Ian Thorpe mesmerized the crowds at the 2000 Summer Olympics. With his mastery in the 400-meter event he made people sit up and notice. The 400-meter freestyle is a common individual event in competitive swimming. In this long course event, competitors race eight lengths of a 50-meter, Olympic size swimming pool. It is considered a middle-distance event by most competitive swimmers and coaches, requiring speed and endurance. It is an official event of the summer Olympic games.
The 400-meter freestyle is a timed swimming race. The clock begins at the starter’s horn and is stopped when the swimmer has completed 400 meters. This is equivalent to eight lengths of a 50-meter, Olympic size swimming pool. It is a long course event since the pool is measured in meters rather than yards. According to usaswimming.org, freestyle is any form of forward swimming in which some part of the swimmer’s body must break the surface of the water. However, most competitors choose to swim the front crawl as it is generally the fastest style of swimming.
As a middle-distance event, the 400-meter freestyle is too great a distance for a competitor to sprint the entire race, but short enough to require substantial speed. Therefore, superior 400-meter racers possess the qualities of speed and endurance. There are many strategies employed in this event. A common strategy is to gradually accelerate for the first 50 meters, hit a predetermined pace for the middle 300 meters and sprint the remaining 50 meters to the finish.
One of the most famous male champions of the 400 meters is the Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe. Nicknamed “The Thorpedo,” Thorpe won gold medals in the 2000 and 2004 Olympic games. On the women’s side, one of the most well known 400-meter freestyle swimmers is American Janet Evans. She won Olympic gold in 1988, setting a world record that would last for 18 years. She also earned the silver medal in the 1992 Olympic games.
The world record in the men’s 400-meter freestyle is 3:40.07 held by German swimmer Paul Biedermann. The current Olympic record holder is Ian Thorpe and the American record holder is Larsen Jenson. The world record in the women’s 400-meter freestyle is held by Italian swimmer Federica Pellegrini, with American Katie Ladecky, hot on her heels. Pellergrini also holds the Olympic record while Katie Hoff holds the American record.
In youth competitive swimming, the long course season occurs in the summer. Therefore, this is generally the time of year when young swimmers compete in the 400-meter freestyle. Most competitive swimmers will complete the event in 5 minutes or less. For reference, the qualifying times for the 2013 Summer Junior Championships are 4:23.79 for the women and 4:05.19 for the men.