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Swimming at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games:

Women's 400 metres Freestyle

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Phases:

Host City: Atlanta, United States
Venue(s): Georgia Tech Aquatic Center, Atlanta, Georgia
Date Started: July 22, 1996
Date Finished: July 22, 1996

Gold: IRL Michelle Smith
Silver: GER Dagmar Hase
Bronze: NED Kirsten Vlieghuis

Summary

Ireland’s Michelle Smith had already been a shock winner of the 400 metres individual medley at these Games but her appearance in the heats of the 400 metres freestyle was clouded by controversy. Smith’s original intention was to race in only four events at the Games but a fifth, this event, was added before the entry deadline. A number of countries protested Smith’s inclusion because her qualifying time has been set one day after the qualifying period closed. The Irish team managed successfully argued at the Court of Arbitration for Sport that, because the Atlanta Organising Committee had mistakenly sent out a memo stating that the Olympic qualifying period ran until June 20 and not the correct June 5, Smith’s time was valid for Olympic purposes.

Amazingly the qualifying heat was the first time that Smith had competed in an international race at the distance but she qualified in second place for the final. Missing from that final was Janet Evans, the American who had won the race in 1988 and finished second in 1992. She failed to reach the final after finishing only ninth fastest in the heats.

Dutchwoman Carla Geurts set the pace in the final and led until the halfway mark when the faded out of contention. Smith then took the lead and burned away the rest of the pack over the third hundred. Dagmar Hase, the defending champion from Germany, closed in on Smith over the final stages but it was not enough to deny the Irishwoman her second title of the Games.

Final Standings

Rank Athlete Age Team NOC Medal
1 Michelle Smith 26 Ireland IRL Gold
2 Dagmar Hase 26 Germany GER Silver
3 Kirsten Vlieghuis 20 Netherlands NED Bronze
4 Kerstin Kielgaß 26 Germany GER
5 Claudia Poll 23 Costa Rica CRC
6 Carla Geurts 25 Netherlands NED
7 Eri Yamanoi 17 Japan JPN
8 Cristina Teuscher 18 United States USA
9 Sarah Hardcastle 27 Great Britain GBR
10 Sandra Cam 24 Belgium BEL
11 Lin Chi-Chan 16 Chinese Taipei TPE
12 Emma Johnson 16 Australia AUS
13 Suzu Chiba 20 Japan JPN
14 Dionne Bainbridge 18 New Zealand NZL
15 Hayley Lewis 22 Australia AUS
16 Carla-Creola Negrea 22 Romania ROU
17 Janet Evans 24 United States USA QC
18 Irene Dalby 25 Norway NOR
19 Itziar Esparza 21 Spain ESP
20 Andrea Schwartz 19 Canada CAN
21 Olga Šplíchalová 20 Czech Republic CZE
22 Mirjana Boševska 15 Macedonia MKD
23 Nadezhda Chemezova 15 Russia RUS
24 Laëtitia Choux 16 France FRA
25 Britt Raaby 18 Denmark DEN
26 Ravee Intporn-Udom 15 Thailand THA
27 Martina Moravcová 20 Slovakia SVK
28 Alicia Barrancos 24 Argentina ARG
29 Chen Yan 15 China CHN
30 Carolyn Adel 17 Suriname SUR
31 Jeong On-Ra 14 South Korea KOR
32 Martina Nemec 20 Austria AUT
33 Paula Harmokivi 21 Finland FIN
34 Tonia Makhaira 25 Greece GRE
35 Chantal Strasser 18 Switzerland SUI
36 Maritza Chiaway 21 Peru PER
37 Ana Alegria 19 Portugal POR
38 Judit Kiss 16 Hungary HUN
39 Marina Zarma 18 Cyprus CYP