Host City: London, Great Britain
Venue(s): London Aquatics Centre, Olympic Park, Stratford, London
Date Started: July 28, 2012
Date Finished: July 28, 2012
The pre-race favorite was American Elizabeth Beisel, who had won the 2011 World Championship. The defending gold medalist was Australian Steph Rice, but Beisel now had her number. Beisel had the fastest qualifier with 4:31.68 but was followed closely by surprising Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen, who posted 4:31.73. It was surprising because her PR coming into London was only 4:33.55 from October 2011 and she had improved dramatically within the last year.
The final saw the lead exchanged several times with Hungarian Katinka Hosszú leading on the butterfly and backstroke legs, but Beisel took over on the breaststroke, only to see Ye pass her just before the final stroke change. The final freestyle was all Ye, who came home in 58.68, with the final 50 done in a stunning 28.93, for a world record 4:28.43. This was the first individual world record since the skinsuit era, and was over a second better than Rice's world record set in winning this event in Beijing. Beisel took silver, while Ye's teammate Li Xuanxu came home for the bronze, Hosszú finishing fourth, with Rice back in a tie for fourth with American Caitlin Leverenz.
Ye's victory was not without some controversy, as her finish was stunning, but some thought it was "too good". In his 400 IM gold medal on the same night, Ryan Lochte had finished in only 58.65 for the final 100, and Ye actually outswam him on the final 50, as he posted 29.10. Several American coaches and officials openly said that Ye's mark had to be performance enhanced, though she passed all her drug tests, and the IOC actually had to come to Ye's defense in a press release. It was redolent of the 1976 Olympics when Shirley Babashoff made similar comments about the East German female swimmers, allegations which in that case were eventually proven to be true.
|2||Elizabeth Beisel||19||United States||USA||Silver|
|5||Hannah Miley||22||Great Britain||GBR|
|6T||Caitlin Leverenz||21||United States||USA|
|11||Aimee Willmott||19||Great Britain||GBR|
|15||Barbora Závadová||19||Czech Republic||CZE|
|16||Katheryn Meaklim||23||South Africa||RSA|
|17||Kim Seo-Yeong||18||South Korea||KOR|
|19||Natalie Wiegersma||22||New Zealand||NZL|
|28||Nguyễn Thị Ánh Viên||15||Vietnam||VIE|