2019 FINA World Championships Predictions: Can Anyone Take Down Sun Yang in Men’s 400 Free?

Gabriele Detti has picked up right where he left off after he sat out 2018 with an injured shoulder; Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Editorial content for the 2019 World Championships coverage is sponsored by FORM Swim Goggles. See full event coverage. Follow FORM on Instagram at @FORMSwim #swimwithform FORM Swim-Logo

China’s Sun Yang has been the man to beat in the 400 free throughout this entire decade. With the exception of the 2016 Olympics, Sun hasn’t lost a 400 free final since taking silver at the 2011 World Championships to Park Tae Hwan. Sun enters the 2019 Worlds as the three-time reigning World champion, winning the 2013, 2015 and 2017 titles in convincing fashion.

Only three men in swimming history have won the same event four times at the World Championships. Sun has the potential to join an elusive club that includes Grant Hackett in the 1500 free (1998, 2001, 2003, 2005), Aaron Peirsol in the 200 back (2001, 2003, 2005, 2009) and Ryan Lochte in the 200 IM (2009, 2011, 2013, 2015).

Sun’s history is also marred by controversy, notably a three-month doping violation in 2014 that was largely covered up. Sun’s positive test resulted from the use of a banned stimulant that Chinese authorities claimed was for a heart condition. Recently, Sun was alleged to have destroyed vials during an out-of-competition doping test in 2018, only to be cleared of any wrongdoing by FINA. The controversy also includes an altercation with Australian Mack Horton at the 2016 Olympics in which Sun tried to disrupt Horton’s preparation in the warmup pool.

If Sun is to falter, then who can take him down? Sun has not lost since Horton took him down in Rio in 2016. Horton missed the qualification time at the Australian Trials but was granted a spot in the 400 to fight for a medal alongside Jack McLoughlin, who has had the upper hand over Horton since winning the Pan Pacs title last summer.

Horton has only been a 3:46 this year but should not be ruled out. Italy’s Gabriele Detti will also be fighting for a medal as he sat out the European Championships last summer to nurse an injured shoulder. Lithuania’s Danas Rapsys is tied for Detti at number two in the world rankings and will be looking for his first individual medal at the World Championships.

USA’s Zane Grothe has only managed a 3:48.27 this year but has been a 3:45 in the past. If he can nail his taper, then he could be fighting for a medal alongside teammate Grant Shoults, who has indicated that he will be swimming at Worlds this summer despite being injured most of the year.

Current Records:

World Record: Paul Biedermann, GER (2009) — 3:40.07
Championship Record: Paul Biedermann, GER (2009) — 3:40.07
American Record: Larsen Jensen (2008) — 3:42.78

2017 World Champion: Sun Yang, CHN – 3:41.38
2018 Virtual World Champion: Sun Yang, CHN – 3:42.92 (Asian Games)
2019 Fastest Times:

  1. 3:42.75, Sun Yang, CHN
  2. 3:43.36, Gabriele Detti, ITA
  3. 3:43.36, Danas Rapsys, LTU
  4. 3:44.34, Jack McLoughlin, AUS
  5. 3:45.55, Aleksandr Krasnykh, RUS
  6. 3:45.59, Florian Wellbrock, GER
  7. 3:46.47, Mack Horton, AUS
  8. 3:46.67, Martin Malyutin, RUS

Swimming World’s team of Andy RossDan D’AddonaDavid RiederDiana Pimer and Taylor Covington will be selecting their medalists for the World Championships in each event. Read below who everybody picked.

Andy’s Picks:

  1. Sun Yang, China
  2. Jack McLoughlin, Australia
  3. Gabriele Detti, Italy

Dan’s Picks:

  1. Sun Yang, China
  2. Gabriele Detti, Italy
  3. Mack Horton, Australia

David’s Picks:

  1. Sun Yang, China
  2. Gabriele Detti, Italy
  3. Mack Horton, Australia

Diana’s Picks:

  1. Sun Yang, China
  2. Gabriele Detti, Italy
  3. Mack Horton, Australia

Taylor’s Picks:

  1. Sun Yang, China
  2. Gabriele Detti, Italy
  3. Danas Rapsys, Lithuania


  1. Pedro Ferreira

    Can any Swimming World Wide Organizatio or Federation take Sun Yang out of Fina Swimming Championships???

  2. Sanele Nxumalo

    No one can take sun yung he’s a perfectionist

  3. James Hooper

    Depends on how much he’s been using, and whether or not he gets caught this time.

    • Mikael Laakso

      He’s just better than others

  4. avatar

    Not that important but would like to recognize Phelps: He too won 4 titles at worlds in the same event, that being the 200 Fly in 01, 03, 07, 09, and for good measure, a fifth in 2011. Maybe that list was meant to be just 4 titles, or consecutive, but again just thought Phelps’ name should be there.

    • avatar
      Andy Ross

      Oh wow you are correct.

    • avatar
      Doping Truth

      Still swimming Fly though. He failed in his quest to emulate Thorpe in the 200 and 400 FREE.

  5. avatar

    He wasn’t trying to cheat. The heart medication is very easily detectable but was simply added to the ban list suddenly.

    Since 2015, he hasn’t taken the stimulant and the blood vial incident wasn’t even his fault. The testers were suspiciously in the wrong and they failed to be prodessionally organised with 2 of the 3 testers not even accredited. Almost as if they wanted to frame him.

    He beat Horton fair and square without using the heart meds in 2017 world championships. He lost to horton by just miliseconds only after horton got into his head which made him feel that winning is pointless, DESPITE he was clean in 2016.

    Calling him a drug cheat for an ARBITRARY past incident when he is clean now, is both unsportsmanlike and dare i say, raw RACIST jealousy. Because the first and only time he failed a drug test was in 2014, when the drug was added fairly recently. But becauae he’s asian, no benefit of the doubt is given despite the last 5 YEARS, he cleared all tests. I feel the disportionate outrage is only cus he’s Chinese. That’s the ugly truth.

    P.s. He won gold today in 400m freestyle finals ~ this year’s 2019 world championships and now a race war has gone crazy over a SINGLE arbitrary incident in 2014. Smh