U.S. Olympic Trials: Hali Flickinger Takes Women’s 400 IM Top Seed Over Margalis and Weyant

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

U.S. Olympic Trials: Hali Flickinger Takes Women’s 400 IM Top Seed Over Margalis and Weyant

During the fifth of sixth heats in the women’s 400 IM heats, Hali Flickinger set the early pace with her signature butterfly and then never surrendered that lead, even as teenager Emma Weyant chased her down on the freestyle leg. Flickinger was a 2016 U.S. Olympian in the 200 fly, but she has never represented the United States in the event in an international meet. Flickinger has been training for the past several years at Arizona State University under Bob Bowman, and she has begun contesting the 400 IM more seriously since then.

Flickinger finished in 4:37.79, just shy of her personal best time of 4:37.55 from earlier this year. Weyant, who has been as quick as 4:35.47 and delayed her college career at the University of Virginia by one year to train for Olympic Trials, touched second in 4:38.35. The favorite in the race, Flickinger’s former University of Georgia teammate Melanie Margalis, qualified third in 4:39.38 as she cruised to the win in heat six. Margalis currently ranks third in the world in 4:35.18, and she has been as quick as 4:32.53 (in March 2020).

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The women’s 400 IM has been a struggle internationally for the United States since the 2016 Olympics. The Americans have actually won medals in the event at the past four Olympic Games, with Kaitlin Sandeno (silver in 2004), Katie Hoff (bronze in 2008), Elizabeth Beisel (silver in 2012) and Maya DiRado (silver in 2016). But DiRado retired after those Rio Games, and Beisel followed her into retirement a year later, and no American has finished higher than sixth at the World Championships in either 2017 or 2019.

The two swimmers who represented the U.S. at the 2019 Worlds, Ally McHugh and Brooke Forde, qualified fourth (4:39.60) and eighth (4:42.63), respectively. Justina Kozan dropped more than a second from her best time to take fifth in 4:40.57, and Leah Smith (4:40.74) and Evie Pfeifer (4:42.42) also made the A-final.

Notably, Madisyn Cox entered ranked fifth in the world at 4:36.60, but she faded badly down the stretch in her heat swim after going out quickly with Flickinger, Weyant and McHugh. Cox ended up 10th in 4:44.36, but she will have another chance at qualifying for the Olympic team in the upcoming 200 IM.

Top eight qualifiers:

  1. Hali Flickinger 4:37.79
  2. Emma Weyant 4:38.35
  3. Melanie Margalis 4:39.38
  4. Ally McHugh 4:39.60
  5. Justina Kozan 4:40.57
  6. Leah Smith 4:40.74
  7. Evie Pfeifer 4:42.42
  8. Brooke Forde 4:42.63