Beijing Form Guide: Men's 200m-1,500m Free
Countdown to 08/08/08: SwimNews continues its preview to the Games with a look at how the seascape has changed in the past year, who is still in the race, who is out and where the medals are likely to go. Today: Men's 200-1,500m Freestyle

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.

Men's 200m, 400m and 1,500m Freestyle


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. The effect on the 200m is not quite as marked, but still significant, while the effect on events 400m or longer is less obvious, though not absent. Could it be that talent, hard work and coaching among those focussing on 200m upwards has fallen off the pace of progress in the world of sprinters? Unlikely. 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 men's sprint freestyle, times since February have changed the all-time lists like no other season in the past 25 years. The effect from 200m to 1,500m is calmer but still significant. Here's a snapshot of the numbers:

200m: 4/10 all-time performers from 2008; 14/30 entries from 2008
400m: 4/10 all-time performers from 2008; 14/30 entries from 2008
1,500m: 3/10 all-time performers from 2008; 10/30 entries from 2008

The burning question: What can Grant Hackett do? All eyes will be on one of the toughest of competitors the world has ever known. Defeat at Melbourne 2007 attracted a certain amount of criticism and talk of a 'has-been' hanging on. In fact, Hackett's efforts were as courageous as they may prove to be tactically astute. Those serious about taking away his 30-lap crown will understand better than most just how hard a task that is going to be in Beijing, regardless of the post-injury 2007 season. Hackett's recent blast to a world s/c record in the 800m puts the Australian on a trajectory back to 14:34 l/c 1.500m. And what of the 400m? Can the Aussie tough-nut crack that one too? I wouldn't bet against him. Should he climb to those two lofty peaks, Hackett will surely enter the inner sanctum of the pantheon of greats.

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




World record: 1:43.86 - Michael Phelps (USA), Melbourne, 27.3.07
2004 Olympic champion: Ian Thorpe (AUS) 1:44.71
2007 World champion: Phelps, 1:43.86

The picture in August 2007:

3 Proven Protagonists From 2007: Phelps; Van den Hoogenband; Tae Hwan Park (KOR)
2 Breakers: Peter Vanderkaay (USA); Kenrick Monk (AUS)
2 Bubbling Under: Magnini; Zhang Lin (CHN)
1 On The Edge: David Carry (GBR)
Don't forget: Simon Burnett (GBR); Klete Keller (USA); Ross Davenport (GBR)
All-time top 10, end 2007:
1:43.86 Phelps (USA) 2007
1:44.06 Thorpe (AUS) 2001
1:44.89 VdHoogenband (NED) 2002
1:45.45 Vanderkaay (USA) 2007
1:45.61 Hackett (AUS) 2004
1:46.13 Keller (USA) 2004
1:46.59 Burnett (GBR) 2005
1:46.60 Rosolino (ITA) 2000
1:46.63 Neethling (RSA) 2005
1:46.69 Lamberti (ITA) 1989
New impact on all-time top 10: Park; Jensen

The picture in August 2008:

Almost half of the all-time top 20 (9/20) are performances from 2008. Ryan Lochte is high on the list but will not race the individual event, while, among those who might have once been considered to be contenders, Simon Burnett is out and Massi Rosolino (ITA), 8th on the all-time list in 2007 is 25th this year alone, on 1:47.33 and has slipped to 14th all-time, such has been the strength of the surge in 2008.
The World Top 10, 2008:
1:44.10 Phelps (USA) - 2007, 1:43.86
1:45.61 Lochte (USA) - 2007, 1:47.66
1:45.85 Basson (RSA) - 2007, 1:49.61
1:45.85 Vanderkaay (USA) - 2007, 1:45.45
1:45.96 Van den Hoogenband (NED) - 2007, 1:45.65
1:46.14 Berens (USA) - 2007, 1:48.42
1:46.20 Keller (USA) - 2007, 1:49.03
1:46.26 Park (KOR) 2007, 1:46.73
1:46.37 Biedermann (GER) - 2007, 1:48.09
1:46.54 Leveaux (FRA) - 2007, 1:48.35
Danger just outside the top 10: on 1:46.65, watch for teenager Danil Izotov (RUS), whose teammate Alex Sukhorukov sits the other side of the Auusie threat from Patrick Murphy and Grant Hackett.


The Battle: For Michael Phelps, two world titles and Thorpey's world record under his belt, the four-lap freestyle is part of an eight-event programme that could deliver one gold beyond Spitz's seven. The American has a clear advantage over the pack but the dam is building. The biggest breaker has been Jean Basson, of South Africa, who leapt from a 1:29 best to a 1:45.85 at RSA trials in April. Hoogie, 2000 champion and second to Thorpe ahead of Phelps in that 2004 final somewhat prematurely described as 'the race of the century', should not be discounted, still in there on a sub-1:46 effort in full training phase.

Most consistent: Phelps - holds three out of the top four best times this year, the slowest of those three efforts a 1:45.71.

