Olympic Trials Day 1 Finals: Hometown Hero Aaron Shackell Wins Men’s 400 Free to Earn First Olympic Spot (VIDEO)

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

There are plenty of evens that will be wide open at the 2024 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials this week in Indianapolis, but one of the more intriguing events of late has been the men’s 400 freestyle.

Throw in some local teens and the first final of the meet had a lot of excitement.

And in true storybook fashion, the 19-year-old from Carmel, Indiana, just a few miles away, became the first swimmer to punch their ticket to Paris.

Aaron Shackell won the race in 3:45.46, holding off a late charge from Kieran Smith, who took second in 3:45.76.

“It is a moment I always dreamed of, getting a medal in front of a massive crowd. That is the moment every kid dreams about. I was soaking it in,” Shackell said. “We inspire each other (at Carmel) and that carries over from generation to generation. When my sister told me I was going to be an Olympian, it was probably the best moment of my life.”

Shackell’s sister, Alex, and brother, Andrew, are also competing at the trials. Their father was an Olympian for Great Britain.

“Looking up to people is what helped me want to be good. It energizes you,” Aaron said.

The finals saw three Olympians in the top eight, but also saw a couple of teens outdo them in prelims.

It is also an event that the U.S. has collectively struggled in on an international level.

In 2021, Jake Mitchell won the event, but did not automatically qualify for the Olympics because his swim did not meet the Olympic “A” standard.

He went on to swim an extremely memorable time trial later at trials where he, energized by the crowd, surged to the qualifying time and punched his ticket to Tokyo.

“I was in the zone and I saw I had the lead (the last 50),” Shackell said. “I had the mindset that I was not going to let myself lose.”

In Saturday’s prelims, teen Luke Whitlock was the only swimmer to reach the qualifying time. The standard is 3:46.78 – and Whitlock was just under that at 3:46.42.

This time, two U.S. swimmers reached the A standard and should be headed to Paris. Smith is not an official member of Team USA for Paris just yet, but once the team fills out is extremely likely.

“I was so looking forward to these swims. I wanted to prove that I was consistent,” Smith said. “I wanted to prove I was capable of being a two-time Olympian, and I just proved it. I can’t wait to keep the meet rolling. These heats were really competitive, a 3:48 missed and it was second three years ago. We still have some work to do against the rest of the world, but baby steps.”

David Johnston finished third in 3:46.19, ahead of Bobby Finke (3:46.27), Whitlock (3:46.55) and Jake Magahey (3:46.89). Daniel Matheson was seventh (3:48.63) and Mitchell was eighth in 3:50.76.

More Olympic Trials Coverage

Notify of

Welcome to our community. We invite you to join our discussion. Our community guidelines are simple: be respectful and constructive, keep on topic, and support your fellow commenters. Commenting signifies that you agree to our Terms of Use

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x