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Swimming at the 1936 Berlin Summer Games:

Women's 400 metres Freestyle

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Host City: Berlin, Germany
Venue(s): Swimming Stadium, Imperial Sports Field, Berlin
Date Started: August 13, 1936
Date Finished: August 15, 1936

Gold: NED Rie Mastenbroek
Silver: DEN Ragnhild Hveger
Bronze: USA Lenore Kight-Wingard


Fourteen year old [Ragnhild Hveger] had set the first of her 42 world records early in 1936 and although that record was for the 800m she had emerged as a strong contender for the Olympic title. This was confirmed by her heat swim in which she broke the Olympic record. Waiting for Hveger in the final however was the 100m champion, [Rie Mastenbroek]. Hveger pushed out to a lead and tried to shake off the presence of the Dutch swimmer but it was to no avail and Mastenbroek sprinted ahead with less than ten metres left to win her third gold of the Games. Mastenbroek later told of an incident that happened during before one of the earlier races of the Games. Hveger was handing out chocolates to some of the other swimmers but not to Mastenbroek. This angered the Dutchwoman who was determined to get her “revenge” in the 400m race.

Hveger would go on to dominate the European Championships in London in 1938 and set world bests at both freestyle and backstroke before her retirement. Coming out of retirement to compete in the Helsinki she was still good enough at the age of 32 to reach the final of the 400 metre freestyle. Judging by the times she recorded it is possible that if she competed between 1940 and 1948 her medal tally may have been in double figures.

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