Why Zane Grothe Thinks Leon Marchand Is Capable of a 4:02 in the 500 Free

For a swimmer as good as Leon Marchand, predictions are always going to be part of the game. And he gave swimfandom a bit of a gift this season by taking on a new event at the Pac-12 and NCAA Championships: the 500 yard freestyle.

His 4:06.18 at the Pac-12 Championships is the fastest swim in history, beating out Kieran Smith’s 4:06.32 from the 2021 SEC Championships as the best ever. While history hasn’t historically been kind at NCAAs to the best 500 freestylers (only one of the last six US Open Records in the event, dating back to 2008, has been done at NCAAs), the general consensus is that Leon has a time-drop left in him in two weeks in Indianapolis.

The opinions on what he will go in March have been wide, from a modest drop to 4:05 all the way to the most radical prediction that has gained any traction, a 3:59 (which seems like maybe wishful thinking, but Leon has done the ridiculous before).

Most of the guesses thrown out are just that – a guess, bordering on a hope.

But one guess that carries a little more weight might be that of American swimmer Zane Grothe, a former record-holder in this event.

At the 2017 Winter National Championships, Grothe swam 4:07.25 in the 500 free, which knocked 1.17 seconds off Clark Smith’s previous record in the event done nine months earlier. As Grothe points out in his thread, it took 22 years to go from a 4:08 to a 4:07, and while I don’t think anybody would confuse Grothe for Marchand on a holistic level, Grothe is a record-setting swimmer who, in this event specifically, broke a flood gate open.

In a thread on X (formerly known as Twitter), Grothe says that he believes that Leon can go a 4:02 in the 500 free at his best, and “more conservatively” at 4:04.

Across 26 posts, Grothe lays out his argument for why he says 4:02 is possible, and 4:04 more realistic. It’s based on his opening and closing 200 splits from different 500 frees combined with his best-ever 200 free (a 1:28.42 relay split at NCAAs last year).

Grothe also points out that up to this point, nobody has gone under 50 seconds on all five 100 yard splits in the 500 – 5×50 adds to a 4:10).

Grothe thinks Marchand will do this, listing his predicted splits of 46.50/49.25/49.75/49.75/49.25. That would add to 4:04.50.

His ‘best scenario’ list is 46.25/49.25/49.70/49.30/48.30 for a 4:02.80.

See Grothe lay out his analysis in the thread below (click to read replies).

US Open Record Progression, 500 Yard Freestyle

1 500 FR SCY 4:06.18 Leon Marchand 2024 Men’s PAC 12 Championships 3/7/2024 Federal Way, Washington
2 500 FR SCY 4:06.32 Kieran Smith 2021 Men’s SEC Swimming & Divi 2/24/2021 Columbia, Missouri
2 500 FR SCY 4:06.32 Kieran Smith 2020 SEC Champs 2/19/2020 Auburn, Alabama
4 500 FR SCY 4:07.25 Zane Grothe 2017 Winter Nationals 11/30/2017 Columbus, Ohio
5 500 FR SCY 4:08.42 Clark Smith 2017 NCAA DI – Men 3/23/2017 Indianapolis, Indiana
6 500 FR SCY 4:08.54 Peter Vanderkaay 2008 MI OLY Michigan Open 2/8/2008 Rochester, Michigan

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bob ewell
21 days ago

here after leon went a 4:02.31💀💀

Reply to  bob ewell
21 days ago

Leon beat Grothe’s “best scenario” by a half second!

That guy
21 days ago

Came back here after Leon goes 4:02 😭

bob ewell
Reply to  That guy
21 days ago


Last edited 21 days ago by bob ewell
1 month ago

When it comes to the legends like Phelps, Dressel, Ledecky, Marchand, etc, the predictions are mountain high.

1 month ago

Who knows, he makes it hard to guess, but consider this: he has tons of speed (40.92 on the 100), has unbelievable underwaters, and plenty of stamina being the best in the world at 400 IM long course.

I have no idea what he will do, but won’t be surprised If he goes 4.05 flat or 4.03.50.

1 month ago

I’m no fun but I think he “only” goes 4:05-low

1 month ago

4:03.84 tie Phelps old 400 Im record lcm

Last edited 1 month ago by Derp
Octavio Gupta
1 month ago

Leon Marchand is the king, but I’m sorry, there is just no way he goes sub 4:00. That won’t be done by anyone in the next 20 years. I think he goes 4:04.85.

Reply to  Octavio Gupta
1 month ago

Luka 👀

Phelps Swims 200 breast rio
1 month ago

4:04.7 (47.3, 49.1, 50.0, 49.3, 49.0)

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Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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