Beijing Form Guide: Women's 200-800m Free
Jul 31, 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 200m-800m Freestyle

Overview:

Less than 18 months ago, Laure Manaudou had owenership of middle-distance freestyle, winning the world 200m and 400m titles and challenging for the triple in the 800m at Melbourne 2007. She was supreme. Divorce from coach Philippe Lucas has put paid to all that: she is not even racing the 200m and 800m. Tragic. Still, as the great bard put it in As You Like It:
'If thou remember'st not the slightest folly
That ever love did make thee run into, Thou hast not loved.

Melbourne 2007 was a watershed for women's freestyle events from 200m to 800m. For so long, standards had been locked in the past, with Franzi holding the 200m world record for 13 years and Janet Evans finally succumbing to Manaudou over 400m but keeping a tight grip of the global 800m standard. By Melbourne, it was obvious that the 200m had entered a new era, the dam was building in the 400m and a group of women, not just one in a blue moon, had started to believe that 8:20 was within their reach. Two big things have happened since then: Manaudou's choices and the battle of the bodysuits. You may yawn but it will not make it go away. 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 the kind of progress we're looking at in the 200m, 400m and 800m events, the longer event far less dramatic than the obvious surge in the200m and 400m:


200m: 6/10 all-time performers from 2008; 15/30 entries from 2008
400m: 7/10 all-time performers from 2008; 16/30 entries from 2008
800m: 3/10 all-time performers from 2008; 7/30 entries from 2008
Compare that little lot with the impact on the all-tme list in 2004 of progress in the previous Olympic year, before the Games began:
200m: 2/10 all-time performers from 2004; 8/30 entries from 2004
400m: 0/10 all-time performers from 2004; 5/30 entries from 2004
1,500m: 1/10 all-time performers from 2004; 3/30 entries from 2004

The burning questions: Lucas told Manaudou that a sub-4-minute would be required to win the 400m in Beijing. Was he right? The battle will certainly be fierce. can Federica Pellegrini (ITA) withstand the rush of challengers? Can Katie Hoff (USA) be Baltimore's second bullet and do a freestyle triple in the 200m, 400m and 800m (last done by Debbie Meyer back in 1968)? And what of Rebecca Adlington (GBR)? She combines the form and the technique with the right spirit and approach and is certainly capable of causing upset in both 400m and 800m. Annika Lurz has been below par this season but then surprise surges have been part of her story of late. And then there's Kate Ziegler (USA). Were the US trials a stepping stone to something much bigger? Probably.

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

 

THE BEIJING FORM GUIDE

200m FREESTYLE


World record: 1:55.52 - Laure Manaudou (FRA), Melbourne, 28.3.07
2004 Olympic champion: Camelia Potec (ROM) 1:58.03
2007 World champion: Laure Manaudou (FRA), 1:55.52

The picture in August 2007:


3 Proven Protagonists From 2007: Laure Manaudou (FRA); Annika Lurz (nee Liebs, GER); Federica Pellegrini (ITA)
2 Breakers: Katie Hoff (USA); Natalie Coughlin (USA)
2 Bubbling Under: Josefin Lillhage (SWE); Caitlin McClatchey (GBR)
1 On The Edge: Alena Popchanka (FRA)
Don't forget: Otylia Jedrzejczak (POL); Bronte Barratt (AUS)
All-time top 10, end 2007:
1:55.52 Manaudou (FRA) 2007
1:55.68 Liebs/Lurz (GER) 2007
1:56.43 Coughlin (USA) 2007
1:56.47 Pellegrini (ITA) 2007
1:56.64 Van Almsick (GER) 2002
1:56.89 Lu Bin (CHN) 1994*
1:57.06 Lenton/Trickett (AUS) 2005
1:57.09 Hoff (USA) 2007
1:57.15 Jedrzejczak (POL) 2006
1:57.25 McClatchey (GBR) 2006
*- a member of the steroid-loaded Golden Flowers of 1994, Lu was suspended from the sport after testing positive a few weeks after the World Championships in Rome.
New impact on all-time top 10: Lurz; Coughlin; Pellegrini; Hoff

The picture in August 2008:


