Beijing Form Guide: Women's Sprint Free
Jul 30, 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, we start our preview build-up to the Games 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 Sprint Freestyle

Overview:

The impact of the latest generation of bodysuits since the launch of the Speedo LZR Racer in February is as marked as it is unavoidable, particularly in races of 50m and 100m. Here's a reminder of the world records broken at the helm of a sports-wide surge in standards since February 2008.

Those records are the tip of the iceberg in terms of the revolution that has taken place in the all-time performances and performers lists. In women's sprint freestyle, times since February have changed the all-time lists like at no other time before the event joined the big time in 1986. Here's what we're talking about:


The picture in 2008:
50m: 7/10 all-time performers from 2008; 17/30 entries from 2008
100m: 6/10 all-time performers from 2008; 18/30 entries from 2008
Compared to the picture in 2004 (in terms of numbers impacting on the all-time lists in the build-up to the Athens Games):
50m: 1/10 all-time performers from 2004; 12/30 entries from 2004
100m: 3/10 all-time performers from 2004; 8/30 entries from 2004

The burning questions: Can Lisbeth Lenton-Trickett live up to her billing as favourite to match Inde be Bruijn's sprint double in 2000? Can teenager Cate Campbell put a spanner in the works? And what suits will they all be wearing? Britta Steffen (GER), former world record holder, has edged back into contention with Lenton-Trickett of late. Can the German dip below 53 in the latest incarnation of the suit with the three distinctive stripes? From the stable of Jacco and Hoogie, what impact can Marleen Veldhuis have? And what about supermom? At 41, Dara Torres will be the oldest swimmer in town, and could be the oldest finalists, the oldest medallist and the oldest champion too. History and tradition are being rewritten.

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

 

THE BEIJING FORM GUIDE

50m FREESTYLE


World record: 23.97 - Lisbeth Trickett (USA), Melbourne, 27.3.07
2004 Olympic champion: Inge de Bruijn (NED) 24.58
2007 World champion: Lisbeth Lenton (later Trickett), 24.53

The picture in August 2007:


3 Proven Protagonists From 2007: Libby Lenton (AUS); Therese Alshammar (SWE); Marleen Veldhuis (NED)
2 Breakers: Dara Torres (USA) ; Cate Campbell (AUS)
2 Bubbling Under: Britta Steffen (GER); Kara Lynn Joyce (USA)
1 On The Edge: Malia Metella (FRA)
Don't forget: Natalie Coughlin (USA); Alice Mills (AUS)
All-time top 10, end 2007:
24.13 de Bruijn, Inge NED 2000
24.44 Alshammar, Therese SWE 2000
24.49 Mills, Alice AUS 2005
24.51 Le, Jingyi CHN 1994
24.58 Lenton/Trickett, Lisbeth AUS 2006
24.59 Zhu, Yingwen CHN 2005
24.63 Torres, Dara USA 2000
24.68 Sheppard, Alison GBR 2002
24.71 Shan, Ying CHN 1997
24.72 Volker, Sandra GER 2001
New impact on all-time top 10: Alshammar, Veldhuis; Torres; Lenton; Steffen

The picture in August 2008:


Seven of the all-time best 10 times have been set this year. The entire all-time top 10 is now faster than Le Jingyi's dubious 1994 world record of 24.51. Le was still hanging on to 4th best ever at the end of last year. What a difference a suit makes. Or is it something else. I'm told coaching but I here nothing that sounds radically different, to be honest. The sport has not seen such a reshaping of the 50m since the heady days of 1986-1988, when 50m joined the world and then Olympic programmes respectively.
The World Top 10, 2008:
23.97 Lenton/Trickett, Lisbeth AUS 2007 24.53
24.09 Veldhuis, Marleen NED 2007 24.30
24.13 Campbell, Cate AUS 2007 24.48
24.19 Steffen, Britta GER 2007 24.66
24.25 Torres, Dara USA 2007 24.53
24.48 Hardy, Jessica USA 2007 25.39
24.50 Jackson, Lara USA 2007 25.27
24.59 Joyce, Kara Lynn USA 2007 24.80
24.59 Schreuder, Hinkelien NED 2007 24.91
24.71 Alshammar, Therese SWE 2007 24.23
Danger just outside the top 10: Fran Halsall (GBR) and Inge Dekker (NED) have more to offer, while Malia Metella (FRA) is on the way back four years after proving she can handle the big moment, with that silver medal behind De Bruijn in Athens.

 

The Battle: If Dara Torres is the veteran threat, then the other end of the age spectrum presents just as big a barrier in the form of Cate Campbell just as big a barrier. Torres had made three Olympic teams before Campbell was born. Both women are now significantly faster than Torres in 1992 and before. Gold is likely to require a challenge to the 24sec barrier than only Lenton/Trickett has breached. Veldhuis, Campbell and Steffen are closest - and much may come down to what unfolds in the 100m freestyle final, which, astonishingly, is held on the same day as the heats of the 50m, August 15.

Most consistent: Campbell: has four slots in the list of best performances this year, between 24.13 and 24.38.

History: Of the five finals contested since 1988, De Bruijn and the Netherlands are out in front, with two titles (2000, 2004). The GDR and China dominated early events but their results were tainted by subsequent confirmation of widespread doping programmes. At 33, Torres (USA) became the oldest female to win an Olympic swimming medal, and will try to go there again at 41 next summer.


Fastest: 24.32, De Bruijn (semi final 24.13, world record), 2000
World Record wins: Yang Wenyi (CHN), 1992
Biggest margin: 0.31sec, De Bruin over Metella (FRA), 2004
Closest shave: Van Dyken (USA) beat Li (CHN) by 0.03sec in 1996
Most controversial: The fact that half of the medals handed out (shared bronze in 1988) have been given to a swimmer linked to doping speculation or suspension.

