2021 Trials Vision: Men’s 400 Free Could Be In-Zane

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Zane Grothe; Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Each day during the pre-scheduled days of the 2020 U.S. 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.

With the Tokyo Olympics moved to 2021, the landscape of the U.S. Olympic Trials will be much different one year later.

The Olympic Trials would have started this week with a group of contenders ready to punch their tickets to Tokyo. The group might not be the same one year from now, but here is how it was shaping up for this week.

In the men’s 400 free, an almost completely new group of contenders emerged with one returning contender who nearly made the team four years ago.

The Favorite

U.S. veteran swimmer Zane Grothe has the top two times in the U.S. since the start of 2019 in the 400 free, both well ahead of the rest of the country heading into what would have been this week’s Trials.

At the 2019 FINA World Championships, Grothe touched the wall in 3:45.78 and 3:45.83 in his two swims in the event.

No one else in the U.S. has been within two seconds of that mark since the start of 2019.

The Contenders

So with Grothe looking strong to take the top spot, the second spot looks to be an exciting battle between several young guns.

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Kieran Smith; Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

Florida swimmer Kieren Smith clocked a 3:47.72 at the 2019 U.S. Winter Nationals, while Jake Mitchell went a 3:47.95 at the FINA Junior World Championships and also 3:48.09 at U.S. Nationals.

Smith’s Florida teammate Robert Finke also had a solid Nationals, and went a 3:48.17 to finish just behind Mitchell.

That remarkably young trio could be the future of the event in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Townley Haas has been a stud in this event in the past as well and despite not having swum the event as much since 2016, when he was third at Trials, could be waiting to unleash his best effort.

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Townley Haas; Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The Longshots

Several other swimmers had strong performances in the past couple of years.

Eric Knowles had a strong nationals, finishing third in 3:48.34, while Andrew Abruzzo swam a 3:48.41 at the 2019 Pan American Games.

They could have crashed the party at the 2020 Trials — and still could in 2021.

Looking Ahead to 2021

No matter what happens in this event at Trials, the U.S. will be underdogs at the Olympics.

Peter Vanderkaay’s bronze medal in London in 2012 was the last medal in the event. Prior to that, Larsen Jensen won the bronze in 2008 and Klete Keller won bronze in 2004 and 2000.

The last time the U.S. won gold in the event — and silver for that matter — was in 1984 in Los Angeles when George DiCarlo won gold in 3:51.23 and John Mykkanen took silver in 3:51.49.

Australia’s Mack Horton won the event in 2016 (3:41.55) and will be the favorite to repeat.

4 comments

  1. Nancy Hopf Sintes

    Zane is going to rock this race as well as the 800 and 1500!

  2. 郭经宇

    No ! Could be Sun yang!!!

    • avatar
      Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

      Which is why we mention the doping case, in precisely the same way as many did when Sun Yang tested positive … the temperature raised when Sun Yang ran into trouble with anti-doping for a second time on his way to an eight-year ban.

    • avatar
      Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

      No, it actually couldn’t be Sun Yang, he being Sun Yang and CD being CD and each having specific elements to their cases. Of course, we mention the doping case, in precisely the same way as many did when Sun Yang tested positive … the temperature raised when Sun Yang ran into trouble with anti-doping for a second time on his way to an eight-year ban.