This morning, many swim fans watching the men’s 400 freestyle in Tokyo were left with one residual question: Who is Henning Muehlleitner?
The 23-year-old took the top seed in the event going into finals, swimming a time of 3:43.67 to annihilate his personal best of 3:45.36. With his swim, he beat the likes of Felix Auboeck, Gabriele Detti, and Elijah Winnington, putting himself in the position to make the podium at the Olympic Games.
Müehlleitner, originally from Emmemdigen, Germany, currently trains with One Flow Aquatics in Neckarsulm. The Tokyo Olympics are Müehlleitner’s first major International Competition besides the European Championships, where he represented Germany in 2015 and 2018.
At the 2018 European Championships, Müehlleitner earned an individual bronze medal in the 400 freestyle, along with a relay gold medal in the 4×200 freestyle relay.
Over the past year, Müehlleitner has exploded in the 400, slowly becoming one of his country’s top prospects. Prior to April 2021, Müehlleitner’s personal best in the 400 freestyle stood at a 3:46.98 from 2018. He then lowered it to a 3:45.55 at the Eindhoven Qualifying Meet in April, before going a 3:45.36 at the German Olympic Qualification Competition a week later. Since then, however, Müehlleitner has obliterated that standard.
|2020 Olympic Games Prelims – July 2021||German Olympic Trials – April 2021||Eindhoven Qualification Meet – April 2021||Stockholm Open Swim – April 2018|
Müehlleitner has dramatically improved the front half of his race since 2018, coming into the 200 mark over 2 seconds faster than he previously did. By extending that time by another half second, Müehlleitner was able to swim almost 2 seconds faster at the Olympics than he did last April.
Müehlleitner almost didn’t even qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games, having placed 3rd overall at the German Olympic Trials meet. However, he was added to the team when trials winner Florian Wellbrock elected to drop the 400 freestyle to focus on the longer freestyle events. Clearly, Müehlleitner is making the most of his opportunity to compete, being the only German in the final after coming into the event seeded 12th.