Tokyo Vision: Daiya Seto Seeking to Ride Momentum to Top of Podium in 400 IM

Daiya Seto
Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr

Tokyo Vision: Daiya Seto Seeking to Ride Momentum to Top of Podium in 400 IM

Had the COVID-19 pandemic not shaken the world, the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo would be unfolding right now, titles and podium finishes earned by the finest athletes from around the world. Instead, we are in a competition lull and hopeful that the Games will be held next summer, with COVID-19 neutralized.

As we reach the nine days over which the swimming competition of a delayed Olympiad would have taken place, Swimming World is taking a glimpse at what might have unfolded this summer, had the Olympics not been postponed. Following the official schedule, we offer our virtual fields of eight finalists for each event and take a brief look at how the racing might have panned out until a few strokes away from decision and a result that will not be known until July/August 2021.

League of Olympic Swim Legends: Michael Phelps Tops 400 IM Podium With Darnyi & Dolan

Event: Men’s 400 Individual Medley
World Record: Michael Phelps (2008) – 4:03.84

Historical Note #1: At the 1972 Games in Munich, Sweden’s Gunnar Larsson won the gold medal over the United States’ Tim McKee by .002. Larsson was timed in 4:31.981, with McKee touching in 4:31.983. It was later decided not to take results out to the thousandth of a second and if athletes tied to the hundredth of a second, they would share the medal.

Historical Note #2: Hungary’s Tamas Darnyi was the first man to repeat as Olympic champion in the event, taking the crown in 1988 and 1992. Darnyi set a world record en route to a two-plus second victory over American David Wharton in Seoul and prevailed by more than a second over the United States Eric Namesnik in Barcelona.

Virtual Vision

The Finalists (Listed Alphabetically)

  • Brandonn Almeida – Brazil
  • Lewis Clareburt – New Zealand
  • Kosuke Hagino – Japan
  • Chase Kalisz – United States
  • Max Litchfield – Great Britain
  • Jay Litherland – United States
  • Daiya Seto – Japan
  • David Verraszto – Hungary

The Race

Before the COVID-19 shutdown, Japan’s Daiya Seto had built significant momentum behind several superb performances over a range of events. As the reigning world champion, Seto was granted automatic entry in the event by the Japanese Swimming Federation, a decision that allowed him to concentrate solely on the Olympics. Seto’s momentum was on display from the outset, as he – expectedly – bolted to the head of the field on the opening butterfly leg. Of anyone in the field, Seto is the most capable of producing a wire-to-wire triumph, and he certainly wasn’t shy about attacking the race.


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Although Seto had the lead through the first half of the race, Chase Kalisz and Kosuke Hagino were close, a reminder of their history together at past Olympics and World Championships. As the athletes moved through the backstroke, Seto had generated a clear lead, but nothing that put the race out of reach.

During the breaststroke leg, Kalisz put together one of his trademark surges, but Seto’s improvement in the stroke enabled him to yield less ground than in past showdowns. It also meant Kalisz had more work to do on the freestyle portion.

For Hagino, his contention served as a feel-good story for an athlete who not long ago took a needed break from the sport to gather himself mentally and emotionally. Vastly talented, Hagino gradually returned to form and squeezed his way onto the Japanese roster. By earning his ticket to a home Olympiad, Hagino also bought himself additional time to return to No. 1 world form. As he turned for the freestyle, Hagino was in position to medal, something that looked unlikely as recently as a year ago.

Down the freestyle leg, Seto battled hard to maintain his advantage, but Kalisz and Hagino were closing, and Jay Litherland, known for his freestyle power, was making up considerable ground. As the first event of the Tokyo Games neared its finish, Seto still had a slight lead, but would he hold it through the touch? And, who would be left off the podium?

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3 years ago

Seto and Hagino one two finish. Third? Litherland or Kalisz…….

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