Olympics: In Shocker, Favorite Daiya Seto Fails To Qualify For Final of 400 Individual Medley

Jul 24, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Jay Litherland (USA), right, and Daiya Seto (JPN), left, after the men's 400m individual medley heats during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Network

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Olympics: In Shocker, Favorite Daiya Seto Fails To Qualify For Final of 400 Individual Medley

For more than a year, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the one-year delay of the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan’s Daiya Seto was pegged as the man to secure the gold medal in the 400-meter individual medley. On home soil, the three-time world champion – including in 2019 – was expected to start the Tokyo Games in successful fashion for the host nation. Instead, Seto will be a spectator to the final.

It didn’t take long for the Tokyo Aquatics Centre to become a venue of doom as Seto, after leading his heat through 300 meters, fell apart down the stretch and placed ninth in his prime event. While Australia’s Brendon Smith led a tightly packed field into the championship heat, Seto’s time of 4:10.52 left him one slot shy of qualifying for the eight-man final. Smith was clocked in 4:09.27, with less than a second separating the athletes who will vie for the podium.

Seto appeared fine through the first three legs, but a 1:00.72 split on the freestyle leg proved disastrous. While Seto has never been a strong closer, a split of that sort was shocking. Seto was more than four seconds off his personal best of 4:06.09, and his struggles over the last two laps were epic, as the field reeled him in with every stroke.

Qualifying second and third behind Smith were New Zealand’s Lewis Clareburt (4:09.49) and American Chase Kalisz (4:09.65), the silver medalist in the 400 medley from the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Three-time European champion David Verraszto of Hungary was fourth in 4:09.80, with fifth being shared by Italy’s Alberto Razzetti and the United States’ Jay Litherland at 4:09.91. Closing out the field for the final were France’s Leon Marchand (4:10.09) and Great Britain’s Max Litchfield (4:10.20).

With minimal time separating the finalists, the first event of the finals session figures to be wide open. No athlete looked to take it so easy that there is a considerable time drop ahead, and plenty of jockeying figures to be on offer. From an experience standpoint, Kalisz and Litherland have the most, with Kalisz a former world champion and Litherland the silver medalist in the event at the 2019 World Championships.

In an interesting twist several hours before the Olympic prelims got underway, American Carson Foster delivered a world-leading time of 4:08.46 while racing at the Austin Sectionals. The performance of Foster served as a reminder of the depth of the United States in many events, as the 19-year-old was the third-place finisher at the United States Olympic Trials, overhauled down the stretch by Litherland.

Men’s 400 Individual Medley
World Record: Michael Phelps, United States, 4:03.84 (2008)
Olympic Record: Michael Phelps, United States, 4:03.84 (2008)

Finalists
1. Brendon Smith (Australia) 4:09.27
2. Lewis Clareburt (New Zealand) 4:09.49
3. Chase Kalisz (United States) 4:09.65
4. David Verraszto (Hungary) 4:09.80
5. Jay Litherland (United States) 4:09.91
5. ALberto Razzetti (Italy) 4:09.91
7. Leon Marchand (France) 4:10.09
8. Max Litchfield (Great Britain) 4:10.20

 

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