History: Of the 12 finals contested since 1968, Australia leads four titles to three for the USA. No swimmer has ever retained the crown. Wenden, Spitz (AUS) and Van den Hoogenband are the three men to have claimed both 100 and 200 crowns at the same Games; Sadovyi (RUS), Loader (NZL) and Thorpe (AUS) have bridged 200 and 400m (there was no 200m in Weissmuller's day). Jon Konrads and Grant Hackett (AUS) did not makes the Olympic podium over 200m but are the only two men who held world records over 200, 400, 800 and 1,500m.

Fastest: 1:44.71, Thorpe (2004)
World Record wins: Spitz, 1972; Furniss (USA), 1976; Gross (FRG), 1984; Armstrong (AUS), 1988; Van den Hoogenband (2000, equaled his semi time)
Biggest margin: Gross's 1:47.44 world record put him 1.66sec ahead in 1984; pioneer Frederick Lane (AUS) won by 6.2sec in 1900.
Closest shave: Sadovyi beat Holmertz (SWE) by 0.16sec in 1992; the tightest podium was the 1976 USA sweep of Furniss, Naber and Montgomery (0.29sec gold to bronze).
Most controversial: In 1968, Wenden and Schollander (USA) raced neck and neck, the race ending 0.6sec in the Australian's favour in an Olympic record of 1:55.2. Far from being able to celebrate the moment in the rarified air at altitude, Wenden lost consciousness - and was saved from the danger of drowning by his teammate Robert Windle (6th), while Schollander had to be given oxygen.



WR: 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

The picture in August 2007:

3 Proven Protagonists: Park; Grant Hackett (AUS); (Ousama Mellouli, TUN, in the event of no result as yet from the doping violation case before CAS); Yuri Prilukov (RUS)
2 Breakers: Larsen Jensen (USA); Venderkaay
2 Bubbling Under: Craig Stevens (AUS); David Carry (GBR)
1 On The Edge: Erik Vendt (USA)
Don't forget: Klete Keller (USA); Nicolas Roustocher (FRA); Massimiliano Rosolino (ITA)
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
New impact on all-time top 10: Park; Jensen

The picture in August 2008:

Ian Thorpe, world champion at 15 and gone by 23, has moved on in life. His aquatic legend lives on: nine of the top 10 times ever boast his name. The 10th man home is Grant Hackett. Of the current all-time top 15, seven performances come from this year, efforts that pushed Perkins down to 7th, Sadovyi out of the top 10 to 13th.
The World Top 10, 2008:
3:43.15 Hackett (AUS) - 2007, 3:45.27
3:43.53 Jensen (USA) - 2007, 3:45.04
3:43.59 Park (KOR) - 2007, 3:44.30
3:43.73 Vanderkaay (USA) - 2007, 3:45.55
3:43.92 Vendt (USA) - 2007, 3:47.53
3:44.79 Mellouli (TUN) - 2007, no time
3:44.97 Zhang, Lin (CHN) - 2007, 3:46.27
3:45.10 Prilukov (RUS) - 2007, 3:45.47
3:45.19 Rosolino (ITA) - 2007, 3:47.09
3:45.20 Colbertaldo (ITA) - 2007, 3:48.01

Danger just outside the top 10: Nikita Lobintsev (RUS) and Craig Stevens (AUS) have both got down to 3:46 of late.

The Battle: Hard-as-nails Hackett cannot be discounted, neither can a man who would love to get his hand home before the Dolphin at whatever distance he can manage it, Larsen Jensen (USA). Park looked supreme when he won the world title and something very special might be in the offing, while Vanderkaay takes to four the numbers of those in the race (Vendt on a 3:43 did not make the cut - ouch!) inside 3:44. Watch too for Oussama Mellouli, the US-based Tunisian who lost world gold and silver medals after having tested positive for an amphetamine he took to stay awake for exams. His ban served, Mellouli will be back with something to prove.

Most consistent: Vanderkaay - four times inside 3:45.60

History: 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. 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. Albert Zorrilla's upset win in 1928 marks Argentina's sole visit to the top of the Olympic swimming podium.

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)
Most controversial: Rick DeMont (USA), 16, finished on 4:00.26, 0.01sec ahead of Brad Cooper (AUS) in 1972 for gold. He then heard that he had committed a doping offence. It was not his offence at all: USA medical staff, informed of the swimmer's prescribed asthma medication, failed to notice that it contained ephedrine. The IOC offered to let DeMont off the hook if his national Olympic committee publicly acknowledged that its doctors were partially to blame. USOC refused and DeMont lost his prize. In 2001, DeMont agreed to withdraw a lawsuit against the USOC if they finally acknowledged that US doctors knew about his medication but did nothing about it. A year after Munich, DeMont became the first man to break 4mins (3:58.18) over 400m when he claimed the inaugural world title.


