2019 FINA World Championships Predictions: Kalisz vs. Seto Showdown in 400 IM

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Chase Kalisz is going for his second straight 400 IM World title. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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The men’s 400 IM gold medal is likely going to come down to Japan’s Daiya Seto and USA’s Chase Kalisz. Kalisz is the reigning world champion and the third-fastest performer in history in the event. He was a 4:05.90 to win the gold medal in Budapest and looked to be unstoppable. Last year, he took down Japan’s dynamic duo of Seto and 2016 Olympic Champion Kosuke Hagino in front of the Tokyo crowd at Pan Pacs. Kalisz was particularly upset with himself after 2016 when he was unable to continue the Americans’ gold-medal streak in this event at the Olympics, getting the silver medal in Rio behind Hagino. He looked like a man on a mission the last two years but hasn’t looked as sharp in 2019.

Kalisz has been known to be a good in-season swimmer, registering a 4:08 and a 4:09 at the Atlanta Pro Swim Series each of the last two years. But Kalisz’s best in-season time this year has only been a 4:13 from Richmond. Granted, he did say at the FINA Champions Series in May that this has been some of the hardest training he has done in his career, but he has been faster than a 4:13 34 times in his career. Is that a sign that he is off? Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. Regardless, Kalisz is still a favorite because of his past. You don’t win the Olympic silver medal without talent. And Kalisz has the talent to win a second straight world title.

But his biggest challenge will come from Japan’s Seto, who has the top time in the world by nearly three seconds. Seto was a 4:07 in June at the Sette Colli in Rome, which was the best time of his career. Seto sits eighth all-time in this event and was the world champion in 2013 and 2015. He won the bronze in 2017 as well. Seto has been looking like the man for Japan after Hagino announced he was dropping out of consideration for the World Championships, citing a lack of motivation. The Japanese swimmers will be looking to start some momentum rolling heading into next year with a home Olympics looming and Seto could be the guy to move things forward. He has won the world title before, so he is no stranger to success. The interesting part will be that Seto and Kalisz swim two completely different races, with Seto pushing the front half and Kalisz pushing the back half.

If either Seto or Kalisz is to falter, then Great Britain’s Max Litchfield could step up. He finished fourth in Budapest two years ago and moved up to 12th all-time in the process. He sat out the Commonwealth Games last year with a shoulder injury, but returned at the European Championships four months later with a silver medal. Litchfield is second in the world with a 4:10.94 and has a chance to win his first medal at the world level. He was fourth in Budapest in both the 200 and 400 IMs.

Hungary’s David Verraszto is the ageless wonder in the 400 IM. He will turn 31 at the end of August and is still one of the best in the world. He has the third-fastest time in the world currently with a 4:11.90. He won the silver in Budapest two years ago in front of the Hungarian crowd and also won the European gold over Litchfield last summer. Verraszto has been known to be a good in-season swimmer, so what you see is what you get from Verraszto. If he is a 4:11 in June then he is likely to be around a 4:10 in July. But 2019 could be different. He has won the last two silver medals at Worlds in this event so can he continue that streak?

Switzerland’s Jeremy Desplanches is another dark-horse pick to win a medal in Gwangju. He was 15th in Budapest and did not make the final. He set his best time this year at 4:12.86 at 24 years of age to put him fifth in the world. He hasn’t been able to go a season best time at the end of the year since the 2016 Olympics, but that could change in 2019. The biggest problem is that the 400 IM is on the final day of competition so a lot of the swimmers struggle to go best times at the end of a long meet as opposed to the Olympics when it is on the first day.

The other American in this event is Jay Litherland. His best time this year is a 4:14.42, which is not far off his in-season best of 4:13 from 2017. He has been a consistent #2 behind fellow Georgia Bulldog Kalisz the last three years. Litherland has been a consistent performer the last few years, placing fifth in Rio and fifth in Budapest. He had the seventh-fastest time out of the four major meets last summer (Commonwealth Games,  Europeans, Pan Pacs, Asian Games) but is looking in good shape to challenge for a medal. Without Hagino, the third spot is wide open behind Seto and Kalisz. Litherland has always been one of the best closers in the world, and if he is close at the 300 then he can run anyone down on the freestyle leg.

Current Records:

World Record: 4:03.84, Michael Phelps, USA – 2008
Championships Record: 4:05.90, Chase Kalisz, USA – 2017
American Record: 4:03.84, Michael Phelps – 2008

2017 World Champion: Chase Kalisz, USA – 4:05.90
2018 Virtual World Champion: Chase Kalisz, USA – 4:07.95 (Pan Pacs)
2019 Fastest Times:

  1. 4:07.95, Daiya Seto, JPN
  2. 4:10.94, Max Litchfield, GBR
  3. 4:11.90, David Verraszto, HUN
  4. 4:12.80, Peter Bernek, HUN
  5. 4:12.86, Jeremy Desplanches, SUI
  6. 4:13.45, Chase Kalisz, USA
  7. 4:13.54, Yuuki Ikari, JPN
  8. 4:13.69, Brandonn Almeida, BRA

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

Andy’s Picks:

  1. Daiya Seto
  2. Chase Kalisz
  3. Max Litchfield

Dan’s Picks:

  1. Daiya Seto
  2. Chase Kalisz
  3. David Verraszto

David’s Picks:

  1. Chase Kalisz
  2. Daiya Seto
  3. Max Litchfield

Diana’s Picks:

  1. Daiya Seto
  2. Chase Kalisz
  3. David Verraszto

Taylor’s Picks:

  1. Chase Kalisz
  2. David Verraszto
  3. Daiya Seto

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2 comments

  1. avatar

    when is the Men’s 400 IM? I don’t see it on the schedule.

    • avatar
      Andy Ross

      it is on the last day.