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Swimming at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games:

Women's 400 metres Freestyle

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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.