By guest writer Julia Wilkinson-Minks (2008 & 2012 Canadian Olympian)
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana, June 27. THE 400-meter IM is arguably the toughest event in swimming. Of course, every event, from the 50 to the 1500, comes with its warts. But to be good at the 400-meter IM, you need talent in all four strokes combined with the work ethic of a distance swimmer. There is a good reason why I stopped swimming the 400-meter IM after high school, and I'll be the first to admit it: I couldn't hack it.
Sometimes, the winner of the 400-meter IM will have clear water by the 250 mark, and this is something that happens a lot in-season. When you turn from breaststroke to freestyle, feeling like your arms and legs might just break off and sink to the bottom of the pool, seeing that you have a body length lead over second place can be a huge relief. When you get into a battle in the 400-meter IM, however, it is a battle to the death: who will give in first?
I still remember a 400-meter IM I swam at Canadian Junior Nationals more than 10 years ago. I went stroke for stroke with the girl beside me all the way until the end of the race for the win, and I hated the feeling that I could not shake her, and I am sure she felt the same. Not only is this the type of race that the best 400-meter IMers have to be prepared for come World Championships this summer, this is the type of race we might see tonight.
Elizabeth Beisel and Caitlin Leverenz are no strangers to racing one another; they know each other's strengths and weaknesses. Beisel does not really have a weak stroke, which is what makes her one of the best in the world at the event. Leverenz's weak stroke, backstroke, just happens to be Beisel's best stroke; but what Leverenz lacks on the second leg she makes up for in breaststroke. Both of these women know each other's strategies: that makes the fight even more intense. This will make the race incredibly fun to watch.
On the men's side, the announcement that Ryan Lochte would not be swimming this event makes this a ripe opportunity: for those swimmers who have been growing in Lochte's shadow, and for the ones who may have spent the last few Olympic seasons idolizing him.
I personally cannot wait to see what Chase Kalisz is going to do tonight: the 19-year old is seeded first in tonight's finals, ahead of Olympic Champion Tyler Clary. Although it would seem like a lot of pressure to walk out to lane four tonight, Kalisz was the NCAA Champion this year as a freshman. As a teenage rookie, I think Kalisz will show the composure of a veteran tonight to earn a spot on this World Championship Team.
Julia Wilkinson-Minks is a two-time Olympian for Canada and was a finalist in the 200-meter IM at the 2008 Beijing Games. In 2010, she became Texas A&M's first ever NCAA champion in swimming when she won the 100-yard freestyle. She graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in Speech Communication. Julia retired from competitive swimming following the London Olympic Games and now lives in Texas with her husband Shane.
Follow her on twitter @juliah2o