Beijing Form Guide: Women's Medley
Aug 9, 2008
Craig Lord

Precisely a year before the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games, SwimNews put together a form guide for events in Beijing. It was August 2007. A year on, as the Games are about to begin, we continue our preview of events in Beijing with a look at how the seascape has changed, who is still in the race, who is out and where the medals are likely to go.

Today:
Women's medley

Overview:

The impact of the latest generation of bodysuits cannot be denied and better that we don't deny it, lest we look at Wu Yanyan and Chen Yan and ask how those stunning steroid-built performances, albeit from 1997, can be washed away with such aplomb. Stephanie Rice (AUS) dropped 2.5sec off her best to set a world record of 2:08.92 in March. Hard work, great coaching, good skills and much else - and the suit too, and that goes for the other six performances this year that now make up an all-time best list that includes seven swims executed since the launch of the LZR. Best not be coy. The science is out there. Here's a reminder of the world records broken at the helm of a sports-wide surge in standards since February 2008 and here's a snapshot of progress in numbers:


200m: 7/10 all-time performers from 2008; 12/30 entries from 2008
400m: 6/10 all-time performers from 2008; 11/30 entries from 2008

The burning questions: In the Hoff v Rice battle, where will standards be left. The prospects are awesome. Rice is now faster than Gary Hall (sen, USA) ever was on 200m; Andras Hargitay (HUN) was the first man below 4:30 on 400m back in 1974. Hoff and Rice may have to press down that way to keep at bay the teenager test behind them: Beisel, 16 this month, Miley, 19 on 08-08-08. Watch too for Filipi and Coventry. The pace of progress has already decided one thing: reigning champ Yana Klochkova (UKR) has decided not to bother in the 400m.

And on that note, here's what's in store:

 

THE BEIJING FORM GUIDE

200m MEDLEY


World record: 2:08.92 - Stephanie Rice (AUS), Sydney, 25.3.08
Olympic champion: Yana Klochkova (UKR) 2:11:14
World champion: Katie Hoff (USA) 2:10.13
The picture in August 2007:

 


3 Proven Protagonists From 2007: Hoff; Coventry; Stephanie Rice (AUS)
2 Breakers: Julia Smith (USA); Julie Hjorth-Hansen (DEN)
2 Bubbling Under: Katarzyna Baranowska (POL); Caitlin Leverenz (USA)
1 On The Edge: Yana Klochkova (UKR)
Don't forget: Alessia Filippi (ITA); Shayne Reese (AUS)
All-time top 10, end 2007:
2:09.72 Wu, Yanyan CHN 1997 2:12.87
2:10.05 Hoff, Katie USA 2006 2:10.41
2:10.11 Myers, Whitney USA 2006 2:12.93
2:10.68 Klochkova, Yana UKR 2000 2:14.02
2:10.76 Coventry, Kirsty ZIM 2007 2:13.96
2:11.27 Chen, Yan CHN 1997 2:16.92
2:11.42 Rice, Stephanie AUS 2007 2:12.90
2:11.65 Lin, Li CHN 1992 2:13.40
2:11.70 Beard, Amanda USA 2004 2:14.41
2:11.73 Geweniger, Ute GDR 1981
New impact on all-time top 10: Coventry; Rice

The picture in August 2008:


The current top 10 has an edge over the all-time top 10 from the end of 2007. Wu Yanyan's dubious 1997 blast (she was subsequently banned for doping) is the only entry in the all-time top 5 from outside the current year. In the past five Olympic cycles, there has been nothing to compare with the progress we have witnessed at the helm of this event. It took 2:14.68 to make the final in Athens. That time would rank 41st on the current (not all-time, but current) 2008 world ranking list. Extraordinary.


The World Top 10, 2008:
2:08.92 Rice, Stephanie AUS 2007 2:11.42
2:09.71 Hoff, Katie USA 2007 2:10.13
2:09.77 Coughlin, Natalie USA 2007
2:10.08 Coventry, Kirsty ZIM 2007 2:10.76
2:10.40 Kukors, Ariana USA 2007 2:15.84
2:11.15 Muffat, Camille FRA 2007 2:14.87
2:11.16 Belmonte, Mireia ESP 2007 2:14.90
2:11.28 Leverenz, Caitlin USA 2007 2:12.32
2:11.46 Miley, Hannah GBR 2007 2:14.10
2:11.87 Coutts, Alicia AUS 2007
Danger just outside the top 10: none.

