2016 Trials Throwback: Chase Kalisz States His Case in 400 IM

Chase Kalisz, center, and Jay Litherland, right, with Gunnar Bentz at 2017 Nationals. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Each day during the pre-scheduled days of the 2020 US Olympic Trials, Swimming World will take its readers back four years to the 2016 Trials in Omaha to recap each event, and will offer some insight into what the events will look like in 2021.

The stage four years ago was set for generational change. For much of the previous decade, the 400 individual medley had been presided over by two of the sports’ most iconic names – Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. Phelps had won gold medals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, Lochte garnering bronze at the latter. Lochte turned the tables in London in 2012 with gold, Phelps fading to fourth in what some read as an (ultimately premature) signal of his decline from elite status.

But the 2016 Trials would be different. Phelps’ return from retirement came with a streamlined program, and the longer IM was one of the first to bite the dust. Lochte, at 31, wasn’t the world-beater he once was and had originally planned to drop the 400 IM until strong performances in the lead up to Trials. Tyler Clary, aged 27 and on the back end of his career, entered as the top seed, he and Chase Kalisz in the 4:09s, both nearly three seconds quicker than the field.

The Race

Clary’s supremacy was punctured in prelims, the top seed turning in a 4:15 to barely scrape into finals with the eighth and final seed. Kalisz set the pace at 4:11.86, a tenth ahead of Lochte, with Jay Litherland third and Gunnar Bentz fourth. Clary, along with seventh-place Michael Weiss and sixth-place Josh Prenot, would scratch out of finals.

In the evening final, Lochte got the start he wanted. A consummate front-halfer, he was 2.94 seconds clear of Kalisz and 3.35 ahead of Litherland at the halfway point. But Kalisz started gobbling up real estate in breaststroke off the 250-meter wall and was ahead at 300, though Lochte still held a 2.18-second edge on Litherland. The University of Georgia swimmer, though, clawed the deficit back on the final 100. His final 50 split of 28.82 trounced Lochte’s 30.18. Both of Litherland’s times on the day were personal-bests. The result sent both Bulldogs to their first Olympic Games.


  1. Chase Kalisz 4:09.54
  2. Jay Litherland 4:11.02
  3. Ryan Lochte 4:12.02
  4. Gunnar Bentz 4:13.72
  5. Sean Grieshop 4:14.08
  6. Abrahm Devine 4:14.98
  7. Charlie Swanson 4:21.62
  8. Austin Snyder 4:22.8

On to Rio

The 400 IM in Rio turned into something of a U.S.-Japan match race. Kalisz set the pace in prelims with a lifetime best 4:08.12. Litherland was right on his Omaha time at 4:11.10 to take fourth in prelims and coast into finals. In between the two Americans were a pair of Japanese swimmers, Daiya Seto and Kosuke Hagino.

In the final, the two Japanese swimmers took the race out, eventually leaving Hagino and Kalisz to battle. The American rallied to make it close in breaststroke, but Hagino had enough left coming home to take hold in an Asian record 4:06.05. Kalisz was more than a second quicker than prelims to take silver in 4:06.75, and Seto was the clear third in 4:09.71. Litherland landed fifth (4:11.68).

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