Japan’s Ai Shibata Wins the Women’s 800 With Back-Half Surge

By Sarah Tolar and Stephen J. Thomas

ATHENS, August 20. JAPAN has a very proud history in swimming. In the 1930s and '40s, they absolutely dominated men's distance swimming. Even in the '50s and '60s, Tsuyoshi Yamanaka was the only middle distance swimmer able to challenge Australia's Murray Rose and Jon Konrads. Since then, there have been occasional Japanese champions — Nobuta Taguchi in the 100 breast in 1972 and Daichi Suzuki in the 100 backstroke in 1988, for example. Most recently, here in Athens, Kosuke Kitajima won both breaststroke events.

But it is an anomaly that their women swimmers have rarely won Olympic gold in any event — the last to do so were Mayumi Aoki in the 100 fly in 1972 and Kyoko Iwasaki in the 200m breaststroke in 1992. What's more, they have NEVER won an Olympic medal in freestyle.

Until tonight.

Ai Shibata, ranked 5th globally this year coming into the Olympics, came from behind, storming home in the final 100 meters to win the women's 800 meter freestyle final. The 400 free gold medalist Laure Manaudou of France took a commanding lead from the start and split 4:09.77 at the halfway mark, less than two seconds outside Janet Evans WR split. She was in front by as much as two-and-a-half seconds, when Shibata started chipping away at the lead.

At the 700 mark, the two women touched almost even, Shibata trailing by only six one-hundreths of a second. But Shibata caught her rival off at the turn and powered past her over the last 100 to stop the clock at 8:24.54, fast enough for the gold. Manaudou finished less than half a second back with a time of 8:24.96.

Meanwhile, the two Americans, Diana Munz and Kalyn Keller were dueling, stroke for stroke for the bronze. Munz took control from the start, but about halfway, Keller pulled even, and then ahead. But Munz, never letting her younger teammate out of sight, regained control on the final 50 meters.

Munz touched with a time of 8:26.61, for the bronze, with Keller just trailing at 8:26.97, good enough for fourth place.

Shibata said of her performance, “I was not winning for the first 600 meters and when I felt in was getting close to Manaudou I went for it. My coach told me not to panic, don't rush and certainly don't give up, I kept repeating this in my mind during the race.”

Manaudou, a quite serious young lady from France, was a little hard on her performance given she took gold in the 400 free and sliver in this race having come into the meet ranked fifth globally in both events. She is now ranked 9th all-time in the 400 and 18th in the 800.

It's been a good week but I would have rather have won, I don't like to lose,? she said after winning her silver medal.

“At home you can start slow and then give it all at the end, but in an international contest like the Olympics it is not possible. I had to start fast and maintain my pace through the race. I knew the Japanese girl was going to reach me and I gave up fighting at the 700 meters, I knew I could not win any more. I hope I will beat her next time,” she concluded.

Diana Munz was more philosophical about her swim. “It was a long wait, but I've done it. I training for four hard years for this so of course I'm excited and happy that I was third,” she said.

Women 800 meter Freestyle Final.

Record Splits Name NOC Location Date
WR 8:16.22 EVANS Janet USA Tokyo (JPN) 20 AUG 1989
OR 8:19.67 BENNETT Brooke USA Sydney (AUS) 22 SEP 2000

Event No: 26

1 SHIBATA Ai JPN 8:24.54
29.39
50m(2) 29.56
100m(2) 1:00.57
31.01 150m(2) 1:32.04
31.47 200m(2) 2:03.87
31.83 250m(2) 2:35.79
31.92 300m(2) 3:07.80
32.01 350m(2) 3:39.95
32.15 400m(2) 4:12.02
32.07
450m(2) 4:44.50
32.48 500m(2) 5:16.29
31.79 550m(2) 5:48.06
31.77 600m(2) 6:19.93
31.87 650m(2) 6:51.73
31.80 700m(2) 7:23.65
31.92 750m(1) 7:55.15
31.50

2 MANAUDOU Laure FRA 8:24.96
29.75 0.42
50m(1) 28.68
100m(1) 59.34
30.66 150m(1) 1:30.76
31.42 200m(1) 2:02.15
31.39 250m(1) 2:33.96
31.81 300m(1) 3:05.78
31.82 350m(1) 3:37.66
31.88 400m(1) 4:09.77
32.11
450m(1) 4:41.94
32.17 500m(1) 5:14.18
32.24 550m(1) 5:46.28
32.10 600m(1) 6:18.39
32.11 650m(1) 6:50.75
32.36 700m(1) 7:23.20
32.45 750m(2) 7:55.21
32.01

