Host City: Athina, Greece
Venue(s): Olympic Aquatic Centre, Athens Olympic Sports Complex Spiros Loues, Athina
Date Started: August 18, 2004
Date Finished: August 18, 2004
On 18 August 1987 a foursome from the German Democratic Republic set a world record for the longer of the two women's freestyle relays at the European Swimming Championships in Strasbourg, France. It stood largely unchallenged for exactly 17 years, almost to the hour, until a USA quartet of Natalie Coughlin, Carly Piper, Dana Vollmer, and Kaitlin Sandeno took it apart in the process of winning Olympic gold in Athens.
As a race, the final was decided on the first leg where Coughlin took a 1½ second lead so the interest shifted to the question of how fast the Americans could swim and whether the final world record held by the East Germans would be deleted from the record books. The answer was in the affirmative as more than two seconds were sliced off the time of the GDR quartet. China were runners-up with Germany holding off a fast finishing Australia for bronze.