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Swimming at the 1988 Seoul Summer Games:

Women's 800 metres Freestyle

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Events:
Phases:

Host City: Seoul, South Korea
Venue(s): Indoor Swimming Pool, Olympic Park, Seoul
Date Started: September 23, 1988
Date Finished: September 24, 1988

Gold: USA Janet Evans
Silver: GDR Astrid Strauß
Bronze: AUS Julie M. McDonald

Summary

[Janet Evans] had already won two individual golds in Seoul, in the 400 freestyle and 400 IM. She came into the Olympics as the world record holder in this event, having posted 8:17.12 in March 1988 in Orlando, Florida. Her biggest challengers were expected to be the two East Germans, [Astrid Strauß], 1986 World Champion and runner-up at the 1987 Europeans to her teammate [Anke Möhring], and Australian [Julie M. McDonald], who had easily defeated Evans at the 1987 Pan Pacs.

In the final Evans took the lead from the start and by 400 metres had almost three seconds on Strauß, nearly four seconds on Möhring, and almost five on McDonald. The others all negatively-split their races and closed in the second half, but Evans even-split her race and the outcome was never in doubt, as Evans won in 8:20:20. Strauß hung on for second, while McDonald passed Möhring to win the bronze.

Evans would return in 1992 and defend her gold medal in this event, adding a silver in the 400 free. At the 1989 Pan Pacific meet, she swam 8:16.22 for a world record which would last until [Rebecca’s Adlington] Olympic gold medal swim of 8:14.10 at the 2008 Olympics. It was the second longest-lasting world record ever, trailing only Dutchwoman [Willy van Ouden]’s 100 metre freestyle mark of 1:04.6, which lasted from February 1936 until February 1956.

Evans would also compete at the 1996 Olympics but she was by then past her prime and placed sixth in the 800, failing to make the final of the 400. She then retired, or so it seemed, and married in 2004, later having two children. But in 2010 she started competing again, at first in masters’ events, but she then set a goal to try for another Olympic team. She qualified for the US Olympic Trials in 2012, but was unable to make the team in either the 400 or 800.