Who Could Replace Phelps and Lochte in the IM Events?

Chase Kalisz and Connor Dwyer (middle and right). Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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By Kevin Gast, Swimming World College Intern.

This summer at the upcoming 2017 FINA World Championships, the United States’ roster will feature a brand new IM group. With Michael Phelps officially retired (for now) and Ryan Lochte suspended after the recent Rio debacle, the US will be without either of these two in an Individual Medley race for the first time since 2001. Sixteen years of fast swimming and reliability, suddenly gone- and without an immediate answer.

However, the World Championships will take place in July, and the US will certainly swim two IMers in the meet. So, the question remains- who can fill the monstrous shoes left by these two all-time greats?

Main Competitors

Chase Kalisz

Kalisz may be the first name that comes to mind to not only fill the 200 IM spot left open by these two, but become one of the the next great American swimmers. After his performance at the Arena Pro Series in Mesa — where he had personal best times in the 200 fly (1:55.82) and the 200 IM (1:57.71) — Kalisz has solidified himself as a competitor in at least three events for the World Championships.

He can legitimately contend in both IM races, the 200 fly and even the 200 breast. While it is unlikely that Kalisz will attempt to swim in all four of these events, he will be a major favorite to qualify for his next international meet. He’s building off both the 2016 Olympic games where he won a silver medal in the 400-meter IM and the 2017 NCAA Championships where he won the 400-yard IM title in a new American record-time. Look for Kalisz to compete for a spot in the 200 and 400 IM distances this summer.

Will Licon


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Licon did not swim either IM event at the 2016 Olympic Trials, instead opting to try his luck in both breaststroke events. While he fell just short of qualifying for his first Olympic team, he bounced back rather quickly in the form of three individual national titles and the overall team title at the 2017 NCAA Championships.

Licon decided not to swim the 400 IM at that meet, again opting for a breaststroke event, and while this decision ultimately paid off, Licon could make an appearance in at least one of the IM swims at the World Championship trials. Licon holds one of the fastest 200 IM times of active swimmers (1:58.43) and his 3:36.37 400-yard IM from last year’s NCAA meet, coupled with his incredible end to his NCAA career, make him a solid threat in both distances.

Jay Litherland

Litherland competed in the 2016 Olympic Games alongside his Georgia teammate Kalisz in the 400 IM, ultimately finishing fifth in the final. Litherland then came back and competed well at the 2017 NCAA Championships, finishing 7th in the final and just short of his personal best time.

While Litherland did not have as spectacular of an NCAA meet as some of his counterparts, he is a US Olympian with the experience to gut out a 400 I.M. in prime time. With Litherland being a better long course swimmer, look for him to compete for another spot on the US roster.

Other Competitors


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Conor Dwyer

While Dwyer’s name being on this list may surprise some people, he actually holds the fastest active time in the 200-meter IM (1:57.41) and the fourth fastest American time ever, done all the way back at the 2014 Summer Nationals meet.

However, Dwyer has seemingly switched his focus to the mid-distance freestyle events with great success. With Lochte and Phelps both out, Dwyer might consider a comeback in the IM events.

Michael Andrew

Andrew is usually considered a breaststroke/sprinter, but this past year he has made some major strides in the IM swims. He has swam the 400 distance at multiple Pro Series stops, and recently won the 100 short course-meter IM at the World Championships.

His 200-meter time (1:59.41) stacks up well against the other competitors on this list. Whether or not he contends will depend on if Andrew wants to focus solely on the breaststroke and sprint free events like he did at last year’s Olympic Trials.

Ryan Murphy

Murphy, the current World Record holder in the 100-meter backstroke and triple gold medalist at the 2016 Olympic Games, has competed in the 200 IM as his third event at multiple NCAA events.With this being Murphy’s third best event and with his distinction as being the US’s backstroker on the medley relay, Murphy could easily opt out of this race’s long course version.

Andrew Seliskar

Seliskar is coming off a fantastic finish to the 2017 NCAA season, finishing second in the 400-yard IM and sixth in the 200. His actual best time is only a 4:16.05 for the 400 and 1:59.84 for the 200, but both of these times come from over three years ago. If his short course success carries over, Seliskar could drop a significant amount of time in both events this summer.

Gunnar Bentz

Bentz, while being known more for his IM prowess at Georgia, qualified for the 2016 Olympics as an 800-meter freestyle relay swimmer. With Bentz finishing fourth in both IMs at the 2017 NCAA meet, look for him to compete for a spot at the World Championship trials.

Prediction for 2017 World Championships


Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher- USA TODAY Sports

While all of these men will not have a chance to compete in either IM events for the United States at the upcoming World Championships, other events could factor into each swimmer’s decision. Notably, at the upcoming World Championships in Budapest, there will be at least two major conflicts with swimmers and their primary events.

The 200-meter IM semi-final is on the same night as the 50 breaststroke final, meaning Licon and Andrew could have to make a decision. Also, the final of the 200 IM is the same night as the semi-final for the 200 backstroke- with Murphy being the defending Olympic champion in this event, he might decide to play it safe and opt out of the IM. The 200 fly final swims before the 200 IM semi-final, but with multiple events cushioned between them guys like Kalisz should be okay.

200 IM- Kalisz and Licon. Both are coming off of a great short course season. If Licon puts a strong effort in the IM race, he could potentially see a spot on the roster. Kalisz is better known for the 400 race, but his IM prowess and recent success make him a good bet.

400 IM- Kalisz and Litherland. Litherland has proven himself in long course and is a defending Olympic finalist. He is the safe bet behind Kalisz in the longer race.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.