 

100M FREESTYLE


World record: 52.88 - Lisbeth Lenton/Trickett (AUS), Sydney, 27.03.08
2004 Olympic champion: Jodie Henry (AUS) 53.66
2007 World champion: Lenton/Trickett 53.40

The picture in August 2007:

3 Proven Protagonists From 2007: Lenton; Veldhuis; Steffen
2 Breakers: Erica Morningstar (CAN); Inge Dekker (NED)
2 Bubbling Under: Amanda Weir (US); Francesca Halsall (GBR)
1 On The Edge: Jodie Henry (AUS)
Don't forget: Torres; Metella.
All-time top 10, end 2007:
53.30 Steffen, Britta GER 2006
53.42 Lenton/Trickett, Lisbeth AUS 2006
53.52 Henry, Jodie AUS 2004
53.58 Weir, Amanda USA 2006
53.77 de Bruijn, Inge NED 2000
53.83 Coughlin, Natalie USA 2006
53.96 Mills, Alice AUS 2005
54.01 Le, Jingyi CHN 1994
54.03 Zhu, Yingwen CHN 2005
54.07 Thompson, Jenny USA 2000
New impact on all-time top 10: Lenton, Coughlin, Veldhuis

The picture in August 2008:


Torres rocketed to sixth in the world at US trials, defeating Natalie Coughlin, and then withdrew, her point made. She wanted the relay berth. In keeping with the picture in the 50m in terms of the blistering impact of suit technology, the current all-top 10 tells a tale of revolution: Inky, with that 53.77sec former world record now shares 9th place all-time alongside fellow Dutchwoman Inge Dekker. Le Jingyi was still hanging on to 8th place with that 1994 blast of 54.01 until end 2007. Now, she's 14th all-time, with Metella the 12th and last woman into the sub-54 club, on 53.99. Some historical perspective: the last GDR woman to hold the world record, Kristin Otto, 1988 Olympic champion is 48th all-time, on 54.73. Interestingly, the 8:19.53 of Otto's contemporary Anke Mohring over 800m is still 5th best ever.
The World Top 10, 2008:
52.88 Lenton/Trickett, Lisbeth AUS 2007 52.99
53.05 Steffen, Britta GER 2007 53.57
53.30 Campbell, Cate AUS 2007 54.70
53.39 Coughlin, Natalie USA 2007 53.40
53.67 Veldhuis, Marleen NED 2007 53.58
53.76 Torres, Dara USA 2007 54.45
53.77 Dekker, Inge NED 2007 54.39
53.99 Metella, Malia FRA 2007 54.61
54.00 Seppala, Hanna-M. FIN 2007 54.97
54.02 Nymeyer, Lacey USA 2007 54.96

Danger just outside the top 10: Pang Jiaying (CHN) and Francesca Halsall (GBR) hover just outside the 54sec mark

The Battle: Lenton/Trickett has the edge: twice under the 53sec mark (the first time discounted in a mixed relay race in a lane next to Michael Phelps but an effort that proved that she could go where no woman had gone before) and a world champion who has proved that she can step up and handle pressure. Steffen is close at hand and buoyed by a recent 53.05 European record that helped her to set aside any remaining worries about which suit to wear at the heart of a team that is brand-locked. Campbell and Coughlin should be in the hunt, while Dutch pair, Veldhuis and Dekker are closest to those best fancied for the podium.

Most consistent: Coughlin in 2008, with five sub 54sec efforts. Lenton/Trickett has four of the all-time 10 best performances, Steffen three.

History: Of the 22 finals contested since 1912, the USA leads the way with eight titles to Australia?s five, though 1984 was the last time and American won (see closest shave). The greatest of them all is Dawn Fraser, winner in 1956, 60 and 64 and prevented from defending in 1988 by a pig-headed decision of Aussie bureaucrats, led by then President of FINA William Berge Phillips, that banned her for 10 years (later reduced to four) for (officially) wearing the wrong tracksuit and marching at the 1964 Opening Ceremony when told not to (Zhou Ming, punished for eight years for plying underage girls with steroids, eat your heart out).


Fastest: 53.66, Jodie Henry (AUS) 2004
World Record wins: Bleibtrey, 1920; Fraser, 1956; Ender, 1976; Krause, 1980.
Biggest margin:Bleibtry, the only woman ever to win every event open to her in the Olympic pool, by 3.4sec in 1920; the modern era prize goes to Fraser, 1.6sec ahead of Von Saltza in 1960.
Closest shave: In 1984, Hogshead and Steinseiffer dead-heated on 55.92 the first joint gold in Olympic swimming history
Most controversial: Ender was the first Wundermadchen of the German Democratic Republic. From the 58.25 clocked on July 13, 1975, Ender set 10 world records, becoming the first woman to break 58, 57 and 56 seconds, the 55.65 at which she left the mark in Montreal on July 19, 1976 marking a 2.85sec gain on the clock since Gould's 58.5 in 1972. At the start of 2008, the world was still waiting for such a drop to happen again, while it took 14 years for Dawn Fraser and Gould (behind whom Ender won a silver medal over 200m medley at the 1972 Games) to achieve that progress before Ender. In the early 1990s, confirmation of a secret state-run doping programme tainted all GDR results from 1973 onwards.

The statistics used in our previews are the work of Nick Thierry, the SwimNews founder whose work on world rankings for the past 30 years has provided an invaluable resource for the sport and the media who cover it