Florian Wellbrock’s name is one among the first that comes up when discussing outstanding Germans in the field of distance freestyle. Henning Bennet Muhlleitner, it would appear, also seeks notoriety.
H.B. Muhlleitner Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
On the men’s side, Muhlleitner kept the unexpected results coming on Day One of the Tokyo Olympics by earning the top seed in the 400-meter freestyle with a personal best time of 3 minutes, 43 seconds, and seventeen hundredths of a second.
This time was good enough to win the fourth of five heats, just edging out the 3:43.91 posted by Felix Aubock of Austria, the runner-up from the European Championships in May and the number two seed for the final. Negative splits characterise H.B. Muhlleitner race; he ran the first 200 metres in 1:52.02 and the final 400 metres in 1:51.65.
Gabriele Detti of Italy, who is going for a second straight Olympic medal in the event, is the third seed and moved on after touching the wall in 3:44.67, the only other sub-3:45 time.
Detti won bronze at the 2016 Olympics and is a strong contender for higher medals this time around. Elijah Winnington and Jack McLoughlin, both of Australia, finished with a time of 3:45.20 to tie for fourth place with him.
The finalist group is rounded out by Ahmed Hafnaoui of Tunisia and Americans Kieran Smith and Jake Mitchell, who each had times of 3:45.25 and 3:45.38, respectively (3:45.68).
The discomfort I felt was palpable, Smith admitted. This morning, I was feeling a bit nervous. My goal is to get a good night’s sleep and be refreshed for tomorrow’s final.
Danas Rapsys of Lithuania and Martin Malyutin of Russia, both medal hopefuls, were eliminated in the preliminary round after finishing 13th and 22nd, respectively. Malyutin triumphed at the European Championships two months ago, while Rapsys placed third.
The main competitors from the Rio Olympics, Australia’s Mack Horton and China’s Sun Yang, were not present in this Olympiad’s version of the event.
In 2018, Sun was suspended for his role in a confrontation with testing officials during an out-of-competition visit, while Horton failed to qualify for the event at the Australian Trials. After appealing Sun’s original eight-year penalty, the Court of Arbitration for Sport lowered it to four years.