3 MUNZ Diana USA 8:26.61
29.86 2.07
50m(3) 29.66
100m(=3) 1:01.05
31.39 150m(3) 1:33.01
31.96 200m(3) 2:04.75
31.74 250m(3) 2:36.62
31.87 300m(3) 3:08.64
32.02 350m(3) 3:40.72
32.08 400m(3) 4:12.96
32.24
450m(3) 4:45.13
32.17 500m(4) 5:17.47
32.34 550m(4) 5:49.51
32.04 600m(4) 6:21.70
32.19 650m(4) 6:53.60
31.90 700m(4) 7:25.56
31.96 750m(4) 7:56.75
31.19

4 KELLER Kalyn USA 8:26.97
30.95 2.43
50m(=7) 30.08
100m(7) 1:01.87
31.79 150m(8) 1:33.97
32.10 200m(7) 2:05.75
31.78 250m(6) 2:37.51
31.76 300m(4) 3:09.35
31.84 350m(4) 3:41.41
32.06 400m(4) 4:13.35
31.94
450m(4) 4:45.16
31.81 500m(3) 5:17.09
31.93 550m(3) 5:48.91
31.82 600m(3) 6:20.64
31.73 650m(3) 6:52.32
31.68 700m(3) 7:24.12
31.80 750m(3) 7:56.02
31.90

5 VILLAECIJA Erika ESP 8:29.04
30.34 4.50
50m(=4) 29.76
100m(5) 1:01.27
31.51 150m(5) 1:33.28
32.01 200m(4) 2:05.22
31.94 250m(4) 2:37.30
32.08 300m(5) 3:09.46
32.16 350m(5) 3:41.81
32.35 400m(5) 4:13.95
32.14
450m(6) 4:46.21
32.26 500m(6) 5:18.30
32.09 550m(6) 5:50.56
32.26 600m(6) 6:22.44
31.88 650m(6) 6:54.69
32.25 700m(6) 7:26.87
32.18 750m(6) 7:58.70
31.83

6 COOKE Rebecca GBR 8:29.37
30.94 4.83
50m(=4) 29.76
100m(=3) 1:01.05
31.29 150m(4) 1:33.20
32.15 200m(5) 2:05.28
32.08 250m(5) 2:37.42
32.14 300m(6) 3:09.51
32.09 350m(6) 3:41.85
32.34 400m(6) 4:14.00
32.15
450m(5) 4:46.04
32.04 500m(5) 5:18.17
32.13 550m(5) 5:50.11
31.94 600m(5) 6:22.31
32.20 650m(5) 6:54.34
32.03 700m(5) 7:26.35
32.01 750m(5) 7:58.43
32.08

7 HENKE Jana GER 8:33.95
31.26 9.41
50m(=7) 30.08
100m(8) 1:01.90
31.82 150m(7) 1:33.94
32.04 200m(8) 2:06.18
32.24 250m(8) 2:38.51
32.33 300m(8) 3:10.81
32.30 350m(8) 3:43.32
32.51 400m(8) 4:15.68
32.36
450m(8) 4:47.97
32.29 500m(8) 5:20.47
32.50 550m(8) 5:52.84
32.37 600m(8) 6:25.33
32.49 650m(7) 6:57.66
32.33 700m(7) 7:30.32
32.66 750m(7) 8:02.69
32.37

8 PADURARU Simona ROM 8:37.02
32.41 12.48
50m(6) 29.84
100m(6) 1:01.56
31.72 150m(6) 1:33.43
31.87 200m(6) 2:05.43
32.00 250m(7) 2:37.53
32.10 300m(7) 3:09.72
32.19 350m(7) 3:42.03
32.31 400m(7) 4:14.40
32.37
450m(7) 4:46.71
32.31 500m(7) 5:19.43
32.72 550m(7) 5:52.12
32.69 600m(7) 6:24.90
32.78 650m(8) 6:57.96
33.06 700m(8) 7:31.09
33.13 750m(8) 8:04.61
33.52

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Author: Archive Team

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