TOKYO, Japan – Swimming on her 24th birthday yesterday, Joanna Evans came up short of her national record, and a spot in the final, in the women’s 400 meters (m) free at the Tokyo Olympic Games on Sunday.
Evans touched the wall in 4:07.50 – her second-fastest swim ever. She was second in her heat and 13th overall for the second straight Olympics. Five years ago in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, she swam 4:07.60.
A disappointed Evans said she will just have to put it behind her and focus on her next event, the women’s 200m free, which takes place today at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo, Japan.
“I was hoping to sneak into the finals, but that’s not going to do it. It’s not what I was hoping for, but it could have been worse. Obviously, you always want to swim a personal best time, but it doesn’t always work out that way,” she said.
Just a couple months ago, at the Longhorn Aquatics Elite Invite & Timed Trials, the former Texas Longhorns swimmer swam a national record time of 4:07.33, erasing the mark of 4:07.60 she did at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.
She was hoping to go a bit faster yesterday and qualify for her first Olympic final, but came up a bit short.
Muhan Tang, of China, secured the final qualifying spot for the final, finishing in 4:04.07 in the fourth heat. American world record holder Katie Ledecky had the fastest qualifying time for the final, swimming 4:00.45.
As for Evans, she led her race for 350 meters before being passed on the home stretch by Julia Hassler of Liechtenstein. Hassler won that heat in 4:06.98 and was 12th overall, one spot ahead of Evans.
Evans went into the final two heats in second place, but both swimmers were passed by four swimmers in the third heat, and seven in the fourth and final heat.
Evans knew she would have had to swim a personal best national record time in order to reach the final, and having the experience of her first Olympics behind her, she was prepared to go out there and do that.
However, the faster swimmers are usually in the latter heats. Afterwards, Evans said she knew the 4:07.50 wouldn’t have been good enough to get her through. She ended up finishing about three and a half seconds behind the final qualifying spot.
Showing emotion afterward, she said she’ll just have to regroup for the 200m free on Monday.
Evans will swim out of lane one in the third of four heats of the women’s 200m free today. That race is set for 7:09 p.m. in Tokyo, 6:09 a.m. Monday morning in The Bahamas.
She has to finish in the top 16 to move on to Tuesday’s semifinals.
Evans also swam the 200m free at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics five years ago, and touched the wall in a national record time of 2:01.27, finishing 37th overall. She has since lowered that national record to 1:58.03, but will likely have to go even faster for a shot at the semis.
In her final event in Rio de Janeiro, the women’s 800m free, Evans touched the wall in 8:42.93, finishing 23rd overall.
She will skip the women’s 800m free at these Olympics.