Yui Ohashi Becomes 7th Straight Women’s 200/400 IM Olympic Champion

In an era where elite swimmers seem to be specializing more and more, the ultimate anti-specialist discipline has been resilient to the trend. At every Olympics since the 1996 Games in Atlanta, the same woman who won the 200 IM won the 400 IM. That’s 7 straight Olympic occasions

The trend began with Irish swimmer Michelle Smith who collected gold in both IM events in 1996, defeating Canada’s Mariene Limpert in the 200 and the USA’s Allison Wagner in the 400. Since Smith’s double victory, the 200 IM/400 IM has seen the same gold medalist for 7 Games straight in the form of Yana Klochkova, Stepanie Rice, Ye Shiwen, Katinka Hosszu, and now Yui Ohashi.

Olympic Women’s 200/400 IM Podiums – 1996 – 2020

200 IM
1996 Atlanta Michelle Smith
 Ireland
Marianne Limpert
 Canada
Lin Li
 China
2000 Sydney Yana Klochkova
 Ukraine
Beatrice Câşlaru
 Romania
Cristina Teuscher
 United States
2004 Athens Yana Klochkova
 Ukraine
Amanda Beard
 United States
Kirsty Coventry
 Zimbabwe
2008 Beijing Stephanie Rice
 Australia
Kirsty Coventry
 Zimbabwe
Natalie Coughlin
 United States
2012 London Ye Shiwen
 China
Alicia Coutts
 Australia
Caitlin Leverenz
 United States
2016 Rio de Janeiro Katinka Hosszú
 Hungary
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor
 Great Britain
Maya DiRado
 United States
2020 Tokyo Yui Ohashi
 Japan
Alex Walsh
 United States
Kate Douglass
 United States

 

400 IM
1996 Atlanta Michelle Smith
 Ireland
Allison Wagner
 United States
Krisztina Egerszegi
 Hungary
2000 Sydney Yana Klochkova
 Ukraine
Yasuko Tajima
 Japan
Beatrice Câşlaru
 Romania
2004 Athens Yana Klochkova
 Ukraine
Kaitlin Sandeno
 United States
Georgina Bardach
 Argentina
2008 Beijing Stephanie Rice
 Australia
Kirsty Coventry
 Zimbabwe
Katie Hoff
 United States
2012 London Ye Shiwen
 China
Elizabeth Beisel
 United States
Li Xuanxu
 China
2016 Rio de Janeiro Katinka Hosszú
 Hungary
Maya DiRado
 United States
Mireia Belmonte García
 Spain
2020 Tokyo Yui Ohashi
 Japan
Emma Weyant
 United States
Hali Flickinger
 United States

After Michelle Smith won the events in 1996, Ukrainian swimmer Yana Klochkova brought the events into the 21st century, taking gold in both 2000 and 2004. Klochkova won a third Olympic medal at the 2000 Games in Sydney when she took silver in the women’s 800 freestyle. Her gold medal-winning swim in 2000 was a new world record at the time of 4:33.59 which stood until Katie Hoff hit a 4:32.89 in 2007. Klochkova remains one of the greatest swimmers in Ukrainian history and still holds both the 200 and 400 IM national records today.

Following Klochkova, Australia’s Stephanie Rice continued the trend at the 2008 Games as she took the world record from Katie Hoff with a 4:29.45. Rice didn’t stop with the 400, however, in Beijing and she went on to down the world record in the 200 IM with a 2:08.45 and also contributed to the Australian women’s 7:44.31 world record in the 4×200 freestyle.

Rice passed the torch to China’s Ye Shiwen who pulled off a show-stopping swim at the 2012 Olympics in London. Shiwen ran away with the competition in both events, taking gold in the 400 IM by almost 3 seconds. Shiwen hit a 4:28.43 world record to out-swim silver medalist Elizabeth Beisel (4:31.27) and teammate Li Xuanxu (4:32.91). In the 200 IM, she was a little bit closer to the field behind her, hitting a 2:07.57 Olympic and Asian record to take 1st place ahead of Australia’s Alicia Coutts (2:08.15) and American Caitlin Leverenz (2:08.95).

Stephanie Rice was actually present in both Olympic finals in 2012 but wasn’t on par with her performances 4 years before, placing 4th in the 200 IM with a 2:09.55 and 6th in the 400 in a 4:35.49. Ye Shiwen was not only joined in 2012 by the double IM victory that preceded her but she was joined by the woman who would succeed her. Katinka Hosszu swam the 2 events in 2012 but like Rice was off the podium, hitting an 8th place finish in the 200 and 4th in the 400.

Hosszu came back 4 years after London, however, and was ready to race for the win. Hosszu pulled off the 6th straight 200 / 400 IM victory and like Shiwen, did so in Olympic and world record fashion. In the 200, Hosszu posted a 2:06.58 to undercut Ye Shiwen‘s 2:07.57 OR, and in the 400 IM, she was a 4:26.36 to become the fastest woman in history. Shiwen actually raced both the IMs as well in 2016 but was way off her prime in the 400, swimming a 4:45.86 for 45th in the 400 IM and a 2:13.56 for 8th in the 200.

