Analysis: Men's 400IM
Aug 10, 2008
Craig Lord

 Beijing 2008

  • 1. Phelps (USA) 4:03.84 wr
  • 2. Laszlo Cseh (HUN) 4:06.16 er
  • 3. Ryan Lochte (USA) 4:08.09
  • Fastest field: Beijing 2008: 4:03.84 - 4:15.40

 Facts going into the race: 

  • WR: 4:05.25 - Phelps, Omaha, 29.6.08
  • 2004 Olympic champion 2004: Phelps, 4:08.26
  • 2007 World champion: Phelps, 4:06.22

Impact of morning finals (and what it took to qualify for the final):

Five men went slower in the final than in prelims. Faster: all three medallists. The focus is on qualifying for those who are not obvious medal hopes. Range of times in the prelims:

  • Beijing 2008: 4:07.82or - 4:11.74
  • Melbourne 2007: 4:12.01 - 4:17.73
  • Athens 2004: 4:13.29 - 4:16.77

Notes from the Beijing race:

The way that Phelps piled on the pressure on the second length of every individual stroke. Look at the backstroke splits: 31.37 going out, 30.20 coming home. And on freestyle: 28.94 going out, 27.85 coming home. Like his dolphin kicking skills in Melbourne 2007, which are still leaving his opponents floundering here in Beijing, Phelps's micro-negative-splitting appeared to demoralise all but Cseh, who stuck to his race plane and was rewarded for doing so.

Impact of the race on the all-time top 10:

  • 4:03.84 Phelps BEIJING F
  • 4:06.08 Lochte 
  • 4:06.17 Cseh BEIJING F
  • 4:09.88 Marin
  • 4:10.66 Kis BEIJING Prelims
  • 4:10.68 Boggiatto BEIJING Prelims
  • 4:11.14 Pereira
  • 4:11.27 Vendt
  • 4:11.41 Johns BEIJING prelims
  • 4:11.76 Dolan 

All-time top 10, end 2007:

  • 4:06.22 Phelps, Michael USA 2007 4:10.16
  • 4:09.63 Cseh, Laszlo HUN 2005 4:12.15
  • 4:09.74 Lochte, Ryan USA 2007 4:11.53
  • 4:09.88 Marin, Luca ITA 2007 4:14.15
  • 4:11.14 Pereira, Thiago BRA 2007 4:14.67
  • 4:11.27 Vendt, Erik USA 2002 4:14.19
  • 4:11.76 Dolan, Tom USA 2000 4:29.29
  • 4:12.28 Boggiatto, Alessio ITA 2004 4:15.91
  • 4:12.36 Darnyi, Tamas HUN 1991
  • 4:12.92 Margalis, Robert USA 2006 4:16.25

HISTORY IN THE MAKING:

Phelps is now the only man in history to have broken the world record to win both of his Olympic crowns. Phelps became the third man to retain the crown after Darnyi (1988,1992); Dolan (1996, 2000). The 2008 champion made it 7/11 crowns for the USA, while Lochte's silver took to 17/36 the number of medals won by Americans since the event was introduced in 1964. Every time an American had won, a teammate had taken the silver medal, for six one-two finishes. Not this time. Hungary has long been a thorn in the side of the USA on medley and Cseh continued the B-wrung of that tradition with a silver with a performance that in a world without Phelps would have gone down as phenomenal. So far, Tamas Darnyi (HUN), with two world titles, two Olympic crowns, four European titles and three world records to his credit hangs on to the most successful competition career record on medley. Not for long, one suspects. Pre-Phelps, the most prolific world-record setter was Hall, with eight standards, five of them in the 400m, to his name. Phelps now has a record eight world records to his name in the 400m alone. 

World Record wins: Roth, 1964; Rod Starchan (USA), 1976; Baumann, 1984; Darnyi, 1988; Dolan, 2000; Phelps, 2004; Phelps 2008.

Biggest margin: Phelps finished 2.32sec ahead of Cseh in Beijing. His 4:08.26 victory in Athens, 2004, left him 3.55sec ahead of teammate Erik Vendt, who in taking silver for the second time ensured that a man named Eric(k) finished second for the fourth Games in succession.

Closest shave: 0.002sec separated Gunnar Larsson and Tim McKee in the most controversial 400m medley final in history, and one of the most controversial decisions in swimming history.