WR: 14:34.56 - Grant Hackett (Australia), Fukuoka, Japan, 29.7.01
2004 Olympic champion: Grant Hackett (Australia) 14:43.40
2007 World champion: Mateusz Sawrymowicz (Poland) 14:45.94

The picture in August 2007:

3 Proven Protagonists From 2007: Mateusz Sawrymowicz (POL); Prilukov; David Davies (GBR)
1 Breaker: Federico Colbertado (ITA)
2 Bubbling Under: Erik Vendt (USA); Craig Stevens (AUS)
2 On The Edge: Sebastien Rouault (FRA); Roustocher
Don't forget: Hackett; Jensen; Park
All-time top 10, end 2007:
14:34.56 Hackett (AUS) 2001
14:41.66 Perkins (AUS) 1994
14:45.29 Jensen (USA) 2004
14:45.94 Sawrymowicz (POL) 2007
14:45.95 Davies (GBR) 2004
14:47.29 Prilukov (RUS) 2007
14:50.36 Hoffmann (GER) 1991
14:53.42 Kowalski (AUS) 1994
14:53.59 Housman (AUS) 1989
14:54.76 Salnikov (URS) 1983

New impact on all-time top 10: Sawrymowicz

The picture in August 2008:

Two of the men we listed as 'don't forget' in a relatively lean season, Hackett and Larsen, are among the favourites for the crown, with Park last swam a 1,500m in August 2007 (not quite sure as I write whether that is good enough to enter him in the race in Beijing...). Hackett is clearly out in the lead when it comes to form and times on paper: he has six of the best 8 times ever on a list with Perkins, while Jensen and Vanderkaay make up numbers 9 and 10 on the list. The dam has been building. Of the all-time top 30, 10 were established this year alone.
The World Top 10, 2008:
14:45.54 Vanderkaay (USA) - 2007, no time
14:46.78 Vendt (USA) - 2007, 14:57.01
14:48.65 Hackett (AUS) - 2007, 14:48.70
14:50.40 Prilukov (RUS) - 2007, 14:47.29
14:50.59 Colbertaldo (ITA) - 2007, 14:56.22
14:50.65 Cochrane (CAN) - 2007, 14:59.02
14:50.80 Jensen (USA) - 2007, 14:52.98
14:53.18 Stevens (AUS) - 2007, 14:59.11
14:54.28 Davies (GBR) - 2007, 14:51.21
14:55.98 Zhang (CHN) - 2007, 14:59.02

Danger just outside the top 10: Oussama Mellouli (TUN) and world champion Mateusz Sawrymowicz (POL) will be in the mix

The Battle: the champ is in the hunt for the triple - and rivals doubtless shudder at the thought of a hungry Hackett. Winner in 2000 and 2004 and four times world champion (1998, 2001, 2003, 2005), Hackett's unbeaten record was lost in 2007 suring a post-shoulder-surgery season. This year, he has bounced back, setting the world s/c 800m free record on the eve of the Games. Vanderkaay is number one this year, while the unluckiest swimmer in Beijing is Erik Vendt - third in the 400m and 1,500m at US trials but ranked in a place that would otherwise make him a medal hope. Podium placers in 2004, Jensen and Davies will be tough, while European foes Yuri Prilukov and Sawrymowicz are among those likely to make the 30-lap heats the toughest ever: a sub-15min qualification is in prospect.

Most consistent: Vendt has swum inside 15mins four times this year - but he's not in the race in Beijing; Vanderkaay, Hackett and Cochrane have all swum inside 15mins twice.

History: Of the 26 finals contested since 1896, eight titles have gone Down Under and seven to the USA. In 1932, the title went to Kusuo Kitamura (JPN), at 14 the youngest male Olympic champion in any sport. Four men have retained the title: Taylor (GBR, 1906-08); Burton (1968-72); Perkins (1992-96); and Hackett (2000-04), while Salnikov won the crown twice (1980-88), the 1984 boycott in the way of what might have been.

Fastest: 14:43.30, Hackett, 2004 (just 0.18sec inside Perkins 1992)br> World Record wins:Taylor, 1908, Hodgson, 1912; Charlton, 1924; Burton, 1972; Goodell, 1976; Salnikov, 1980; Perkins, 1992.
Biggest margin: Nothing will ever rival the 2min 41.2sec by which Hajos (HUN) won the 1896 crown at sea; Burton beat Kinsella (USA) by 18.4sec in 1968.
Closest shave: Windle (AUS) beat Nelson (USA) by 1.3sec in 1960, while two finals stand out as the tightest podium decisions - in 1976, 2.26sec split Goodell, Hackett (USA) and Holland (AUS), and in 2004, 2.55sec split Hackett, Jensen (USA) and Davies (GBR)
Most controversial: The 1956 final was swum in an atmosphere of hostility, the scars of war lingering in relations between Australia and Japan. Rose and Yamanaka swam stroke for stroke to 800 but with by two laps to go, the Australian led by 6m. Yamanaka began to sprint and the crowd went wild in an attempt to warn their hero. Rose held on and later recalled: 'There was still some resentment in Australia toward the Japanese - we both smiled, fell over the lane lines and warmly embraced. We heard the crowd cheering. The true significance of our race was on the front page of every newspaper - one of the captions read: 'The War is Finally Over'.' The rivals would become fellow students at the University of California and finish one-two once more in 1960.

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