Franzi, world record holder 18 months ago on 1:56.64 is now 10th fastest ever, with six of the top 10 times ever hailing from 2008 since the launch of the latest generation of bodysuits. Seven of the women had never broken 1:58 before this year. World champion and record holder Manaudou withdrew at French trials and will not race the event in Beijing. The list below, comparing now with a year ago for the best 10 women of 2008 tells a tale of progress that few would have predicted in the middle of the Olympic cycle.
The World Top 10, 2008:
1:55.88 Hoff, Katie USA 2007 1:57.09
1:55.90 Isakovic, Sara SLO 2007 1:58.19
1:55.92 Schmitt, Allison USA 2007 1:59.47
1:56.10 Pellegrini, Federica ITA 2007 1:56.47
1:56.60 Barratt, Bronte AUS 2007 1:57.54
1:56.61 Jackson, Joanne GBR 2007 1:59.39
1:56.66 Adlington, Rebecca GBR 2007 2:00.55
1:56.73 Smit, Julia USA 2007 2:01.82
1:56.99 MacKenzie, Linda AUS 2007 1:58.61
1:57.04 Coventry, Kirsty ZIM 2007
Danger just outside the top 10: of those actually in the race, Caitlin McClatchey (GBR) and reigning champion Camelia Potec (ROM) lead the way.

 

The Battle: Manaudou gone, Lurz yet to show at best and look at the world rabkings: Caroline Saxby (GBR) a 24-year-old Scot with a best of 2:03.97 now on a 1:57.31 but not fast enough to claim a GB berth. Coughlin opted not to include the event in her programme, after booking a relay berth in heats at trials. Hoff leads the rankings, a slither ahead of breaker Isakovic and another big breaker Schmidt. Pellegrini follows and after the smooth effort of Eindhoven in March, when she broke Manaudou's 400m world record, must be considered a candidate for double gold. Barratt, Jackson and Adlington are all moving in the right direction. Nerves of steel required.

Most consistent: Hoff - with three times this year inside 1:57.10; Isakovic has four times this year between 1:55.90 and 1:57.45.

History: Of the 10 finals contested since 1968, three have gone to each of the USA and the tainted GDR. The title has never been retained. Two winners have bridged 100 and 200m: Ender (1976) and Krause (GDR, 1980). Two have also bridged 200 and 400m: Meyer (1968) and Gould (1972), while Meyer is unique in bridging 200, 400 and 800. Two silver winners stand out: Babashoff (USA) is second to none in being the most robbed woman in swimming history, having won four silvers behind GDR women on a steroid programme; and the woman who escaped being the next Wundermadchen, Franziska van Almsick, world champion and record holder but never to be an Olympic champion: at 14 she took silver and at 18 again behind Poll (CRC), who was suspended for two years when nandrolone showed up in a test sample in 2002.


Fastest: 1:57.65, Friedrich (GDR), 1988
World Record wins: Gould 1972; Ender, 1976
Biggest margin: 1.96, Ender and State Plan 14:25 over Babashoff, 1976
Closest shave: 0.08, O?Neill (AUS) over Moravcova (SVK), followed by 0.10sec, Haislett over Van Almsick, 14, in 1992
Most controversial: In 1980, Krause (GDR) claimed a crown that she might have challenged for four years earlier had it not been for the fact that doctors miscalculated her steroid dosage. The risk there that she might test positive, Krause was left at home and reporters were told that she had a ?flu-like virus. In 1980, she won the 100 and 200m titles.

 

400M FREESTYLE


World record: 4:01.53 - Federica Pellegrini (ITA), Eindhoven, Netherlands, 24.3.08
Olympic champion: Laure Manaudou (FRA) 4:05.34
World champion: Laure Manaudou (FRA) 4:02.61

The picture in August 2007:

3 Proven Protagonists from 2007: Manaudou; Jedrzejczak; Ai Shibata (JPN)
2 Breakers: Kate Ziegler (USA); Hoff
2 Bubbling Under: Pellegrini; McClatchey
1 On The Edge: Joanne Jackson (GBR)
Don't forget: Linda McKenzie (AUS); Barratt
All-time top 10, end 2007:
4:02.13 Manaudou (FRA) 2006
4:03.85 Evans (USA) 1988
4:04.23 Jedrzejczak (POL) 2007
4:04.24 Ziegler (USA) 2007
4:04.60 Hoff (USA) 2007
4:05.00 Yan Chen (CHN) 1997*
4:05.19 Shibata (JPN) 2007
4:05.20 Pellegrini (ITA) 2007
4:05.80 Bennett (USA) 2000
4:05.84 Moehring, Anke (GDR) 1989**
* - subsequently banned for steroids
** - enhanced by State Plan 14:25
New impact on all-time top 10: Jedrzejczak; Shibata; Ziegler; Hoff; Pellegrini

