Analysis: Women's 200m Butterfly
Craig Lord
Like bolts from the blue, Liu Zige and Jiao Liuyang became gold and silver medallists, much to the delight of a roaring home crowd


Beijing 2008:


  • 1. Liu Zige (CHN) 2:04.18 wr
  • 2. Jiao Liuyang (CHN) 2:04.72
  • 3. Jessicah Schipper (AUS)  2:06.26
  • WR splits: 27.80;  59.37 (31.57);   1:31.59 (32.22);  2:04.18 (32.59)
  • Fastest field: Beijing - 2:04.18 - 2:08.23


Comparison fields:


  • Melbourne 2007: 2:06.39 - 2:13.62 (7th 2:09.66)
  • Athens 2004: 2:06.05 - 2:10.58


Facts going into the race:


  • World Record: 2:05.40 - Jessicah Schipper (AUS), Victoria, 17.8.06

  • Olympic champion: Otylia Jedrzejczak (Poland) 2:06.05

  • World champion: Jessicah Schipper 2:06.39


Impact of morning finals:

Several swimmers swam slower in semis than heats, while half the final swam slower (one practically the the same) than they had in semis. 

What it took to make the semis:

  • Beijing 2008: 2:06.46 - 2:09.41
  • Melbourne 2007: 2:08.12 - 2:11.65
  • Athens 2004: 2:09.64 - 2:12.34

Notes from the race:

Like bolts from the blue, Liu Zige and Jiao Liuyang became gold and silver medallists, much to the delight of a roaring home crowd. Liu, 19, clocked a world record of 2:04.18 and Jiao, 17, came home in 2:04.72. Jessicah Schipper (AUS) was left languishing back on 2:06.26 for bronze. Defending champion Otylia Jedrzrejczak (POL) was locked out of the medals, on 2:07.02. Liu had a best time of 2:09.45 and Jiao 2:07.06 in 2007 and at China trials in April clocked 2:07.76 and 2:08.84 respectively. The last time China won Olympic gold in the pool was Luo Xuejuan's 100m breast victory in 2004, before that Le Jingyi in the 100m free in Atlanta 1996 in the midst of the doping crisis. The last Chinese women to hold world records were Wu Yanyan and Chen Yan in October 1997. Both were subsequently suspended for steroids. Those were the days! The pace of progress of the latest Chinese breakers is just as phenomenal. But in an age in which bodysuits are credited - with justification - for a significant role in driving records into uncharted waters, the Chinese progress was far from being one of a kind. The Chinese teenagers swam a clever race. Liu sat on Schipper's shoulder as the Australian raced inside world-record pace at 50m (27.75 to 27.80, with Jiao on 28.19) and 100m (58.99 to 59.37, with Jiao on 1:00.36). Down the third length, Liu edged ahead going into the last turn (1:31.59 to Schipper's 1:32.06) as Jiao crept up to third on 1:32.68. Down that third length, the world record holder split 33.02 and was struggling. The Chinese pair clocked 32.22 (Liu) and 32.32. Schipper returned home in the slowest last 50m of the final - 34.20. And then came the questions: 2:09 to a 2:04.18 world record in a year? Massive even with a fast suit. After the final, Pan Jiazhang, Liu's coach asked: "Look at how many times our swimmers have been tested, I assure you that this is a clean team." Two things: Marion Jones proved that hundreds of tests can't do what one confession can; and a trawl for Liu Zige in the Fina out-of-comp testing stats shows us that she was overlooked. Not a single test from the overseas agents employed by the federation during the season of build up. Not good enough. This year: one test, in January, and nothing since, nothing suring the time that Zige has moved up from 2:09 to 2:07, and then on to a 2:04.18, past Schipper and the rest of the fleet of proven world-class flyers. "Why do they accuse us every time we are doing well?" asks Pan. Simple. Because every time you've done well in the past, you have done so by cheating - big time. He said that 200m butterfly had been targetted for gold. Rare to come from  outside the top 10 to win a gold medal in a massive world record. "We did not improve that much," said Pan. Fetch that man a pair of glasses, a calculator, a bean counter, whatever it takes - his swimming knowledge is not what it ought to be.

Impact on all-time top 10 


  • 2:04.18 Liu Zige  CHN BEIJING F
  • 2:04.72 Jiao Liuyang CHN BEIJING F
  • 2:05.40 Schipper Jessicah AUS
  • 2:05.61 Jedrzejczak Otylia POL
  • 2:05.81 O'Neill Susan AUS
  • 2:05.88 Hyman Misty USA
  • 2:05.96 Meagher Mary T. USA
  • 2:06.01 Thomas Petria AUS
  • 2:06.38 Nakanishi Yuko JPN
  • 2:06.49 Mongel Aurore FRA BEIJING H


All-time top 10, end 2007:


  • 2:05.40 Schipper, Jessicah AUS 2006 

  • 2:05.61 Jedrzejczak, Otylia POL 2005
  • 2:05.81 O'Neill, Susan AUS 2000 

  • 2:05.88 Hyman, Misty USA 2000 

  • 2:05.96 Meagher, Mary T. USA 1981 

  • 2:06.01 Thomas, Petria AUS 2004 

  • 2:06.52 Nakanishi, Yuko JPN 2006 

  • 2:06.71 Vandenberg, Kim USA 2007 

  • 2:06.77 Liu, Limin CHN 1994 

  • 2:06.83 Lacroix, Audrey CAN 2007 



The first Olympic crown went to Ada Kok, Dutch legend and one of the biggest personalities of the sport to this day. The title has never been retained since Kok's victory in 1968. Liu Zige is the first Chinese winner. Of the 11 finals held, Americans have won four, while Australians have made it to the podium at seven Games and have more medals than any other nation, on 9. In Beijing, China joined the USA, GDR and Australia in the league of nations who have take gold and silver at the same Games. The USA and GDR also lay claim to a clean-sweep each from the days when three per nation took to their blocks.


  • Fastest: 2:04.18: Liu Zige (CHN), 2008
  • World Record wins: Karen Moe (USA), 1972; Liue Zige (CHN), 2008.

  • Biggest margin: Mary T Meagher (USA), clocked 2:06.90 to win the 1984 title, giving her a 3.66sec advantage over Karen Phillips (AUS). 

  • Closest shave: Innes Geissler beat GDR teammate Sybille Schonrock by 0.01sec in Moscow, 1980.