Sarasota's Emma Weyant wins 400 IM at U.S. Olympic trials to secure spot at Tokyo Olympics

19-year-old rallies over final 50 meters passing three swimmers to claim spot on US Olympic swim team

Doug Fernandes
Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Sarasota's Emma Weyant reacts after winning the women's 400 Individual medley during at the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials on Sunday night in Omaha, Neb. With the win the Riverview High graduate qualified for the U.S. Olympic swim team.

It took an Olympian effort for Emma Weyant to become one.

Trailing three other swimmers entering the final leg of the women’s 400-meter individual medley, the Sarasota Shark and Riverview High School graduate overcame all three over the final 50 meters to finish first on Sunday night at the United States Swimming Olympic Trials at the CHI Health Center Omaha in Omaha, Nebraska, and secure a spot at the Tokyo Olympics.

Previous coverage:11 Sarasota Shark swimmers headed to Omaha for US Olympic swim trials

And:Meet the Sarasota Sharks who are chasing their Olympic dream

The 19-year-old, who took a year off from the University of Virginia to train under Shark CEO and head coach Brent Arckey, trailed Hali Flickinger, Melanie Margalis and Leah Smith, all three former Olympians, heading into the final 100 meters.

Sarasota's Emma Weyant races to a first-place finish in the women's 400 Individual medley during the U.S. Olympic swim trials on Sunday night in Omaha, Neb.

But Weyant, who was entered in seven events at the Trials, used the final 50 meters of the freestyle portion of the IM to seize the lead and hold off Flickinger in a time of 4 minutes, 33.81 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year. The 26-year-old Flickinger, a seventh-place finisher in the 200 butterfly at the 2016 Summer Olympics, touched the wall in 4:33.96, the second-best time in the world this year. She will join Weyant on the U.S. team in Tokyo.

“I breathe to my right, and I could see Leah Smith, and the last 25 I was just trying to put my head down and get to the wall,” said Weyant in her post-race press conference. “This is my first Trials, but I had goals going into this meet. This meet was all about racing and I got to race some of the best swimmers in the world.”

Weyant said she was shocked she had touched the wall first. “I didn’t even look at my time first. I just heard it, and I looked straight over to my sister (Gracie). I’m super excited.”

Sarasota's Emma Weyant celebrates her first-place finish in the women's 400-meter individual medley during the medal ceremony at the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials on Sunday night in Omaha, Neb.

After the race, as she accepted her first-place medal, Weyant became emotional when fans at the CHI Health Center Omaha cheered loudly for her. “Yeah, I mean, I’ve never experienced anything like that,” she said. "It’s definitely the biggest crowd I’ve ever swam in front of. Just hearing everything, seeing everything, it was surreal for me.”

As a sign of her improvement in the 400 IM, her best event, when the 17-year-old Weyant posted a 4:35.47 in 2019 in August 2019 at the USA Swimming Nationals in Palo Alto, California, it was the fastest time of any American swimmer that year. Another was that Weyant negatively split her final 100 meters, meaning she had the strength and stamina to swim the last 50 faster than the first 50.

Sarasota's Emma Weyant has a big smile after winning the women's 400 Individual medley during the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials on Sunday night in Omaha, Neb.

“I am not sure I have ever done that before,” she said. “(Sunday night), it was just, ‘whatever it takes.’ That has been my mantra on training. I think mentally, for me, the (butter)fly is the hardest, just trying not to go too hard on it. It hurts in the breaststroke and freestyle, but that is the best part of the race for me.”

But the best part of it all for Emma Weyant?

Next stop: Tokyo.