As we see the victory trend play out in the IM events for the women, it seems as though Katinka Hosszu has now continued the trend that Rice and Shiwen demonstrated by returning to the Games after one’s victory but doing worse than they did at the prior Games. Hosszu swam both of the IMs at Tokyo 2020 but wound up 7th in the 200 IM (2:12.38) and 6th in the 400 IM (4:35.98).

As Hosszu faded, Yui Ohashi took control and became the 6th straight woman to win the 200 and 400 IM at an Olympic Games. Ohashi didn’t get down to world or Olympic record pace in her events but won her crowns nonetheless in a 2:08.52 and 4:32.08, respectively.

Even before the recent streak, this double wasn’t uncommon. Tracy Caulkins did it in 1984, and Claudia Kolb did it in 1968. That means it’s happened on 9 of the 12 occasions in which both the 200 IM and 400 IM were part of the Olympic program (the 200 IM wasn’t included in the Olympic Program for women in 1976 or 1980).

As previously mentioned, this double-victory trend in the IM events that we have observed over the past 7 Olympiads has not been seen in the other strokes. While there are certainly cases where the same woman wins 2 medals in the same stroke, it has happened with much less frequency over the past 25 years. In fact, we’ve only seen 9 women win 2 gold medals in the same stroke thus far at the last 7 Games:

  • 1996: Penny Heyns (RSA) – 100/200 breaststroke
  • 2000: Diana Mocanu (ROU) – 100/200 backstroke
  • 2000: Brooke Bennett (USA) – 400/800 freestyle
  • 2000: Inge de Buijn (NED) – 50/100 freestyle
  • 2008: Britta Steffen (GER) – 50/100 freestyle
  • 2012: Missy Franklin (USA) – 100/200 backstroke
  • 2012: Ranomi Kromowidjojo (NED) – 50/100 freestyle
  • 2016: Katie Ledeceky (USA) – 200/400/800 freestyle
  • 2021: Ariarne Titmus (AUS) – 200/400 freestyle

There are another 3 opportunities for the feat to occur at the Tokyo 2020 Games. Should 100 backstroke victor Kaylee McKeon manage to get her hand on the wall first in the women’s 200 backstroke final, she will be the 3rd woman to win the double in our time frame, following Diana Mocanu in 2000 and Missy Franklin in 2012. Another chance for a double winner in Tokyo will come in the women’s sprint freestyles which have yet to take place. Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell of Australia seem to be the most likely candidates to take gold in both the 50 and 100 but considering the lethal fields in both events, it seems unlikely that one woman will make it to the top in both events. A third potential double medal winner is Katie Ledecky who took gold in the women’s 1500 freestyle and will have a shot to defend her 2012 and 2016 800 freestyle titles.

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ACC
1 month ago

It’s interesting that during this time it’s only been done twice on the men’s side when Phelps did it in 2004 and 2008.

I wonder if the women’s 200 IM and 400 IM are more similar than the men’s events are. The men’s 4 IM is 7% slower per 100 than the 2 IM, while the women’s is only 5.5% slower. Since the women’s 2 IM race takes longer, it’s more of a distance event than the men’s, making it easier for one person to be extremely good at both.

The unoriginal Tim
Reply to  ACC
1 month ago

Yes only Phelps and Darnyi have achieved this double in the last 30 years on the mens side. Regarding why men don’t do this double as easily – I think it must be to do with strength, size etc as ACC suggests. The top 4IM guys are not always able to compete with the faster 2IM guys.

Last edited 1 month ago by The unoriginal Tim
Friuti
1 month ago

Also interesting as a contrast to the dual champions, this Olympics the US Women had 2-3 in both IM’s, all 4 medalists were different swimmers.

GATOR CHOMP 🐊
1 month ago

Michelle smith was roided up though lol

Andy Hardt
1 month ago

This is a crazy streak, but I would guess it’s as much a cool fluke as anything else. Only 3 (out of a possible 14) of the minor medalists were repeats during this timeframe, and only one won the same medal in both races (Coventry’s silvers in 2008). Clearly there is a good amount of overlap between the two events, but the streak makes it look like more overlap than is really there.

WestCoastRefugee
1 month ago

I had totally forgotten that Amanda Beard won silver in the 2IM

Last edited 1 month ago by WestCoastRefugee
Aquajosh
1 month ago

Klochkova doesn’t get enough credit for how good she was. Broke world records, short and long course, Olympic silver medal the first time she entered the 800 free at a major international meet, World champion in the 400 free, won every title there is to win in an IM event, and then the cherry on an incredible career, won both IMs in two different Olympiads. Y’all say Katinka is the IM queen but it’s really Yana Klochkova.

Boknows34
1 month ago

Kirsty Coventry with the “silver medal double”

Samboys
1 month ago

Interesting that aside from the winners only three other women have medalled in both I.Ms at the same games. I’d have thought there would be more.