 

The Battle: World bronze medallist Stephanie Rice has shattered the world record which had stood to China's Wu Yanyan since October 1997. World champion Hoff (2:09.71) and Coughlin (2:09.77) are within a second of the Australian and Coventry, Olympic bronze and world silver to her credit, will again be competitive. Yana Klochkova is not defending the 200 and 400 medley titles she won at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics. The Ukrainian, who finished last in the 200 medley and failed to make the final of the 400 medley at the European championships, and is swimming only relays.

Most consistent: Hoff - 5/10 of the best times in 2008

History: Four women stand out in the history of medley swimming: pioneer Donna de Varona (USA), follow-up act Claudia Kolb (USA), Caulkins and Yana Klochkova (UKR). Caulkins having been stopped by boycott in 1980, it is Klochkova that has a perfect record at the helm of all: no other woman has ever retained an Olympic medley title, and she achieved that in both the 200m and 400m (2000, 2004).
Four women have won both the 200 and 400m titles at the same Games: Kolb; Caulkins; Michelle Smith de Bruin (IRL) with performances that represented a spike in her long career on the way to a fall from grace when she manipulated a drug-test sample in 1998; and Klochkova. In the 200m, Klochkova and the USA share the helm of the overall gold count, with two victories each. Americans have won more medals than any other nation, on eight. Klochkova is joined by Lin Li and Daniela Hunger (GDR) as the only women to have returned to the podium for the 200m medley. Hunger claimed the 1988 title for the GDR and then won bronze racing for the first reunified German squad in 1992. Lin claimed the 1992 crown and took bronze in 1996 in the midst of the China doping crisis in a final won, ironically by Smith de Bruin. The victim in the mix was Marianne Limpert (CAN).


Fastest: 2:10.68, Klochkova, 2000
World Record wins: Gould, 1972; Lin Li, 1992
Biggest margin: In 1968, Kolb clobbered her rivals, winning the title by 4.1sec over teammate Susan Pedersen in an Olympic record of 2:24.7.
Closest shave: Lin Li won in 1992 by 0.26sec over Summer Sanders (USA)
Most controversial: In 1988, a young Michelle Smith had a best time of 2:22.53. There it stayed until after she had met Erik de Bruin, the Dutch athlete banned for steroids. In 1994, she cut her best down to 2:19.48. A year later, it stood at 2:15.27, in which she claimed the European title against expectations. A year later, in Atlanta, in the midst of a week in which she won three gold medals and a bronze, Smith de Bruin won the Olympic 200m title in 2:13.93. In 1998, she manipulated a drug-test sample, according to testers who found lethal levels of alcohol in her urine (the concentration suggested that had the alcohol passed through her digestive system in the normal way the swimmer would have died). Smith de Bruin appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and lost. She was banned for four years, subsequently reduced to two and retired while forced out of action.

 

400M MEDLEY


World record: 4:31.12 - Katie Hoff (USA), Omaha 29.6.08
Olympic champion: Yana Klochkova (UKR) 4:34.83
World champion: Hoff 4:32.89wr
The picture in August 2007:

3 Proven Protagonists From 2007: Hoff; Yana Martynova (RUS); Rice
2 Breakers: Li Xuanhu (born 1994, CHN); Hannah Miley (GBR)
2 Bubbling Under: Filippi; Ariana Kukors (USA)
1 On The Edge: Klochkova
Don't forget: Coventry; Jennifer Reilly (AUS); Baranowska; Katinka Hosszu (HUN); Zsuzsanna Jakabos (HUN)

All-time top 10, end 2007:
4:32.89 Hoff, Katie USA 2007 4:35.82
4:33.59 Klochkova, Yana UKR 2000 4:38.14
4:34.79 Chen, Yan CHN 1997 4:40.85
4:34.95 Sandeno, Kaitlin USA 2004 4:40.82
4:35.80 Filippi, Alessia ITA 2006 4:40.61
4:35.96 Tajima, Yasuko JPN 2000 4:40.56
4:36.07 Coventry, Kirsty ZIM 2007 4:45.25
4:36.10 Schneider, Petra GDR 1982
4:36.17 Risztov, Eva HUN 2002 4:45.22
4:36.28 Wu, Yanyan CHN 1997 4:41.20
New impact on all-time top 10: Hoff

