Tokyo Vision: Katinka Hosszu Hoping To Stand Alongside Yana Klochkova With 400 IM Defense

Katinka Hosszu - Photo Courtesy: Patrick B. Kraemer

Tokyo Vision: Katinka Hosszu Hoping To Stand Alongside Yana Klochkova With 400 IM Defense

Had the COVID-19 pandemic not shaken the world, the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo would be unfolding right now, titles and podium finishes earned by the finest athletes from around the world. Instead, we are in a competition lull and hopeful that the Games will be held next summer, with COVID-19 neutralized.

As we reach the nine days over which the swimming competition of a delayed Olympiad would have taken place, Swimming World is taking a glimpse at what might have unfolded this summer, had the Olympics not been postponed. Following the official schedule, we offer our virtual fields of eight finalists for each event and take a brief look at how the racing might have panned out until a few strokes away from decision and a result that will not be known until July/August 2021.

League of Olympic Legends: Yana Klochkova Tops 400 IM Podium With De Varona & Caulkins

Event: Women’s 400m Individual Medley
World Record: Katinka Hosszu (2016) – 4:26.36

Historical Note #1: The 400 IM was introduced to the program at the 1964 Games in Tokyo with the United States landing a clean sweep of the podium. Leading the way was Donna de Varona who had broken the world record four years earlier aged 13 years, two months, 19 days. Had the event been on the program for Rome 1960, the American would have become the youngest gold medallist in Olympic history.

Historical Note #2: Yana Klochkova is the only woman to have successfully defended a title in this event. The Ukrainian won in Sydney 2000 in 4:33.59 before again taking gold four years later in 4:34.83. She also won the 200IM at both Games to complete the double-double.

Virtual Vision

The Finalists (Listed Alphabetically)

  • Mireia Belmonte (Spain)
  • Katinka Hosszu (Hungary)
  • Yui Ohashi (Japan)
  • Emily Overholt (Canada)
  • Sydney Pickrem (Canada)
  • Sakiko Shimizu (Japan)
  • Ye Shiwen (China)
  • Aimee Willmott (Great Britain)

The Race

Katinka Hosszu came into Tokyo prepared to take on a customary multi-event schedule that would start with the 400 IM. The Hungarian had not been beaten in major competition since London 2012 – which had proven to be a watershed – but had made the event her own and taken it into uncharted waters. However, she was not as dominant as she had once been, understandable given the rigours of racing in so many events while time stands still for no-one. Sydney Pickrem had brought Hosszu’s seven-year run of victories in the 200IM to an end in January 2020 but she was still the queen of the longer medley, the first to win a world title in the same event five times.


Yui Ohashi: Photo Courtesy: SIPA USA

Yui Ohashi was carrying home hopes and it was the Japanese – third at last year’s World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea – who turned first after the butterfly leg ahead of Hosszu and Emily Overholt. As expected, the Hungarian came back strong on the backstroke and held a slight lead over Ohashi, the pair some way ahead of the field.

Hosszu extended her lead on the breaststroke and was clearly ahead going into the freestyle only for Ye Shiwen to make her presence felt, eight years after her astonishing performance on the final leg in London where she swam her last 50 quicker than Ryan Lochte did to take gold in the men’s race.

Clearly that pace has not gone away. It was there in Gwangju where she finished second with a turbo-charged final 50. After the last turn, Hosszu was still first but Ye turned on the speed to overhaul Ohashi who was being urged on by the home crowd. Mireia Belmonte was coming, too, on that last length, the Japanese in her sights, with Overholt responding as well.

Coming into the final metres and there was nothing certain. So, who would be on the podium? Who would miss out?

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