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LONDON, England, July 28. DEMONSTRATING the ridiculous closing speed she possesses, 16-year-old Ye Shiwen of China blasted the world record in the women's 400 IM at the 2012 London Olympics.
Ye stood third heading into the 250-meter mark, then blew right past leader Elizabeth Beisel by the 350-meter mark before bringing the Olympic gold medal and world record home with a blistering time of 4:28.43. That swim crushed the previous global mark of 4:29.45 set by Stephanie Rice when she won the event back in 2008, and lopped two seconds off Ye's previous best time of 4:31.73 set during prelims. Ye's closing speed is becoming legendary, coming home in 58.68. Incredibly, her final 100 was nearly faster than Ryan Lochte's 58.65 in the men's 400 IM. Ye's final 50 actually was faster than Lochte's, 28.93 to 29.10.
“Yeah, we were talking about that at dinner,” Lochte said the next day after his 200 free prelim swim. “It is pretty impressive. She's fast. If she was there with me, she might have beat me.”
Ye's top time heading into the meet today had been a 4:33.55 from October 2011. With the world record, she became the first woman since the end of the techsuit era to set a long course individual world record. She also becomes the first woman from China to win gold in the event's history. Lin Li was the only other medal winner with a silver in 1992.
“I didn't think about it too much,” Ye said. “The moment I jump in the water my mind goes blank. In the last 100m I thought I was behind so I tried as hard as I could to catch up. Then I found out it was only me (in front).”
Beisel, the defending world champion in the event, wound up taking silver with a 4:31.27. It bettered her lifetime best, but left her just shy of Katie Hoff's American record of 4:31.12 from the techsuit era. The runner-up finish gave the Florida Gator her first Olympic medal, having taken fourth in the event in 2008 and fifth in the 200 back that year as well.
“I'm totally satisfied,” Beisel said. “A gold would be a little bit cooler but I can't complain. I'm just really excited right now. I knew the Chinese were going to bring it home.”
China's Li Xuanxu raced to a bronze with a 4:32.91, overtaking early leader Katinka Hosszu of Hungary (4:33.49). The bronze is Li's first Olympic medal as well after a fifth-place finish in the 800 free and eighth-place effort in this event in 2008.
“I am really happy because I think not everyone can be at the Olympic Games,” Li said. “Even just swimming in the Olympics makes me happy.”
“I think all the people who get into the Olympics have the chance to get a medal.”
Great Britain's Hannah Miley wound up fifth in 4:34.17, while defending Olympic champion Stephanie Rice matched USA's Caitlin Leverenz with 4:35.49s for sixth-place in the event. Spain's Mireia Belmonte Garcia rounded out the finale in 4:35.62.
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