Stephanie Rice of Australia went out extremely fast and held on at the end to win the women’s 400 IM in 4:29.45 — nearly 2 seconds faster than the world record of 4:31.12 set by Katie Hoff at the U.S. Olympic trials.
“I sort of turned around and thought I saw 4:31 and I was thinking, ’That hurt a lot for a 4:31,”’ Rice said. “But when I walked over and saw the 4:29, I thought, ’That’s amazing.”’
Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe also went under the old mark, but only got the silver for the second-fastest swim in history, 4:29.89. Hoff couldn’t match her performance at the trials, settling for bronze in 4:31.71.
“It was a tough race, but I can’t really be mad,” Hoff said. “I was only like a half-second off my best time, so I’m happy to get my first medal of the Olympics.”
She was a frightened 15-year-old when she competed at her first Olympics in Athens, actually throwing up after her first event. She failed to win a medal in either of her two races.
This time, nerves weren’t a problem. She simply couldn’t keep up with Rice.
“I was trying,” Hoff said. “I didn’t have it at the end.”