Connect with Us:  

W400IM: Beisel Breaks Out in 4:31.78

Jul 31, 2011  - Craig Lord

Day 8 finals, Oriental Sports Center, Shanghai

Women's 400m medley

Elizabeth Beisel (USA) stormed to a 4:31.78 victory, the time the best ever in a textile suit, the silver going to European and Commonwealth champion Hannah Miley (GBR) in 4:34.22, 0.01sec ahead of Olympic champion Stephanie Rice (AUS).

Rice led at for the first half of the race, on 1:01.82 on butterfly, Beisel in 5th on 1:03.32, Miley eighth on 1:03.97, and then 2:11.16 on backstroke. By then Beisel was just 0.8sec away, while Miley looked to have a mission impossible ahead of her, on 2:14.61 in sixth. [When later Miley was asked whether keeping her cool when so far back early on had been something she learned, she noted: "It's the way I swim it and Katie Hoff went in 1:03.9 when she set the world record in Melbourne (4:32.89)."]

Just 50m later on breaststroke, Beisel now in the lead for the first time, 0.5sec up on Rice, Miley had clawed back 1.5sec on the Australian and 0.2sec on the American. By the last turn, Beisel on 3:29.80 and Rice struggling in 3:31.41, Miley had gained a further 0.66sec on the leader and was just 0.18sec away from the Olympic champion who locked her off the Rome 2009 podium by 0.43sec.

Beisel extended her lead on freestyle on the way to a 4:31.78 victory, nothing between Rice and Miley the whole way home, a 30.35 last lap taking the Brit 0.01sec beyond the Aussie, with world short-course champion Mireia Belmonte in that hated place, 4th, on 4:39.94.

Rice, who had shoulder surgery last year, told reporters that she is in a good position from which to launch the defence of her Olympic crown. "It's just a stepping stone and I just wanted to sort of be back as part of the team and executive some good races. I am pretty happy with how I’ve done," she said. 

"Obviously it is not the outcome I would like at the end of next year but I think I’m always my own worst critic, I think I’m disappointed with the places, but looking at that now I'm going to use that as motivation. This is the best time I’ve done since surgery and Olympics basically and these suits, it gives me a lot of confidence, I thought id go a bit faster but so hard to step up on day eight of the meet."

Miley was overcome with emotion after her race after hugging her coach and father Patrick, a helicopter pilot who invented the Aquapacer metronomic training device once used by Ian Thorpe.

The Garioch swimmer from the north-east of Scotland took European and Commonwealth crowns last year after having missed the cut for the GB team in 2007, raced in the Olympic final in 2008 and then taken fourth in Rome.

Miley fought back tears as she explained while managing a broad smile too: "I've just seen my dad. I just gave him a hug, I didn't say anything, I think the hug just said it all." 

With that she was back to the race: "I didn't realise how close it was until I saw the board and that last 50m is all a blur. It hurt so much. I'm so pleased with that. I would have liked to have done a 4:33 like I did at the Europeans but it was just a fantastic swim and a great way to end the season."

She trains in local community 25 pools and her father is an unpaid coach who fits what he does so well into the precious little time he has, keeping a change of clothes at the pool or in the car so that he has get out of his piltot's outfit straight from work. Such thoughts come tumbling home when medals follow sacrifice: "That triggered me off as well but it's great because it shows all the hard work he puts in pays off. We don't do it the easy way so it's great to know the hard way does pay, it's great."

The result:

  • 1. Elizabeth Beisel, United States, 4:31.78
  • 2. Hannah Miley, Britain, 4:34.22. 
  • 3. Stephanie Rice, Australia,4:34.23. 
  • 4. Mireia Belmonte Garcia, Spain, 4:34.94. 
  • 5. Ye Shiwen, China, 4:35.15. 
  • 6. Li Xuanxu, China, 4:35.78. 
  • 7 Barbora Zavadova, Czech Republic, 4:38.04. 
  • 8. Caitlin Leverenz, United States, 4:38.80.

The splits:

  • 2011: 1:03.32; 2:11.96; 3:29.80; 4:31.78 Elizabeth Beisel (USA) Shanghai gold
  • 2008: 1:01.47; 2:09.83; 3:28.46; 4:29.45 Stephanie Rice (AUS) Beijing gold
  • 2007: 1:03.91; 2:14.10; 3:29.68; 4:32.89 Katie Hoff (USA) Melbourne gold

History in the making:


  • WR (all suits):  4:29.45 Stephanie Rice (AUS) Beijing August 10, 2008 
  • WR (textile):     4:31.78 Elizabeth Beisel (USA) Shanghai, July 31, 2011

World-class stats:

  • World Record wins: Gudrun Wegner (GDR); Tracy Caulkins (USA); Petra Schneider (GDR); Katie Hoff (USA)
  • Title retained: Yana Klochkova (UKR); Hoff
  • Biggest margin: Schneider beat teammate Kathleen Nord by 7.41sec in 1982
  • Closest shave: Lin Li (CHN) beat Hayley Lewis (AUS) by 0.01sec in 1991

From the archive:

Until the advent of Yana Oleksandrivna Klochkova, no woman had ever retained an Olympic or world medley title. In the four years from 2000 to 2004, she became only the second woman to win both the Olympic 200m and 400m medley titles, at Sydney 2000, claimed the 2001 and 2003 world titles and then retained both Olympic crowns. She also enjoyed a big pay day: in 1999, LEN offered DM100,000 to any European swimmer who won the 1999 European short-course title, the 2000 European long-course title and the Olympic crown in the same event. Klochkova ticked all boxes.

Although the 4mins 30sec barrier was broken by two women in 2008, in a world record of 4:29.45 as Stephanie Rice (AUS) won one of three gold medals at the Beijing Olympic Games ahead of silver in 4:29.89 for Kirsty Coventry (ZIM), it remains a target for any swimmer wearing a textile suit. In 2009, a 4:30.31 was good enough to grant Katinka Hosszu (HUN) the world crown in Rome ahead of Coventry (4:32.12) and Rice (4:32.29), while the Scot in 4th on that occasion, Hannah Miley (GBR) led the 2010 world rankings on 4:33.09. That time granted her the European title two months before she added the Commonwealth crown.