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Swimming at the 1988 Seoul Summer Games:

Men's 400 metres Freestyle

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Host City: Seoul, South Korea
Venue(s): Indoor Swimming Pool, Olympic Park, Seoul
Date Started: September 23, 1988
Date Finished: September 23, 1988

Gold: GDR Uwe Daßler
Silver: AUS Duncan Armstrong
Bronze: POL Artur Wojdat


The Olympic record was 3:50.91, set by West German [Thomas Fahrner] in winning the B final in Los Angeles. The standard in Seoul was so high that to qualify for the final, one had to better that record, the biggest casualty being 1986 World Champion and 1987 European runner-up, West German [Rainer Henkel], who barely made the B final and elected not to contest that race. The high standard of qualifying set the stage for a dramatic final.

The current world record holder was Poland’s [Artur Wojdat], who trained in the USA and had swum 3:48.38 earlier in 1988 at the US Nationals. In the final the early leader was Sweden’s [Anders Holmertz] followed by American [Matt Cetlinski], the 1987 Pan Pacific champion. Cetlinski took the lead at 300 metres, followed by Wojdat and Holmertz, with East German [Uwe Daßler] in fourth, and Australian [Duncan Armstrong], already the winner of the 200 free in Seoul, moving up slightly, but still in seventh. Cetlinski continued to lead at 350 but he was dying, and Wojdat and Daßler moved ahead on the final lap. Armstrong, who swam the final 100 in 55.02, finished very quickly and moved up to the silver medal, passing Wojdat. But he could not catch Daßler, who finished in 55.55 for gold, as Cetlinski dropped off the podium to fourth.

Daßler finished in 3:46.95 to break Wojdat’s world record. But Wojdat also bettered it in third, with 3:47.34, as did Armstrong in second with 3:47.15, and it took a world record time just to get on the podium. Wojdat called it “The Race of the Century,” which was echoed by Terry Stoddard, his Mission Viejo coach, who said “Yes, definitely. It was the greatest race in history.”

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