| Event type

400 metres Freestyle, Women

Date25 – 26 July 2021
LocationOlympic Aquatics Centre, 2-1, 2chome, Tatsumi, Koto-ku, Tatsumi-no-Mori Seaside Park, Tokyo, Japan
Participants26 from 19 countries

The defending champion was America’s Katie Ledecky who had not lost at this distance since before the Rio Olympics, where she had set the world record, except for the 2019 World Championships, where she was ill. This was expected to be a two-woman race as Australia’s Ariarne Titmus had been coming closer to Ledecky’s times, had won that match-up at the 2019 Worlds, and recorded the second fastest time ever at the Australian Olympic Trials with 3:56.90.

Both qualified for the final easily, with Ledecky first, Titmus third, and China’s Li Bingjie in the middle. The final was on Monday morning, and was much anticipated. Ledecky took the lead early, splitting 57.67 at 100 metres and holding the lead through almost 350 metres. Titmus, as is her style, held back slightly but was expected to finish faster, and it was notable that although Ledecky led, she never opened much of a gap over Titmus.

And just past 300 metres Titmus pulled ahead slightly, reaching the final turn with a 0.22 margin. Ledecky could not respond as Titmus increased her lead to win gold in 3:56.69, as Ledecky finished in 3:57.36. Titmus’s time was the second fastest ever, and Ledecky swam her second fastest 400 in finishing second.

Immediately the discussion began of the legendary status of the race, many swim experts calling it the greatest ever women’s Olympic race. Few argued with that. Almost as notable as Titmus was her coach, Dean Boxall, who went into a wild celebration of fist-pumping, arm waving, and screaming up in the stands.

Titmus and Ledecky were more restrained and spoke admirably of each other, Titmus noting, “I wouldn’t be here without her. She’s set this standard for middle-distance freestyle. If I didn’t have someone like her to chase, I definitely wouldn’t be swimming the way I am.”

Ledecky handled the defeat with class, “It can’t get much better than that. It was tremendous racing, a lot of fun and I can’t be too disappointed with that. That was my second-best swim ever and I feel like I fought tooth and nail and that’s all you can ask for.”

1Ariarne TitmusAUS4:01.66 (1 h4)3:56.69 (1)Gold
2Katie LedeckyUSA4:00.45 (1 h3)3:57.36 (2)Silver
3Li BingjieCHN4:01.57 (2 h3)4:01.08 (3)Bronze
4Summer McIntoshCAN4:02.72 (3 h3)4:02.42 (4)
5Tang MuhanCHN4:04.07 (4 h4)4:04.10 (5)
6Isabel GoseGER4:03.21 (4 h3)4:04.98 (6)
7Paige MaddenUSA4:03.98 (3 h4)4:06.81 (7)
8Erika FairweatherNZL4:02.28 (2 h4)4:08.01 (8)
9Tamsin CookAUS4:04.80 (5 h4)
10Ajna KéselyHUN4:05.34 (6 h4)
11Waka KoboriJPN4:05.57 (7 h4)
12Julia HasslerLIE4:06.98 (1 h2)
13Joanna EvansBAH4:07.50 (2 h2)
14Anastasiya KirpichnikovaROC4:08.01 (5 h3)
15Anna YegorovaROC4:08.24 (6 h3)
16Beril BöceklerTUR4:08.27 (7 h3)
17Marlene KahlerAUT4:08.37 (3 h2)
18Leonie KullmannGER4:10.25 (8 h4)
19Merve TuncelTUR4:11.06 (4 h2)
20Miyu NambaJPN4:13.49 (8 h3)
21Han Da-GyeongKOR4:16.49 (5 h2)
22Sasha GattMLT4:19.75 (6 h2)
23Tiana RabarijaonaMAD4:28.41 (7 h2)
24Eda ZeqiriKOS4:38.02 (1 h1)
25Talita Te FlanCIV4:38.92 (2 h1)
26Natalia KuipersISV4:39.42 (3 h1)

Round One (25 July 2021 — 20:06)

14Katie LedeckyUSA4:00.45Q
25Li BingjieCHN4:01.57Q
34Ariarne TitmusAUS4:01.66Q
48Erika FairweatherNZL4:02.28Q
56Summer McIntoshCAN4:02.72Q
62Isabel GoseGER4:03.21Q
76Paige MaddenUSA4:03.98Q
82Tang MuhanCHN4:04.07Q
93Tamsin CookAUS4:04.80
105Ajna KéselyHUN4:05.34
111Waka KoboriJPN4:05.57
123Julia HasslerLIE4:06.98
135Joanna EvansBAH4:07.50
147Anastasiya KirpichnikovaROC4:08.01
153Anna YegorovaROC4:08.24
168Beril BöceklerTUR4:08.27
176Marlene KahlerAUT4:08.37
187Leonie KullmannGER4:10.25
194Merve TuncelTUR4:11.06
201Miyu NambaJPN4:13.49
212Han Da-GyeongKOR4:16.49
227Sasha GattMLT4:19.75
231Tiana RabarijaonaMAD4:28.41
244Eda ZeqiriKOS4:38.02
255Talita Te FlanCIV4:38.92
263Natalia KuipersISV4:39.42

Heat One (20:06)

14Eda ZeqiriKOS4:38.020.76
25Talita Te FlanCIV4:38.920.79
33Natalia KuipersISV4:39.420.70

Heat Two (20:12)

13Julia HasslerLIE4:06.980.75
25Joanna EvansBAH4:07.500.71
36Marlene KahlerAUT4:08.370.78
44Merve TuncelTUR4:11.060.68
52Han Da-GyeongKOR4:16.490.72
67Sasha GattMLT4:19.750.66
71Tiana RabarijaonaMAD4:28.410.68

Heat Three (20:18)

14Katie LedeckyUSA4:00.450.67Q
25Li BingjieCHN4:01.570.66Q
36Summer McIntoshCAN4:02.720.75Q
42Isabel GoseGER4:03.210.80Q
57Anastasiya KirpichnikovaROC4:08.010.74
63Anna YegorovaROC4:08.240.67
78Beril BöceklerTUR4:08.270.65
81Miyu NambaJPN4:13.490.71

Heat Four (20:24)

14Ariarne TitmusAUS4:01.660.72Q
28Erika FairweatherNZL4:02.280.73Q
36Paige MaddenUSA4:03.980.72Q
42Tang MuhanCHN4:04.070.72Q
53Tamsin CookAUS4:04.800.69
65Ajna KéselyHUN4:05.340.73
71Waka KoboriJPN4:05.570.72
87Leonie KullmannGER4:10.250.73

Final (26 July 2021 — 11:20)

13Ariarne TitmusAUS3:56.690.72
24Katie LedeckyUSA3:57.360.66
35Li BingjieCHN4:01.080.65
42Summer McIntoshCAN4:02.420.75
58Tang MuhanCHN4:04.100.75
67Isabel GoseGER4:04.980.79
71Paige MaddenUSA4:06.810.72
86Erika FairweatherNZL4:08.010.73