The picture in August 2008:


Manaudou is 11th so far this year - but don't discount her. She was doubted before Melbourne in some quarters and blew almost everyone away. Pellegrini is favourite for the crown, Hoff will be tough, and so too will Adlington. Three women raced outside 4:10 in the 2004 final. Could be that all get inside 4:05 in the 2008 final. The depth of progress in the wake of Manadou's felling of Evans' legendary effort from 1988 is stunning. Four Americans inside 4:05.10, just two get a place.
The World Top 10, 2008:
4:01.53 Pellegrini, Federica ITA 2007 4:05.20
4:02.20 Hoff, Katie USA 2007 4:04.60
4:02.80 Adlington, Rebecca GBR 2007 4:09.75
4:03.92 Ziegler, Kate USA 2007 4:04.24
4:04.15 Balmy, Coralie FRA 2007 4:09.46
4:04.57 Barratt, Bronte AUS 2007 4:05.93
4:04.73 MacKenzie, Linda AUS 2007 4:06.86
4:04.81 Jackson, Joanne GBR 2007 4:07.24
4:05.05 Schmitt, Allison USA 2007 4:11.93
4:05.09 Burckle, Caroline USA 2007 4:11.83

Danger just outside the top 10: Manaudou, of course, at 11th, and 0.1sec behind her the new charge of Lucas, 200m champion in 2004, Camelia Potec. Then there's teenage Russian Elena Sokolova, up to 4:06.30 from 4:12.53 in 2007, and, up to 4:06.37 from 4:14.79, Sara Isakovic. That's two seconds per 100m in a year. Amazing progress - and she's just one of many.

The Battle: Pellegrini wrested the world record from Manaudou with a 4:01.53 at the European championships at Eindhoven in March. Manaudou was not in the hunt and then finished third at French trials - luckily, Potec was one of those who defeated her and the reigning champion claimed the second berth behind the smooth-looking Balmy. Hoff and world 800m champion Ziegler will challenge for gold. Watch too for Adlington. Manaudou has talked of knowing her rivals' tactics. She has won in the past by being courageous, as taught by Lucas. It would be a mistake for her to think she can hold back now. The company she finds herself in this season is unforgiving.

Most consistent: Hoff, with three entries in the top 20 performances this, 4;04.44 her slowest of those efforts; Brits Adlington and Jackson also have three entries apiece in that top 20

History:Of the 20 finals contested since 1920 (which was actually over 300m), 11 have gone to the USA. The crown has been retained jut once: Norelius, a Stockholm-born American who in the summer of 1927 set 29 world records (including yards), claimed the 1924 and 1928 titles. Four women have bridged 400 and 800m: Meyer (1968), Cohen (1984), Evans (1988) and Bennett (2000). Meyer is the only women to have bridged 200, 400 and 800. Robbed of a place in history by doping and boycott, Cynthia Woodhead.


Fastest: 4:03.85, Evans, 1988
World Record wins: Bleibtrey, 1920; Norelius, 1928; Madison, 1932; Gould, 1972; Thumer, 1976; Evans, 1988.
Biggest margin: 7.9sec, Crapp's (AUS) defeat of Fraser in 1956; Gould and Evans produced dominant victories more recently.
Closest shave:0.29 split Hase (GER) and Evans in 1992.
Most controversial: Michelle Smith de Bruin (IRL) had never raced an international 400m freestyle until summer 1996. Her progress was an aberration of historic proportions. She stopped the opposition buit could not stop the rumours. Two years later, she attempted to manipulate a drug-test sample and was suspended.

