Dubai, world s/c championships, day 3 finals
Women's 400m Freestyle
Katie Hoff (USA), multiple world champion in 2007 and an Olympic silver medallist who was given a hard time back home post-Beijing and struggled her way through the past couple of seasons, is a world champion once more, her 3:57.07 championship victory ending a long run of victories for world long-course champion Federica Pellegrini (ITA).
The silver went to defending champion Kylie Palmer (AUS) in 3:58.39, the bronze to Pellegrini in 3:59.52. All three medal-winning efforts represented personal bests in textile suits, with the 3:56.09 best of Laure Manaudou (FRA) from 2006 the only effort better on the all-time list.
A fine thing to see someone who'd lost their confidence and didn't know where to find it suddenly find themselves bumping into their old self. Hoff traded places with Palmer at the helm for the first 200m before cracking up on the third 100m and staying just that touch ahead of the Australian all the way to a last 50m of determination and drive: 29.16 for Hoff, and gold, 29.79 for Palmer, and silver, Pellegrini matching Hoff's homecoming split to ensure bronze.
"It's great, being able to believe in myself again and being able to see myself racing those girls," said Hoff, coached by Sean Hutchinson at FAST. "The last couple of years have been really hard, with no wins since 2007. It's great to get some confidence back. It's a great way to end the season." Good way to start a world champs-Olympics build up too.
No discounting the Lioness of Verona of course, though it was odd to see Pellegrini unable to fire from the front for the first time since she miscalculated at the 2008 Olympic Games and missed the podium in the 400m. At 100m, a 58.46 left her 6th, by 200m she was 5th on 1:59.70. The Italian told reporters that she was not in best shape, that things had not gone well in training of late and that she needed to get back to training and a period of stability on her way to Shanghai world long-course titles next summer.
As for Palmer, beaming: "The race was awesome. I'm really happy with my performance. Katie took off really fast and I just couldn't keep up. So far the year has been good, I couldn't have asked for better this year."
History in the making:
World s/c Podiums
Most world titles in this event: 2
*- in 2002 swimmer suspended after a positive test for nandrolone she claimed must have been in a food drink
Records (TB = best ever in a textile suit)
Most world records in this event (since specific 25m records began in 1991): 2
All-time textile rankings top 5:
From the archive:
The most prolific setter of 400m free world records in what would become known as short-course was Ragnhild Hveger (DEN). Between 1938 to 1945 she became the greatest swimmer never to have won an Olympic title. At 15, Hveger won a surprise silver over 400m freestyle at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Ironically dubbed “Denmark’s Golden Torpedo”, Hveger set 42 individual freestyle world records, including yard swims from 100 yards to 1 mile, and three on backstroke between 1936 and 1942. Those efforts included a global standard over 200m freestyle (2:21.7) that would survive 20 years from 1938 until the dawn of Dawn Fraser in 1956. Hveger broke the 400m record eight times from 5:14.2 to 5:00.1 (1937-1940), her last mark broken only 16 years later by Lorraine Crapp (AUS) The date of that 5mins swim, September 15, coincided with the dates of what would have been a 1940 Olympic Games. Over 800m, the second of Hveger’s world marks made her the first woman to race inside 11mins, while the last of three records over 1,500m made her the first woman inside 21mins. Beyond the speed of her best days, a mark of Hveger’s athletic prowess was her longevity: ten years after her last world record and seven years after retiring in 1945, she made a comeback and managed to finish fifth over 400m freestyle, just 4.8sec behind the champion Valeria Gyenge (HUN) at the 1952 Olympic Games. Hveger was 32. Her finest competitive tally was a three-gold-medal haul (100, 400 and 4x100m freestyle) at the 1938 European Championships in London: her victory by 18.7sec in 5:09.0 over 400m set a championship record that would survive three challenges before being broken in 1958, while her 100m championship record in 1:06.2, would survive two assault before being broken in 1954. She was a member if the two Danish 4x100m freestyle quartets that set two world records in 1938, their best effort lasting until 1952.