Tokyo 2020 Olympic Swimming Previews: Daiya Seto Seeks 400 IM Redemption

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2020 TOKYO SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES

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.

SwimSwam’s Picks:

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

 

Dark Horse

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.

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Texas Tap Water
2 months ago

Daddy Daiya is gonna win this. NO DOUBT!

Casas 100 back gold in Fukuoka
Reply to  Texas Tap Water
2 months ago

I’d say there is some doubt.

The unoriginal Tim
Reply to  Casas 100 back gold in Fukuoka
2 months ago

If his early 2020 form had carried through Seto would win this quite easily. Post Covid and scandal and loss of motivation we don’t really know. He may have got back to form we will soon know.

Describing Hagino as opting out of the 4IM is daft. He didn’t have it anymore.

Landen
Reply to  The unoriginal Tim
2 months ago

I think hagino might have it in a couple of years

Hank
Reply to  Texas Tap Water
2 months ago

Seto has been training at high altitude on home soil. He’s least likely of any of these guys to be starstruck by the Olympics. Kalisz is the other veteran with experience. Either way I have a hard time seeing anyone approach the 4:06-4:07 level. A 4:08 high or 4:09 low might be enough?

Joel
2 months ago

Was literally going to say what about Smith ? Then saw him as the dark horse 😁👍🏼

Troyy
2 months ago

Seto for gold but no idea who gets the minor medals.

Ghost
Reply to  Troyy
2 months ago

Please don’t call any medals “minor”

Old Man Chalmers
Reply to  Ghost
2 months ago

its all relative. minor = less than gold

you sound silly
Reply to  Ghost
2 months ago

please don’t get offended over nothing

Gambler
2 months ago

Pinnacle Odds To Win Gold

Seto -121 (54.8%)
Kalisz +189 (34.6%)
Wang Shun +1090 (8.4%)
Clareburt +1090 (8.4%)
Litherland +1237 (7.4%)
Smith +1237 (7.4%)

What’s interesting to note is a few weeks ago, Kalisz was 4-1 and he’s been bet down to +189.

Is Wang Shun swimming this race?

Clareburt is interesting at 11-1 and was planning to take a flier on him, but I don’t like the fact he trains in a 33 meter pool (from the social kick podcast).

Other guys not listed might make a splash. I’ll be watching for Borodin’s odds when they come out. Someone also pointed out that Alberto Rizzetti could be a dark horse (I think… Read more »

Joel
Reply to  Gambler
2 months ago

I don’t think training in a 33 metre pool is much of a problem. Look at his results.

Old Man Chalmers
Reply to  Joel
2 months ago

wait until they find out what the americans train in

The unoriginal Tim
Reply to  Joel
2 months ago

33.3m pools suck. Used to train in one every Saturday morning. Still closer to long course than 25s though.

Taa
Reply to  Gambler
2 months ago

Kaliisz over priced like Jacoby. I’d bet Seto all day long

Chris
Reply to  Taa
2 months ago

gtfo

Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
Reply to  Taa
2 months ago

STFU

Hank
Reply to  Gambler
2 months ago

Not sure about Wang Shun. But Wang Chung is swimming. Everybody Wang Chung tonight!

Mark Chan
2 months ago

Probably the home advantage will propel Seto to gold.

Ytho
2 months ago

Verrasztó ftw!!!

Old Man Chalmers
2 months ago

2008: Lochte bronze
2012: Lochte gold, Hagino bronze
2016: Hagino gold, Seto bronze

from this pattern alone Seto should win this year

Last edited 2 months ago by Old Man Chalmers
Virtus
2 months ago

Was a big fan before but hard to feel the same after what he did. Idek who I want to win at this point

The unoriginal Tim
Reply to  Virtus
2 months ago

Still a big fan. Having an affair is not a crime my dude.

Yabo
Reply to  The unoriginal Tim
2 months ago

Having an affair is disrespectful to your partner and the marriage, but at the same time it doesn’t make you a bad human being. We all make mistakes, many of which can be forgiven. Time to forgive and move on

Virtus
Reply to  Yabo
2 months ago

Yeah i guess but it’s kinda too soon idk, she just seems so nice idk how he can do that but I don’t know their personal life so I can’t judge

Joel
Reply to  Virtus
2 months ago

Yet here you are…..judging

Honest Observer
Reply to  Virtus
2 months ago

That’s a little too much Virtus-signaling.

About Retta Race

Retta Race

Swim analyst, businesswoman.

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