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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8 years ago

Let’s not forget also : She must be the only swimmer on the planet that has broken that many worlds records in only 2 Years . She lowered the 400 2 times , The 1500 2 times and the 800 one time if i am correct . That’s Huge !!!!

M Palota
8 years ago

I really am looking forward to seeing Ledecky can do. if she’s on, I’m thinking 3:57-ish, maybe even a 3:56-high!

She is knocking out absolutely amazing swims. Just went a 8:16 in the 800 at a meet in Indiana and she hasn’t tapered yet!

She’ll plateau at some point – everybody does – but that plateau is going to be damm high!

8 years ago

I do not understand the doubters here. We can only make predictions based on past times, consistency, and rate of improvement. No one can predict a five second drop, which would not be enough by the way. No one knows about the racers’ personal problems and thoughts that may effect the race. We only have evidence.

No one is close by in time, Ledecky has a fantastic track record at Championship meets, is dropping time, the list goes on. Based on evidence presented there is no way she will lose this race (lol watch her lose now.)

Is anyone thinking Sarah sjostrom is going to lose 50 or 100 fly? Probably not. Is anyone thinking Adam Peaty will lose… Read more »

8 years ago

Although I do agree that ledecky will win in my predictions. I do agree with some of the commenters that it is fairly ignorant of you to call this a guarantee! Nothing is ever a guarantee in sports!!! I would have expected you to know better swimswam

Reply to  Jimbo
8 years ago

To be fair, we never said she was guaranteed. We said “all but guaranteed”, which is similar, but not the same thing. It means she is very likely.

In regards to the title, the race will be for second. Yes, everyone is racing to win, but if Ledecky repeats her best time, she will be 4-5 seconds of anyone else.

I hate to say it will be boring to watch Ledecky run away with the race, but I enjoy watching two swimmers battle it out, neck-and-neck, down the final lap of a race.

So yes, Ledecky will probably make history, or at least get close, but the more exciting race will be watching the rest of the field… Read more »

Reply to  Tony Carroll
8 years ago

Very well replied Tony . there are many doubters around here and they like to argue the obvious . Unless Ledecky gets ill at the last minute or something else happens , she is the HEAVY Favourite .

8 years ago

Thanks. It’s always possible that something last minute happens. Just look at Missy Franklin last summer in Australia, for example. I chose to look at this event and see where the “racing” will most likely be happening, rather than who is most likely to win.

8 years ago

Leah Smith should have been in the mix. She has beaten Runge long course as well as short.

Reply to  Pastmytime
8 years ago

Pastmytime – Leah Smith is not racing the 400 free at Worlds, but she is at the World University Games.

Reply to  Pastmytime
8 years ago

And Runge has beat Smith so the party isn’t over yet

Victor P
8 years ago

Of course, Ledecky wins, but with a better time: 3:57.3

Silver and bronze will go 4:01 (Carlin, Belmonte-Garcia).

8 years ago

No swimmer is guaranteed victory – that’s why we swim races; on any given day anyone can have an average or bad swim while someone else is having the swim of their lives. You really might have a bit more tact than calling this “the race for silver”. No issue saying Katie Ledecky should win – but “will” win? Not so classy.

Reply to  GoPokes
8 years ago

The board has reviewed…

Yes, we have confirmed, Ledecky is a 100% sure fire, no-second guessing, lock for Gold.

Thanks for playing! lol

Seriously, its like when Phelps was swimming the 200 fly in mid 2000s… he was the safest bet in vegas.

Reply to  rjcid
8 years ago

I’ll bet for a false start

Reply to  GoPokes
8 years ago

I agree that nobody is guaranteed to win a race, but even a bad race for Ledecky at a championship meet is 4:00. She’s been 4:00.4 in season already. Let’s say she only goes 4:00.4 again, It’s still unlikely that anyone else will put up that kind of time even on their best day.

M Palota
Reply to  Tony Carroll
8 years ago

Misty Myman beat Susie O’Neal in Sydney… And the Americans beat the Soviets in 1980.

I agree that Ledecky’s as close to a surefire lock as you can get but, to coin a phrase, “the ball is round”.

Steve-O Nolan
Reply to  GoPokes
8 years ago

I agree with this li’l comment here.

I dunno, but for some reason “the race for silver” just made me want to see someone else win. So thanks, awesome, now I’m rooting against America.

Vote For Marty Huggins
Reply to  Steve-O Nolan
8 years ago

I don’t wanna live in Rainbow Land, and YOU CAN’T MAKE ME! MERICA!

Reply to  GoPokes
8 years ago

It’s not guaranteeing Ledecky the gold, and it’s not meant to put anyone down. It’s simply acknowledging that barring a DQ or a Lezak-level upset from one of the other girls, Katie Ledecky will win. The second best girl could drop, Ledecky could add, but unless that margin in pretty significant on both sides, the outcome will remain the same.

It’s not an insult, it’s not tactless, Ledecky is just that good right now.

Lane Four
Reply to  sven
8 years ago

The same thing happened in Barcelona 1992 Olympics. Janet Evans was a sure thing for gold in the 400 when a German swimmer by the name of Dagmar Hase put a real hitch in the predictions and Evans ended up with a silver medal – to a backstroker! I like predictions but never do I say with 100% certainty that someone is going to win. Yes, in all likelihood the favorite will win, but you never know what can happen on a certain day.

Reply to  GoPokes
8 years ago

I am a huge fan of Katie Ledecky. I fully expect her to win by a large margin, but at that level, nobody is guaranteed a victory. There are a number of things that can go wrong, in or out of her control.

Steve-O Nolan
Reply to  Dan
8 years ago

Right? Her goggles fall off and she swims directly into a wall or something.

Not likely, but totally possible.

8 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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