30 AM (Local time)
- Full aquatics schedule
- SwimSwam Event Previews
- Start Lists & Results
MEN’S 400 IM
- World record: Michael Phelps (USA) – 4:03.84 (2008)
- Olympic Record: Michael Phelps (USA) – 4:03.84 (2008)
- World Junior record: Ilya Borodin (RUS) – 4:11.17 (2021)
- 2016 Olympic Champion: Kosuke Hagino (JPN) – 4:06.05
One thing we know about this men’s 400m IM is that a new champion will be named, as reigning Olympic gold medalist Kosuke Hagino has opted out of the event for 2021. The 26-year-old instead is focusing solely on the 200m IM and will also be racing on Japan’s 4x200m free relay.
Hagino’s compatriot Daiya Seto enters a home-based Olympic Games as the reigning world champion, having claimed both the 400m IM and 200m IM titles in Gwangju at the 2019 FINA World Championships. Per Japan’s Olympic Selection Policy, his golds rendered him qualified for these Olympic Games with Seto adding the individual 200m fly to his agenda as well.
Seto not only took 400m IM bronze in Rio but he currently owns the top time in the world this season with his 4:09.02 from Japan’s Olympic Trials. That holds just a .07 advantage over nemesis Chase Kalisz of the United States, the man who took silver in the 400m IM behind Hagino 5 years ago.
Comparing their career-best times, Seto’s fastest performance ever sits at 4:06.09 from last year while Kalisz owns a PB of 4:05.90 from the 2017 FINA World Championships 4 years ago. While Seto took the top prize in Gwangju, Kalisz found himself out of the final, finishing 10th in 4:15.62.
For Seto, the man has something to prove in the form of redemption, with the 27-year-old father of two having been suspended the latter half of 2020.
As a refresher, in September of 2020 Seto admitted to having an extramarital affair, which resulted in his being suspended by the Japanese Swimming Federation (JASF) for an ethics code violation. The suspension proved costly, as Seto was dropped by his primary sponsor of All Nippon Airways, removed from Olympic Games imaging, as well as rendered unable to compete on the International Swimming League (ISL) team of the Tokyo Frog Kings. You can read more on how this originally unfolded here.
However, Seto has a renewed spirit and focus heading into the Olympic Games, saying earlier this year, “I haven’t accomplished a gold medal at the Olympics. And I want to repay those who I indebted, and swimming is the only way that I can express myself.”
As for Kalisz, his 4:09.09 at the U.S. Trials proves he’s coming back to form and will be right there with Seto, although he hasn’t been near the 4:06 zone since 2017.
Also in the medal mix in Tokyo are the three other men who have punched sub-4:10 times this season, including Lewis Clareburt of New Zealand, David Verraszto of Hungary and young gun Leon Marchand of France.
Clareburt blasted a 4:09.87 at this year’s New Zealand Championships. That outing tore his previous own national record and career-quickest of 4:12.07 to shreds, with that previous result representing the result he put up for bronze at the 2019 FINA World Championships.
With this type of time drop, Clareburt is a bit of a wildcard in terms of how fast he potentially can go in two weeks’ time. But he has the experience, having landed on both the Commonwealth Games and World Championships podiums when he wasn’t even expected to final.
After dealing with some health issues in 2020, a full-strength Clareburt is a scary proposition.
As for Verraszto, the 32-year-old put up his fastest 400m IM time in over 4 years while competing at the Sette Colli Trophy just weeks ago. He ripped a monster 4:09.57, well off the 4:12.15 he produced at this year’s European Championships for 4th place.
Verraszto also has the resume behind him to not count the veteran out, having taken silver at both the 2015 and 2017 FINA World Championships.
Finally, for Marchand, the 19-year-old Arizona State University commit entered entirely new territory with a French national record of 4:09.65 at the French Championships last month. That absolutely demolished his previous record and lifetime best of 4:14.97 from earlier this year and rocketed him up the world rankings as the 4th fastest performer this season.
The question for Marchand is simply if his performance on home soil was merely a fluke or if he can repeat that kind of swim under the big lights on the most prestigious swimming stage.
Additional contenders include Jay Litherland of the United States who placed 2nd behind Kalisz at U.S. Trials with a solid 4:10.33. Litherland always hangs around in the final, breaking through with a silver in Gwangju He nearly caught up to Seto on the freestyle leg, finishing less than a second out of the gold medal spot.
Russia’s World Junior Record holder Ilya Borodin is another lurking threat, with the 18-year-old taking European Championships gold in 4:10.02 to help build his momentum into Tokyo.
|Place||Swimmer||Country||Best Time Since the 2016 Olympics|
|1||Daiya Seto||Japan||4:06.09 – 2020|
|2||Chase Kalisz||USA||4:05.90 – 2017|
|3||Lewis Clareburt||New Zealand||4:09.87 – 2021|
|4||Jay Litherland||USA||4:09.31 – 2017|
|5||Ilya Borodin||Russia||4:10.02 – 2021|
|6||David Verraszto||Hungary||4:07.47 2017|
|7||Max Litchfield||Great Britain||4:09.62 – 2017|
|8||Leon Marchand||France||4:09.65 – 2021|
Just last month Australia’s Brendon Smith dropped out of the sky as another potential podium-crasher. Before this year’s Aussie Olympic Trials the 20-year-old Nunawading athlete had barely broken the 4:15 barrier in the 4IM, owning a PB of 4:14.91 from 2 years ago. But he chose the right time to shine, qualifying for the Olympic Games in a new Aussie record of 4:10.04 and throwing his swim cap in the ring to at least make the final if not surprise the field for a minor medal.
Smith was 1 of only 2 Australians to compete in last year’s ISL season, though the Australians had more high level racing opportunities than most of the world’s elite swimmers in 2020.