League Of Olympic Swim Legends: Ian Thorpe Tops 800 Podium With Salnikov, Holland & Hackett

Those Feet ... Ian Thorpe Photo Courtesy: SwimSketch

What would have unfolded had Tokyo 2020 gone ahead as planned this week – and where would it all have fit in the thread of Olympic swim legends and pioneers like Ian Thorpe, Vladimir Salnikov, Stephen Holland and Grant HackettTo mark the eight days over which the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games would have unfolded had the coronavirus pandemic not forced postponement, the team at Swimming World is filling the void with a Virtual Vision Form Guide and League of Olympic Swimming Legends.

Day 5, event 1 – Half-way between Olympic distances  …

Men’s 800m Freestyle

The Podium

  1. Ian Thorpe (AUS);
  2. Vladimir Salnikov (URS)
  3. Stephen Holland / Grant Hackett (both AUS)

The Other Finalists (Listed Alphabetically):

  • Andrew ‘Boy’ Charlton (USA)
  • John Konrads (AUS)
  • Shozo Makino (JPN)
  • Kieran Perkins (AUS)
  •  Our Lane 9* place goes to a man for whom the timing of ill-health ruined his chances of recognition at Olympic level. Given the 800m has no Olympic history among men, then here’s a chance to recognise a potential for never fulfilled by a man who held eight World freestyle records on all distances 200m to 1500m, 2 of them over 800m :
  • Tim Shaw (USA)

* – in our series, we will use Lane 9 to add an athlete whose story reflects extraordinary situations of different kinds, including being deprived by those who fell foul of anti-doping rules or by political decisions or, indeed the Olympic program, as well as simple facts such as “he/she was the only other title winner who claimed gold in a WR but didn’t make out top 8 on points”

All-Time Battle Of Olympic Swim Legends Goes To Ian Thorpe

Like the women’s 1500 freestyle, the men’s 800 free has never been held in Olympic waters. The introduction will come next year in Tokyo, but the event still has a strong legacy with big names excelling at one point or another during their careers. Of the eight finalists, eight hail from Australia, evidence of that country’s affinity for the 16-lap freestyle.

In what be viewed as a surprise, gold was claimed by Aussie Ian Thorpe in a tight duel with the Soviet Union’s Vladimir Salnikov. Although Thorpe only occasionally extended to this distance, his prowess in the 800 free could not be overlooked. He twice set world records, his first slicing nearly five seconds off the previous record of countryman Kieren Perkins. Meanwhile, his world record of 7:39.16 from the 2001 World Championships was part of a 200-400-800 world-record sweep.

With this 800 Legends victory, Thorpe clinches another triple, having topped out 200m and 400m podiums in this mini-series marking the week the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games would have unfolded had it not been for the coronavirus pandemic.

Salnikov earned the silver medal based off four world records and his identity as the first man to break the eight-minute barrier. That effort cut five seconds off the previous world record. More, Salnikov stood as the world-record holder in the 800 free for 12 years.

Rounding out the podium are Australians Stephen Holland and Grant Hackett. There is no science to this exercise, no Olympic history to reply on specifically for the 800m event. We rely heavily on the number of World records set on a list that is hard to compare, the likes of Konrads, Perkins, Makino and Charlton having only ever had pioneering pace to lean on as a measure of their status. There were no 800m races at Olympics nor World Championships for them. On the other hand, we take into account the World titles won by others.

 A distance ace from the 1970s, Holland had a particular love for the 800 free and set seven world records from 1973-76. Hackett set one and won two World titles and claimed silver in the inaugural World-title clash in 2001, Ian Thorpe at the helm in a World-record. It took Hackett another four years of work to get passed Thorpe on the clock but beat him over 400 and 800m he never did on the biggest of occasions. In our 800 legends race, all others, Charlton, Makino, Konrads and Perkins, were a hand away from the medals, each with three World records.

The rest of this story must wait until Tokyo202ne…

Ian Thorpe Vs Great Hackett – Fukuoka 2001

Another Great Thorpe Vs Hackett Battle:

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