The picture in August 2008:


The current top 10 rivals the all-time top 10 from the end of 2007. Klochkova is the only entry in the all-time top 6 from outside the current year. In the past five Olympic cycles, there has been nothing to compare with the progress we have witnessed at the helm of this event. It took 4:45.16 to make the final in Athens. That time would rank 47th on the current world ranking list and 128th on the all-time list. Evening heats are upon us: a sub-4:40 to make the final?

The World Top 10, 2008:
4:31.12 Hoff, Katie USA 2007 4:32.89
4:31.46 Rice, Stephanie AUS 2007 4:37.18
4:32.87 Beisel, Elizabeth USA 2007 4:44.87
4:33.24 Miley, Hannah GBR 2007 4:39.77
4:34.25 Coventry, Kirsty ZIM 2007 4:36.07
4:35.73 Smit, Julia USA 2007 4:40.33
4:36.68 Filippi, Alessia ITA 2007 4:37.03
4:37.43 Hosszu, Katinka HUN 2007 4:40.40
4:37.86 Martynova, Yana RUS 2007 4:40.14
4:38.23 Muffat, Camille FRA 2007 4:45.74

Danger just outside the top 10: none.

The Battle: Hoff set the standard at Melbourne 2007; Rice hit back with a big drop at Aussie trials; Hoff struck back again in Omaha. Beisel, Miley and Coventry are ones to watch.

Most consistent: Hoff - 5/10 best times this year

History: Americans have won four of the 11 titles on offer since 1968. Klochkova matches the GDR tally of two titles and is the only woman ever to retain the crown (2000, 2004). The title has been claimed in world-record time on four occasions out of 11, while it took the Olympic record to win in six finals. Caulkins might have been first to the Olympic double had it not been for two sizeable obstacles: the 1980 boycott and the GDR, in the form of Petra Schneider. Caulkins, winner of a record five gold medals at the 1978 World Championships (a feat matched in 2007 by Libby Lenton, AUS) was world record holder in both 200m and 400m before Schneider, missed the Games in Moscow, finished third in the 200m and 400m behind two East Germans in 1982 and then brought her career to a glowing and fitting end at a home Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984, with victories in both the 200m and 400m. Years later, when asked about the boycott Caulkins said: 'What really hits home to me about the boycott was the Soviets didn't pull out of Afghanistan for nine years. Did it put any pressure on them? No, it was just a missed opportunity for many athletes. It just doesn't seem fair.'


Fastest: 4:33.59, Klochkova, 2000.
World Record wins: Gail Neall (AUS), 1972; Tauber, 1976; Schneider, 1980; Klochkova.
Biggest margin: Kolb swam a generation ahead of her rivals to win the crown in 5:08.5 in 1968 to win by 13.7sec over teammate Lynn Vidali.
Closest shave: Krisztina Egerszegi (HUN) claimed the 1992 title by 0.19sec ahead of Lin Li (CHN) on her way to one of the most successful Olympic career in women’s swimming history: the Hungarian is the only swimmer with five solo gold medals to her credit.
Most controversial: In 1990, a young Michelle Smith had a best time of 4:59.88. She improved to 4:56.52 in 1991. There her best stayed until after she had met Erik de Bruin, the Dutch athlete banned for steroids. In 1994, she cut her best down to 4:47.89. A year later, it stood at 4:42.81, in which she claimed the European title against expectations. A year later, in Atlanta, in the midst of a week in which she won three gold medals and a bronze, Smith de Bruin won the Olympic 400m title in 4:39.18. In 1998, she manipulated a drug-test sample, according to testers who found lethal levels of alcohol in her urine (the concentration suggested that had the alcohol passed through her digestive system in the normal way the swimmer would have died). Smith de Bruin appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and lost. She was banned for four years, subsequently reduced to two and retired while forced out of action.