WOMEN’S 400 IM
- 2012 Olympic Champ: Ye Shiwen (China), 4:28.43
- 2015 Worlds Champ: Katinka Hosszu (Hungary), 4:30.39
- World Record: 4:28.43 | Ye Shiwen (China) | 07/28/2012
It’s very fitting that Katinka Hosszu dominates the individual medley, considering she holds a Hungarian national record in at least one event in every stroke besides breaststroke. After a crushing 4th place finish in the 400 IM at the London Olympics, the Iron Lady turned around in 2013 to win world titles in the 200 IM and 400 IM. From there, she became well-known for loading up her regular season meet schedules with upwards of six or seven events, and going pretty darn fast in nearly all of her races.
Hosszu, who has won world titles in both IM’s the last two World Championships, set five short course world records in 2014. Last summer, she earned a huge achievement by breaking Ariana Kukors’ suit-aided long course WR in the 200 IM with a stunning 2:06.12 in Kazan. With world records in short and long course, several world titles, and a slew of European titles, Hosszu is in search of another reward for her hard work: Olympic gold.
There hasn’t been anyone fast enough in the IM’s to bet against Hosszu in Rio, and she has other things to focus on, like Ye Shiwen‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics. Ye, who pulled off a seemingly impossible sub-1:00 freestyle leg in London to blow right past 300m leader Elizabeth Beisel, smashed the WR and took it down to a 4:28.43. While that time is still far ahead of most any 400 IM’er today, Hosszu cracked the 4:30 barrier with a 4:29.89 at the FFN Golden Tour in Marseille this past March, and she may very well be far enough under 4:30 in Rio to challenge Ye’s world mark.
Beisel, meanwhile, has been through a rough season or two. The 2012 silver medalist, who swam very well at the 2013 World Champs (bronze) and 2014 Pan Pac Champs (gold), faltered in Kazan after suffering from a groin injury in the winter and was only 12th in the race there. At the recent U.S. Trials, Beisel muscled through a 400 IM for 2nd place behind Maya Dirado after being hospitalized with the flu during the week before Trials. She then fractured a finger and tore a ligament in a warm-up pool collision, which really set her back– she ended up 8th in the 200 back final, an event in which she won the bronze in London.
Beisel is a very resilient swimmer, however, and she showed just how in shape she was with a 4:33 at the Atlanta Classic in May. Don’t let her Trials performance be a strong predictor of how she’ll perform in Rio. With another month to heal up her finger and shake off the flu that left her in the hospital days before she swam at Trials, Beisel can’t be counted out of those in the mix for a minor medal. It might be Maya Dirado, however, who looks like she has the best shot at the silver. Dirado proved at Trials to be America’s next-best female swimmer behind Katie Ledecky after three dominant wins in the 200 back, 200 IM, and 400 IM. Rio is the last meet of her career, and she will be gunning for a medal here to go out on top.
Mireia Belmonte will absolutely have a say in this final– the Spanish record holder in this event lives for the most painful of races, like the 200 fly, 800 and 1500 free, and, of course, the 400 IM. Belmonte has been 4:33 this season, just like Beisel and Dirado, though she is entered in a staggering six events in Rio. The 400 IM should take priority over most of her other races, however, and if we see the same Belmonte who blasted a 4:31.21 at the 2013 World Champs, she’ll be in the hunt for silver in Rio.
British duo Aimee Wilmott and Hannah Miley have both been under 4:35 this season, though Miley looks stronger after posting a 4:33.40 to win the British National Championships this spring. They both appeared in last summer’s final in Kazan, with Miley touching 4th and Wilmott 7th overall. Also appearing in that final was Sakiko Shimizu, who finished sixth ahead of Wilmott.
Australia’s Blair Evans, meanwhile, has had quite the story leading up to Rio. At just 11 years old, doctors told her she had osteomyelitis, an infection that targeted her hip, and after having surgery she was alarmed when informed that she may never run or swim again. She battled back and elevated her game, however, enough to compete at the 2012 Olympics. She was unable to qualify for the final, but despite struggling with separate shoulder and neck injuries after 2012, Evans charged to the win at the Australian Trials in this event in April. She was 4:35.26 there, a lifetime best, and significantly faster than her 4:40.42 in London.
Canada’s Emily Overholt merits mention based on her bronze medal at last summer’s World Championships. Overholt was 4:32.52 to break the Canadian record there. But she didn’t appear fully healthy at Canadian Trials, falling to second place behind teammate Sydney Pickrem. Both women were 4:38s and would need much better swims in Rio to challenge for medals.
The biggest wild card is the world record-holder, Ye Shiwen. After a disastrous swim at Chinese Nationals, Ye appeared to be out of the 400 IM, though she made the team in the 200 IM. But China announced its roster this week, including Ye in both IM races. Still, she has struggled in this event of late. After her 4:28 in London, she was 4:30 in 2014, but last year only went 4:36 at Chinese Nationals and then 4:42 at Worlds in Kazan. She’s been 4:45 at best in 2016, and would need a major return to form to even make the final in Rio.
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