It’s on the first day of competition in London and it contains Britain’s first genuine medal hope in the pool in the slight frame of Hannah Miley. The women’s 400IM hence has the potential to set teamGB’s swimming campaign off to a great start. But more than that, it promises to be an intriguing race, with the differing strengths of the competitors meaning that the lead could change several times. Here we look at how the race might pan out, using the best time of the four main protagonists this year.
The top 4 in the world this year are the 2011 World Champion, and holder of the best time ever in textile, Elisabeth Beisel of the USA; Britain’s 2010 European and Commonwealth Champion and world silver medallist in 2011, Hannah Miley; 2009 World Champion and 2012 European Champion Katinka Hosszu of Hungary; and defending Olympic Champion, World Record holder and world bronze medallist in 2011, Stephanie Rice of Australia.
It’s possible that a swimmer like Mereia Belmonte-Garcia could challenge, or as Hannah herself has pointed out, someone could make a big drop in their best time to challenge, but on paper at least, the battle for the podium comes down to these 4, who currently sit at the top of the 2012 world rankings.
Hosszu: 1:01.18 – Rice: 1:02.51 – Beisel: 1:03.02 – Miley: 1:03.10
No surprise about the state of play at the 100m mark. Hosszu is a fine 200m fly swimmer and this leg represents one of her strongest, so she will go out fast and expect to be at the head of the race early. Rice had been planning to add the 200 fly to her programme before shoulder injury intervened so again should be strong over the opening leg. Meanwhile, Beisel will lay in wait, happy that her strength comes later, while Miley has always been towards the rear of the field at this point. It’s worth noting though that at trials she was a lot quicker at 100m than she was in her silver medal winning performance in Shanghai. She put that down to the atmosphere and the adrenalin generated – that home support could be her secret weapon in his final.
A big move from Beisel here; the American is an excellent backstroker and should be expected to come through the field over the second quarter of the race. Hosszu is a decent backstroker, but not in Beisel’s league. Interestingly, on form this year, Miley is quicker than Rice at halfway with the Australian fading on this leg. It will be interesting to see if she moderates her fly pace in London as a result. Miley’s 200m split at trials was 1 second faster than in Shanghai, keeping her in contention. With her strongest legs coming over the second half of the race, being in touch here will be crucial to her chances.
Beisel: 3:29.09 – Miley: 3:29.23 – Hosszu: 3:30.64 – Rice: 3:30.98
This is where Miley really comes into her own. She is the fastest breaststroker in women’s 400m medley swimming and it shows, as she closes dramatically on Besiel and overtakes Hosszu along the way. It’s Besiel’s weakest leg so Miley must press home her advantage hard on this leg. She will be able to hear the crowd and if she’s making progress is sure to get a lift. On paper she is just 0.1s behind Beisel at the 300m turn.
Breaststroke is the Hungarian’s weakest leg by far and she could find herself locked into a battle just to make the podium places if she loses too much time. Rice’s strength is the first and last 100m of the race so she just needs to stay in contact to give herself a chance.
Beisel: 4:31.74 – Miley: 4:32.67 – Hosszu: 4:32.83 – Rice: 4:33.45
The closing 100m is where it gets really interesting. All 4 girls are excellent freestylers so the order does not change, and it could already be down to a 2-way battle. The margins are tight though, so it’s altogether possible that all 4 could still be in with a chance of gold. Miley and Beisel will be close together and Patrick Miley, Hannah’s coach, believes that his charge has the mental strength and racer’s instinct that could make the difference in the closing 100m. This could mean that a strong heat and a good lane become crucial factors.
But don’t count out the other challenges – Rice fought all the way to the wall in Shanghai and only lost out to Miley by a fingernail’s width. Meanwhile, Hosszu showed great strength in her closing 100m earlier this year to finish only 0.2s behind Miley in the rankings. It could realistically go any way, although Beisel remains a warm favourite, but it will, without doubt, be a fascinating race.