 

800M FREESTYLE


World record: 8:16.22 - Janet Evans (USA), Tokyo, 20.8.1989
Olympic champion: Ai Shibata (JPN) 8:24.54
World champion: Kate Ziegler (USA) 8:18.52
The picture in August 2007:

3 Proven Protagonists From 2007: Ziegler; Manaudou; Hayley Peirsol (USA)
2 Breakers: Rebecca Adlington (GBR); Yang Jieqiao (CHN)
2 Bubbling Under: Erika Villaecija (ESP); Sophie Huber (FRA)
1 On The Edge: Shibata
Don't forget: Flavia Rigamonti (SUI); Rebecca Cooke (GBR); Hoff if she so wishes

All-time top 10, end 2007:
8:16.22 Evans (USA) 1989
8:18.52 Ziegler (USA) 2007
8:18.80 Manaudou (FRA) 2007
8:19.53 Moehring (GDR) 1987*
8:19.67 Bennett (USA) 2000
8:22.09 Strauss (GDR) 1988*
8:22.66 Klochkova (UKR) 2000
8:22.80 Hoff (USA) 2007
8:22.93 McDonald (AUS) 1988
8:23.66 Stockbauer (GER) 2003
* - enhanced by State Plan 14:25
New impact on all-time top 10: Ziegler; Manaudou; Hoff

The picture in August 2008:


Hayley Peirsol, Sophie Huber and Rebecca Cooke are no longer in the race. The pressure is building for a break down to that astonishing 1989 standard that stands yet as a monument to the excellence of Janet Evans and the work she did with coach Bud McAllister. Adlington, Hoff and Filippi have entered the all-time top 10 this season - but don't be fooled by that 8:25 from Ziegler ....
The World Top 10, 2008:
8:19.22 Adlington, Rebecca GBR 2007 8:25.73
8:19.70 Hoff, Katie USA 2007 8:22.80
8:20.70 Filippi, Alessia ITA 2007 8:41.62
8:23.78 Potec, Camelia ROU 2007 8:37.97
8:24.08 Villaecija, Erika ESP 2007 8:27.59
8:24.30 Palmer, Kylie AUS 2007 8:29.36
8:25.38 Ziegler, Kate USA 2007 8:18.52
8:25.63 Balmy, Coralie FRA 2007 8:32.01
8:26.70 Ehmcke, Jaana GER 2007 8:45.54
8:26.88 Trott, Wendy RSA 2007 8:31.53

Danger just outside the top 10: Rigamonti (SUI) and reigning champ Shibata.

The Battle: Adlington put the Games into perspective when she said that her world number one status this season 'will count for nothing in Beijing - we all start from scratch ... it'll come down to what you do there, and that's what I've been working towards with Bill [Furniss, her coach]. A medal would be a first for Britain since 1984 in the 800m, while gold would be a first for Britain since Anita Lonsbrough in 1960. Not mjuch pressure then. If anyone can handle it, Adlington can. She will need too: Hoff and Ziegler are chasing an invisible aquatic icon: Janet Evans. Those three have company in the form of Filippi. Manaudou, silver last time, is out, and and Potec. Manaudou, the 2004 Olympic silver medallist, will not contest the 800. Reigning champ Shibata is off the pace this season, down on an 8:28 in 13th place, but watch for Palmer and Balmy.

Most consistent: Adlington and Ziegler have a slight edge on Hoff, with four entries each to Hoff's three in the best 25 performances this year, between 8:19 and 8:28.

History: Of the 10 finals contested since 1968, seven have gone to the USA. The crown has been retained twice: Evans (1988-92) and Bennett (1996-2000). By the time Shane Gould walked out to race in 1972, she had won the 200m medley, the 200 and 400m freestyle and finished third over 100m freestyle. The USA team wore T-Shirts announcing 'All that glitters is not Gould'. A fresh Keena Rothhammer won the title in a world record three strokes ahead of the only woman to win five individual medals at one Games and the first Italian woman to win a medal in the pool, Novella Calligaris.


Fastest: 8:19.67, Bennett, 2000
World Record wins:11.7sec, Meyer in another ocean in 1968.
Closest shave: 0.42, Shibata (JPN) over Manaudou (FRA), 2004, and 0.45, Thumer and State Plan 14:25 over Babashoff, 1976.
Most controversial: When Petra Thumer (GDR) was about to leave for the 1978 world championships as reigning double Olympic champion, she was called off the team check-in list and ordered to undergo 'clean-up' tests. Doctors failed to remove traces of the steroids they had supplied to her and she was never seen in international competition again. She was said to be suffering from a cold.

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