400m Free World Championship Preview: The Race For Silver


  • Day 1, Saturday, August 2nd
  • 2013 World Champion: Katie Ledecky, USA – 3:59.82 (SEE RACE VIDEO ABOVE)
  • 2013 Silver Medalist: Melanie Costa-Schmid, ESP – 4:02.47
  • 2013 Bronze Medalist: Lauren Boyle, NZL – 4:03.89

Breaking four minutes in the women’s 400 free was once thought to be an impossible task. Over the years, it became more and more realistic as the top women in the world inched closer and closer to the mark. After a 4:02 in 2006 and then a 4:01 in 2008, it finally happened at the 2009 championships in Rome when Italy’s Federica Pellegrini became the first women ever to do so with a time of 3:59.15. This was of course done with the aid of the polyurethane suits that are now banned. No one else was able to break four minutes with or without the suits, until Katie Ledecky did so at the 2013 worlds going 3:59.82. She followed that up breaking Pellegrini’s record twice in 2014 going 3:58.86 and then 3:58.37. Ledecky is constantly breaking new ground in the women’s distance freestyle events, and she will look to continue to do so again this summer.

James Sutherland womens 400 free world championship preview


The real question is will any other women join her in continuing to make this event faster as a whole. Looking at recent results, the rest of the world seems to be stagnating at around the 4:02-4:04 level, while Ledecky is constantly improving. This summer there will be two races going on, Ledecky versus the clock, and everyone else racing for silver. 

Take a look at the top times from around the world this year:

2014-2015 LCM Women 400 Free

View Top 26»

Ever since breaking four minutes and winning gold at the 2013 worlds, Katie Ledecky is the undisputed favourite in the event and it would be a surprise if anyone could challenge her. She continues to drop time despite being the best in the world, and we can only expect the same this summer. After becoming the first women to break 3:59 last summer, becoming the first to break 3:58 doesn’t seem out of reach and could very well happen in Kazan.

Mireia Belmonte Garcia of Spain is coming off an outstanding performance at the short course world championships in December, which included a gold in the 400 free. She is also the short course world record holder in the event, and has been ranked 4th in the world the last two years. She has recently shown the ability to have clutch performances at big championship meets and will be in the fight for the silver medal behind Ledecky.

Jazmin Carlin of Great Britain has been one of the top performers in the event the last few years, including a silver at the Commonwealth Games last year, and the 2nd ranked time behind Ledecky in each of the last two years. Lauren Boyle of New Zealand is coming off a gold medal performance at the Commonwealth Games in the 400 free, and won the bronze in the event two years ago in Barcelona. She is ranked 3rd in the event this year and will be a medal contender.

Sharon van Rouwnedaal of the Netherlands originally saw international success in the backstroke events (including a bronze in the 200 back at the Shangahi world championships), but has recently seen success in the distance freestyle events, as well as open water. In 2014 she won silver at the European championships  and silver at the short course world championships. She was ranked 3rd in the world last year with a 4:03.76, and will challenge for a medal this summer.

Jessica Ashwood won the Australian trials with the 6th ranked time in the world and is the Aussies best bet to make the final. She has gone 4:05 this year and last year and looks to break that barrier along with a spot in the final.

Cierra Runge of the United States had a breakout year last year including a silver medal at the Pan Pacific Championships and a 7th ranked 4:04.55. Due to the fact that the Amercian swimmers qualified for worlds last summer, a lot of them haven’t swum a shaved and tapered meet in 2015, so it is difficult to tell where they are in their training this year. However, Runge swam a strong 400 at the Santa Clara Pro Swim on the weekend and I think we’ll see her regain her form from last summer in Kazan and make a push for a spot in the final.

Coralie Balmy of France has had a great season and is currently ranked 5th in the world and is a good bet for a final.

An interesting darkhorse pick is Melanie Costa-Schmid of Spain. At the 2013 world championships she won the silver behind Ledecky swimming a 4:02.47. Since that swim, the fastest she has been is 4:07.24 and has been 4:07.52 this year. She is certainly capable of getting into the medal hunt, but based off her recent results it would be a surprise. Others to watch for in this event include Alice Mizzau of Italy, Yue Cao of China, Lotte Friis of Denmark, and Sarah Kohler of Germany. Of course Katinka Hosszu can never be counted out, but her scheduled might just be a bit too crowded to include the 400 free this year.


