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

Beijing 2008

  • 1. Park (KOR) 3:41.86 Asian rec
  • 2. Zhang (CHN) 3:42.44 
  • 3. Jensen (USA) 3:42.78
  • Fastest field ever: Beijing 2008: 3:41.86 - 3:43.97 to seventh but even with Nikita Lobintsev on 3:48.29 for 8th, the last man home was faster than the last man home at Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Melbourne 2007.
Comparison fields:
  • Melbourne 2007: 3:44.30 - 3:48.49
  • Athens 2004: 3:43.10 - 3:48.96

Facts going into the race: 

  • World record: 3:40.08 - Ian Thorpe (Australia), Manchester, England, 30.7.02
  • 2004 Olympic champion: Ian Thorpe (Australia) 3:43.10
  • 2007 World champion: Park Tae-hwan (South Korea) 3:44.30

Impact of morning finals:

Four men altered the all-time top 10 in heats but seven men went faster in the final that they had in the prelims. What it took to qualify:

  • Beijing 2008: 3:43.10 (what Thorpe won in, 2004) - 3:44.82
  • Melbourne 2007: 3:45.82 - 3:48.72
  • Athens 2004: 3:46.36 - 3:49.05

Notes from the race:

Park Tae-hwan has a swimming brain. He timed his move to perfection, cranking up a head-and-shoulders lead over the pack with Grant Hackett by 100m, maintaining that to 200m and then, out of the 200m turn did to Grant  what the Australian has done to others in the past: Park clocked 27.82 down the fifth length, to the Australian's 28.40. No other swimmer in the race went below 28 on that length and most were at least half a second down on the Korean's split. It was decisive. The race stayed more or less there as far as the champion was concerned. Zhang, who was last at half-way and sixth going into the last turn, put in a 26.15 last lap split. Denis Cotterell, who mentored Hackett before the 1,500m champion decided to move on, is working with the Chinese and Zhang. Watch for him in the 1,500m. Jensen too.

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

Kieren Perkins's generation-busting 1994 world record is now 10th best.

  • 3:40.08 Thorpe
  • 3:41.86 Park BEIJING F 
  • 3:42.44 Zhang BEIJING F
  • 3:42.51 Hackett
  • 3:42.78 Jensen BEIJING F
  • 3:43.11 Vanderkaay BEIJING F
  • 3:43.40 Rosolino
  • 3:43.45 Lobintsev BEIJING Prelims
  • 3:43.45 Mellouli BEIJING F
  • 3:43.80 Perkins

All-time top 10, end 2007:

  • 3:40.08 Thorpe (AUS) 2001
  • 3:42.51 Hackett (AUS) 2001
  • 3:43.40 Rosolino (ITA) 2000
  • 3:43.80 Perkins (AUS) 1994
  • 3:44.11 Keller (USA) 2004
  • 3:44.30 Park (KOR) 2007
  • 3:44.44 Prilukov (RUS) 2005
  • 3:45.00 Sadovyi (RUS) 1992
  • 3:45.04 Jensen (USA) 2007
  • 3:45.11 Brembilla (ITA) 2001

HISTORY IN THE MAKING

Thorpe's status as the greatest 400m free swimmer the world has ever seen remains solid. The top two in Beijing got closer to Thorpe at his best on the clock than anyone ever has. Park Tae-hwan is the first Korean to win an Olympic swimming title and Zhang Lin is the first Chinese man to win an Olympic swimming medal of any colour. You have to trawl back to Tsuyoshi Yamanaka (JPN), silver medal winner in 1956 and 1960 behind Murray Rose (AUS) - by precisely the same 3.1sec margin at both Games - before you find an Asian man on the podium for the 400m freestyle. Beijing delivered two on one podium. The last time that happened was 1936, when Jack Medica (USA) led Japanese teammates Shumpei Uto and Shozo Makino. Of the 25 finals contested since 1896, 10 titles have gone to the USA and five to Australia, though the last American champion was George DiCarlo in 1984. Larsen Jensen came close and set an American record. Only two men have retained the title; Australians Iain Murray Rose (1956-50) and Ian Thorpe (2000-04). Three men, Sadovyi (1992), Loader (1996) and Thorpe (2204) have bridged 200 and 400m; four have bridged 400 and 1,500m - Rose (1956), Burton (1968), Goodell (1976); Salnikov (1980). Kowalski (AUS) is the only man who has won medals over 200m, 400m and 1,500m, with a silver and two bronzes in 1996. 

Fastest: 3:40.59, Thorpe, 2000

World Record wins: Schollander, 1964; Goodell, 1976; Dassler (GDR), 1988; Sadovyi, 1996; Thorpe, 2000.

Biggest margin: Rose beat Yamanaka by 3.1sec in both 1956 and 1960; Thorpe almost got there in 2000, winning by 2.81sec; pioneer Paul Neumann (AUT) won by 1min 45sec at sea in 1896.

Closest shave: Perkins (AUS) missed the double in 1992 by 0.16sec behind Sadovyi; in 1932, Crabb (USA) finished 0.1sec ahead of Taris (FRA).