Olympics: Henning Bennet Muhlleitner Surprise Top Seed in 400 Freestyle; Gabriele Detti Looking For Another Podium

Jul 24, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Henning Bennet Muhlleitner (GER) after the men's 400m freestyle heats during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Network

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Olympics: Henning Bennet Muhlleitner Surprise Top Seed in 400 Freestyle; Gabriele Detti Looking For Another Podium

When it comes to distance-freestyle standouts from Germany, the name Florian Wellbrock is immediately uttered. Apparently, Henning Bennet Muhlleitner wants to be known, too.

Keeping the surprises rolling on the men’s side during Day One action at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Muhlleitner claimed the top seed in the 400-meter freestyle behind a career-best performance of 3:43.67. That time won the fourth of five heats and narrowly edged the 3:43.91 performance of Austria’s Felix Aubock, who will race the final as the second seed and coming off a silver medal at the European Championships in May. Muhlleitner negatively split his race, covering the first 200 meters in 1:52.02 and coming home over the last four laps in 1:51.65.

Seeking his second consecutive Olympic medal in the event, Italy’s Gabriele Detti advanced as the third seed, as he touched the wall in 3:44.67 for the only other sub-3:45 performance. Detti was the bronze medalist at the 2016 Games and is a threat to move up a step or two on the podium. He was followed in joint fourth place by the Australian tandem of Elijah Winnington and Jack McLoughlin, who posted identical times of 3:45.20.

Rounding out the field for the final are Americans Kieran Smith (3:45.25) and Jake Mitchell (3:45.38) and Tunisia’s Ahmed Hafnaoui (3:45.68).

“I was a little uncomfortable,” Smith said. “I was a little anxious today. I’m happy to be back in the final and hope to get a full night’s sleep and be ready.”

Two medal contenders were eliminated from prelims as Lithuania’s Danas Rapsys was 13th and Russia’s Martin Malyutin was 22nd. Malyutin won the European title two months ago, where Rapsys was the bronze medalist.

This Olympiad’s version of the event was without the main combatants of the Rio Games, Australia’s Mack Horton and China’s Sun Yang. While Horton failed to qualify for the event at the Aussie Trials, Sun was handed a suspension for his part in a conflict with testing officials during an out-of-competition visit in 2018. Sun appealed his initial eight-year ban, with the Court of Arbitration for Sport deciding on a four-year ban after a retrial.

Men’s 400 Freestyle

World Record: Paul Biedermann, Germany, 3:40.07 (2009)
Olympic Record: Sun Yang, China, 3:40.14 (2012)

Finalists

1. Henning Bennet Muhlleitner (Germany) 3:43.67
2. Felix Aubock (Austria) 3:43.91
3. Gabriele Detti (Italy) 3:44.67
4. Elijah Winnington (Australia) 3:45.20
4. Jack McLoughlin (Australia) 3:45.20
6. Kieran Smith (United States) 3:45.25
7. Jake Mitchell (United States) 3:45.38
8. Ahmed Hafnaoui (Tunisia) 3:45.68