By John Lohn
MONTREAL, Canada, July 24. COME and get me. That was the philosophy of France’s Laure Manaudou in the final of the women’s 400-meter freestyle. The reigning Olympic champion pushed the tempo from the start and remained under world-record pace through the first half of the swim before settling for a winning time of 4:06.44.
A triple-event medalist in Athens, Manaudou actually faced a major challenge down the stretch. As the Frenchwoman was losing power, Japan’s Ai Shibata continually narrowed her deficit, only to come up just short of a come-from-behind triumph. Shibata checked in with a time of 4:06.74, ahead of the bronze-medal time from Great Britain’s Caitlin McClatchey (4:07.25). Shibata closed nearly a second faster than Manaudou over the final 50 meters.
Manaudou covered the first 100 meters in 59.09 and touched at the 200-meter mark in 2:01.32, suggesting that she may give Janet Evans’ world record of 4:03.85 (1988) a push. Then, reality set in and Manaudou simply needed to win the race, nothing more. In setting her world record at the Seoul Olympics, Evans negative split the race.
The top seed heading into the final, Canada’s Brittany Reimer recorded a person-best effort of 4:07.32, but could not ride the overwhelming support of the Canadian crowd to a medal. Reimer settled for fourth place, finishing ahead of Romania’s Camelia Potec (4:08.06) and Australia’s Linda Mackenzie (4:08.75). Seventh place went to Great Britain’s Joanne Jackson (4:08.88) and eighth went to Costa Rica’s Claudia Poll (4:10.02).