  1. 1. Katie Ledecky, USA                          3:57.75 WR
  2. 2. Mireia Belmonte Garcia, ESP       4:02.26
  3. 3. Jazmin Carlin, GBR                         4:02.50
  4. 4. Lauren Boyle, NZL                          4:02.96
  5. 5. Sharon van Rouwnedaal, NED     4:03.64
  6. 6. Jessica Ashwood, AUS                     4:04.87
  7. 7. Cierra Runge, USA                            4:04.97
  8. 8. Coralie Balmy, FRA                          4:05.25

Darkhorse: Melanie Costa-Schmid, ESP        4:06.16


Day 1, Sun August 2nd (Day 9)

Day 2, Mon August 3rd (Day 10)

  • M 100 Breast
  • W 100 Fly
  • M 50 Fly
  • W 200 IM

Day 3, Tue August 4th (Day 11)

  • M 200 Free
  • W 100 Back
  • W 1500 Free
  • M 100 Back
  • W 100 Breast

Day 4, Wed August 5th (Day 12)

Day 5, Thur August 6th (Day 13)

  • M 200 IM
  • M 100 Free
  • W 200 Fly
  • W 50 Back
  • W 4×200 Free Relay

Day 6, Fri August 7th (Day 14)

  • W 100 Free
  • M 200 Back
  • W 200 Breast
  • M 200 Breast
  • M 4×200 Free Relay

Day 7, Sat August 8th (Day 15)

  • W 50 Fly
  • M 50 Free
  • W 200 Back
  • M 100 Fly
  • W 800 Free
  • MIXED 4×100 Free Relay

Day 8, Sun August 9th (Day 16)

  • M 50 Back
  • W 50 Breast
  • M 400 IM
  • W 50 Free
  • M 1500 Free
  • W 400 IM
  • M 4×100 Medley Relay
  • W 4×100 Medley Relay

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5 years ago

Didn’t Mireia Belmonte Garcia just suffer a shoulder injury?

Reply to  Deraj
5 years ago

Yes, but she swam at the Spanish Open water nationals a few days ago and got Silver still.

5 years ago

Would disagree with the calls for the “minor coin”; I’d favour Carlin & Boyle though in what order I wouldn’t care to wager. Belmonte & Van Rouwnedaal have possibilities but I prefer the recent form of Carlin & Boyle.

Not seeing others really being in the medal picture and I’m very surprised to see Ashwood even given any consideration given her record of international performance. From trips to 2012 Olympics, 2013 Worlds, 2014 CommGames & 2014 Pan Pacs; she has a CV of making ONE final ! Regrettably, she doesn’t appear able to replicate domestic swims into performances when it really counts.

Gina Rhinestone
Reply to  commonwombat
5 years ago

Give her abreak . Whilst it is no doubt disappointing for you , there must be a reason . It could be that she swims well in summer because she was on uni vacation & can do lots of metres.

Jessica is a good person who also has scoliosis & often swims in pain . Perhaps flying long hours in economy is not helpful .

But definitely there are problems of back & shoulder injuries taking out every young distance swimmer permanently from 2009 tothe present . Goldman Evans Macdonald Fairweather Bowles all 4.06-8.25 swimmers cripple creek .

Btw great 1500 Jess !

Reply to  Gina Rhinestone
5 years ago

Thank you for the backgrounding, it provides some reasonable explanation. As someone who deals with major pain issues on a daily basis, I can certainly empathise. The casualty toll of female distance swimmers is a distinct concern and one the AUS coaching and sports med fraternities need to address.

However, the point remains pertinent that she appears to be up for one preparation per year and it’s arguable these have been best calibrated with her best times generally coming in State titles prior to Nationals. The 1500 time a week or so back DOES give some hope that this is may be “negotiable” but her international CV is not one that inspires confidence.

5 years ago

“The race for silver”.. Sums this up perfectly!

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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