Host City: Athina, Greece
Venue(s): Olympic Aquatic Centre, Athens Olympic Sports Complex Spiros Loues, Athina
Date Started: August 19, 2004
Date Finished: August 20, 2004
In 2003 [Hannah Stockbauer] had won a hat-trick of titles over the longer freestyle races at the World Championships and was a deserving winner of the World Swimmer of the Year award. Twelve months later and, in harmony with the generally poor performances of the entire German swimming team, she was a shadow of her former self and could only place 14th in the heats.
For much of the Olympic final it appeared that 17-year-old French sensation [Laure Manaudou] would repeat her performance in the 400 freestyle and win the title. The French teenager took to the front on the second length and led by more than two seconds at one stage but [Ai Shibata] of Japan gradually clawed back on the lead and, with 100 metres to go, caught up with Manaudou. Manaudou and Shibata fought it up over the last two lengths until the Japanese edged into a decisive lead. This was the first medal ever won by a female Japanese swimmer in a freestyle event. Indeed the previous individual best of 5th had been set by Shibata 5 days earlier in the 400 metres.
In a race between two Americans for third place, [Diana Munz] and [Kalyn Keller] swapped positions in the closing stages before Munz rallied to claim the bronze medal.