Host City: Seoul, South Korea
Venue(s): Indoor Swimming Pool, Olympic Park, Seoul
Date Started: September 24, 1988
Date Finished: September 24, 1988
The world record was 4:03.69 set by East Germany in winning the 1984 Friendship Games, and they had held the record since 1973. They were the defending World and European Champions. While the United States had won the 1987 Pan Pacs, they were in a different league. The 100 strokes had all been decided in Seoul by the time this event started and the best East German times added up to 4:03.90, while the best American times came to only 4:07.77. The biggest problem for East Germany was where to put Kristin Otto, who had won the 100 free, 100 back, and 100 fly. They rested her in the prelims and then had her lead off on backstroke in the final. Her 1:01.03 split had her over 1½ seconds ahead of the USA’s Beth Barr and the race for gold was over. East Germany increased their margin on each leg, winning in 4:03.74, the second fastest time ever. The USA was well back for silver, finishing in 4:07.90, but that was also almost three seconds ahead of the Canadians, who finished third. The East German victory gave Kristin Otto her fifth gold medal in Seoul. She would later win a sixth in the 50 free.