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Swimming at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games:

Women's 400 metres Individual Medley

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Host City: Atlanta, United States
Venue(s): Georgia Tech Aquatic Center, Atlanta, Georgia
Date Started: July 20, 1996
Date Finished: July 20, 1996

Gold: IRL Michelle Smith
Silver: USA Allison Wagner
Bronze: HUN Krisztina Egerszegi


In the two years since the last World Championship Dai Guohong, the world champion, had drifted away from top level competition and so the focus of the world shifted onto the attempt of [Krisztina Egerszegi] to defend her Olympic title and the efforts of American [Allison Wagner] to deny the Hungarian a piece of Olympic history.

Another contender was [Michelle Smith] of Ireland, who had placed second to Egerszegi at the 1995 European Championships, in addition to having won two gold medals at the meeting. History was not on Smith’s side as no Irish swimmer had ever won a race at the Olympic Games - let alone qualify for a final. Smith ended that streak by winning heat three and progressing as third fastest qualifier.

The Irishwoman then went to win the final with comparative ease and finished three seconds ahead of Wagner with Egerszegi a close third.

Not only was Smith’s win the first by a Irish swimmer it was also the first time an Irish female Olympian had won any kind of medal in the history of the Games. Still there were many critics who saw her development from also-ran to world beater with a degree of suspicion. Smith had competed at two previous Olympics without ever getting past the heat stages and had only began achieving success after meeting [Erik de Bruin], a Dutch discus thrower who was serving a ban for a doping violation, and her future husband.

Her supporters would point to the fact that de Bruin had revolutionized her training regime but there were always whispers that her performances were only achieved due to illegal methods. Smith won two more European titles in 1997, before her career came to a sudden halt in January 1998. In an out-of-competition drug test, she handed in a urine sample that had enough whiskey in it to kill a normal human being. This was considered enough evidence to convict her of tampering with the sample and she was banned for two years. After the ban ended she did not return to competition but instead qualified as a lawyer.

View a Phase of this EventFinal StandingsFinalB FinalRound One

Final Standings

Rank Athlete Age Team NOC Medal
1 Michelle Smith 26 Ireland IRL Gold
2 Allison Wagner 18 United States USA Silver
3 Krisztina Egerszegi 21 Hungary HUN Bronze
4 Sabine Herbst-Klenz 22 Germany GER
5 Emma Johnson 16 Australia AUS
6 Beatrice Coadă-Căşlaru 20 Romania ROU
7 Lourdes Becerra 23 Spain ESP
8 Whitney Metzler 18 United States USA
9 Joanne Malar 20 Canada CAN
10 Hana Černá 22 Czech Republic CZE
11 Nancy Sweetnam 22 Canada CAN
12 Fumie Kurotori 20 Japan JPN
13 Hideko Hiranaka 23 Japan JPN
14 Elli Overton 22 Australia AUS
15 Yseult Gervy 17 Belgium BEL
16 Pavla Chrástová 17 Czech Republic CZE
17 Chen Yan 15 China CHN
18 Wu Yanyan 18 China CHN
19 Sarah Hardcastle 27 Great Britain GBR
20 Britta Vestergaard 21 Denmark DEN
21 Cathleen Rund 18 Germany GER
22 Carolyn Adel 17 Suriname SUR
23 Mirjana Boševska 15 Macedonia MKD
24 Anna Wilson 19 New Zealand NZL
25 Katia Sarakatsani 19 Greece GRE
26 Darya Shmelyova 20 Russia RUS
27 Praphalsai Minpraphal 18 Thailand THA
28 Lee Ji-Hyeon 14 South Korea KOR
29 Hsieh Shu-Tzu 15 Chinese Taipei TPE
30 Martina Nemec 20 Austria AUT
31 Nadège Cliton 18 France FRA