Analysis: Men's 1500m Freestyle
Craig Lord
Dawn Fraser (AUS) and Krisztina Egerszegi (HUN) wait yet for male company in the triple crown club as

Beijing 2008

  • 1. Oussama Mellouli (TUN) 14:40.84 
  • 2. Grant Hackett (AUS) 14:41.53
  • 3. Ryan Cochrane (CAN) 14:42.69
  • Fastest field: 14:40.84 - 15:05.12 (7th, 14:55.20; semi-finals top 8: 14:38.92 - 14:49.53)

Comparison fields:

  • Melbourne 2007: 14:45.94 - 15:07.76 (7th: 14:59.59)
  • Athens 2004: 14:43.40 - 15:13.66

European record

  • Prelims: Yuri Prilukov (RUS) 14:41.13
  • ER Splits: 56.73; 1:55.66; 2:54.35; 3:52.84; 4:51.50; 5:50.11; 6:48.73; 7:47.79; 8:46.97; 9:46.34; 10:46.01; 11:45.59; 12:45.21; 13:44.78; 14:41.13

Facts going into the race:

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

Impact of morning finals:

What it took to make the final:

  • Beijing 2008: (14:38.92) - 14:49.53 (morning finals - all under 14:50)
  • Melbourne 2007: 14:53.57 - 15:02.16 (two men over 15 minutes.
  • Athens 2004: 14:57.03 - 15:09.54 (seven men over 15mins)

Notes from the race:

Dawn Fraser (AUS) and Krisztina Egerszegi (HUN) wait yet for male company in the triple crown club. It looked for a while - until the 1,100m mark - as though Grant Hackett (AUS) would cut the mustard, make the grade, sign up for membership. He raced with Ryan Cochrane (CAN) at his side, the leaders ready to back up on Olympic records from the heats - Cochrane with a 14:40.84 and Hackett a 14:38.92. They hadn't needed to go quite so fast - and when it came to the crunch in the final, the edge belonged to Oussama Mellouli (TUN), who flew past his opponents just after two-thirds into the race, and maintained a strong surge until the end, managing what no man had done to an in-form Hackett throughout his senior international career: when the Australian fired, the African fended him off. Hackett roared ahead of Cochrane in the closing 100m but Mellouli was too strong. The gap at the end was 0.69sec, or 0.023sec a length. Mellouli was crowned in 14:40.84, an African record and precisely what Cohrane had clocked in heats, to 14:41.53 for Hackett, with Cochrane third in 14:42.69. The minor medallists from Athens 2004, Larsen Jensen and David Davies were locked out. The world record of 14:34.56 remains. Cochrane won Canada's only medal in the pool. It is never comfortable seeing someone just back in time from a doping ban climb to the helm of the Olympic podium, although in Mellouli's case (a stimulant taken for exam purposes - silly as that was) the leniency shown was understandable. 

That said, the African's progress in the 1,500m - and absence from the event at the highest level does not follow the traditional pattern of progress to the OLympic podium - by a long way:

  • 2008: 14:40.84; 14:47.76 (in Beijing); 14:56.22 in June 2008 to qualify, with a lifetime best; previous best - 15:18.98, from 2004; 16:03.90 in 2005; nothing under that in 2006; won the 800m at Melbourne 2007 in a soft time; and then served the ban.

Mellouli said: "I was expecting to win a medal in the 400. It was what I prepared for all year. It was my best ranking and we were planning to get a medal, not necessarily gold, but a medal. Then a month and a half before the Olympics I had a herniated disc and psychologically I was a bit tense and nervous. In the 400 I got 5th and I was really disappointed and didn't want to come in 5th again. But I remained calm and concentrated. Despite the fact that the week was long and I was seeing people on the podium while I waited, I remained patient and even in this race I remained patient to the 800, I was able to win." 

Hackett said: "It's tough to swallow it all, for me going for my third gold, in no doubt the toughest race on the programme, I am feeling a lot of things. I feel relieved, I feel a bit of disappointment knowing I gave it everything. I think it took a bit too much out of me after the 1500 heat, but I spent every last cent that I had. That I came within millimetres over 12 years of doing it [winning 3 Olympic titles], I have raced some great competitors over the years who have pushed me, so it is amazing."

With a nod to the past and the future, Hackett said: "When you come out and swim fast times, people try to emulate your stroke and training so they can match you. Certainly, I've been swimming a long time, and competitors aged 13 or 14 who are swimming when you are swimming internationally at age 18 or 19, will copy that strategy and I was able to take myself and distance swimming forward. If you set that bar high, people are going to come with you. People were saying after heats that the race was so much harder, but that's how I wanted it to be. I wanted to race the best and see what I could get out of me and it was a great."

Impact on the all-time top 10:

  • 14:34.56 Hackett, Grant AUS (2001)
  • 14:40.84 Cochrane, Ryan CAN BEIJING H
  • 14:40.84 Mellouli, Oussama TUN BEIJING F
  • 14:41.13 Prilukov, Yuri RUS BEIJING H
  • 14:41.66 Perkins, Kieren AUS 14:55.92 (1994)
  • 14:45.29 Jensen, Larsen USA BEIJING F
  • 14:45.54 Vanderkaay, Peter USA (2008)
  • 14:45.84 Zhang, Lin CHN BEIJING H
  • 14:45.94 Sawrymowicz, Mateusz POL (2007)
  • 14:45.95 Davies, David GBR (2004)

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


Mellouli became the first African and the first Arab male winner of a Olympic swimming title. He is also the first winner in history not to have a time recorded against his name in the season  before winning the big crown. That was because he failed a doping test for a stimulant that he said he took to get him through exam work at college in the US. Of the 27 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. Two men have come close to winning the crown for what would have been an historic third time: Perkins in 2000 (silver and stopped by Hackett) and Hackett in 2008 (silver and stopped by Mellouli).

  • Fastest: 14:40.84, Mellouli, 2008 (Hackett OR, prelims, Beijing: 14:38.92
  • 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: Oussama Mellouli (TUN) clocked 14:40.84, 0.69sec ahead of Grant Hackett (AUS), who was prevented from becoming the first man to win the same crown at three Games by the equivalent of 0.023sec a length.