100-Meter Freestyle: Nathan Adrian against Spitz, Weissmuller, and Other Historic Greats – Video

The above video compares the time progressions of the 100 freestyle from two men who were without a doubt the greatest of their eras, Johnny Weismuller and Mark Spitz, to the defending Olympic Champion in the 100 free, Nathan Adrian, who is vying to be the greatest of his in the post-Phelps years.

100 meter freestyle, the blue ribbon event, is highly desired. Most swimmers want to race it, even if it isn’t their distance.

FINA recognized the event in 1905, but for the first three Olympic Games the event was held in natural bodies of water, not pools.

The 1896 Olympic Games was in the Mediterranean Sea.

The 1900 Olympic Games swimming competition was held in the Seine River.

The 1904 Olympic Games was in a made-man lake (but the event was actually 100 yards, the only time ever in Olympic history).

By the 1908 Olympics, a 100 meter pool was constructed.

Time progressed over the years aided by better coaching, education and innovation in stroke and training methods, but technology has always been a big factor. Men donned full body suits with terrible drag until the 1940s and pool design vastly improved over the years. Then men donned full body suits to reduce drag. Wider lanes, overflow gutters and deeper pools reduced water turbulence.

By 2008 suit technology went haywire, beginning the age known as the Suitwars. Speedo launched the LZR, a polyurethane skin through which water didn’t flow. It also added compression and buoyancy. Every other suit manufacturer quickly followed, launching their version of what was essentially a rubberized body-suit boat.  World Records dominoed rapidly, crescendoing at the 2009 FINA World Championships in Rome, which some analysts called the “Plastic Games”.

January 2010 FINA banned non-textile suits.

The first 100 meter freestyle world record, 1:05.8, was set by Hungarian Zoltan Halmay in 1905.

Today the 100 meter freestyle world record is 46.91, owned by Cesar Cielo of Brazil.  It was captured in one of these polyurethane technical suits.

Nathan Adrian won the 2012 Olympic Games in 47.52. Australia’s James Magnussen was .01 behind in 47.53. Despite analysts predictions that it would take years to break the tech-suited aided 46.91 world record, many now believe the record may fall before the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

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7 years ago

I am sorry but the greatest ever is Cesar Cielo.

He is the one breaking barriers!

Swimming 46 and 20.

Reply to  La
7 years ago

Frédérick Bousquet went a 20 in the 50 before Cielo did.

Reply to  La
7 years ago

I believe Biondi was the greatest ever in the 100 free. He redefined the event like no other swimmer has In 1986 he won worlds by 8 tenths. That’s by FAR the largest margin of victory at worlds. It’s 3 times the average dominance in that event. In 2012 the difference between 1st and tenth in the world was 11 tenths Then in 1988 Biondi had the most dominant Olympic performance in the 100 free. He swam 48.6 while second place was 49.1. Third place was 49.6. The old Olympic record was 49.8. Biondi’s new OR lasted 12 years, the longest ever in the event. Even 8 years later 49.0, which Biondi was light years ahead of, won bronze in… Read more »

jean Michel
Reply to  mcgillrocks
7 years ago

I totally agree with u ! I remember those olympics very well . Biondi made such a strong impact on my passion for swimming . His relay anchors were as much impressive as his individual races on 100 free . I will never forget those fantastic games and swims . Seing him last year ( thanks to SWIMSWAM ) at the Tiburon Mile 50 free contest was so refreshing and fun .

bobo gigi
Reply to  La
7 years ago

The comment of la is absolutely ridiculous! You can’t compare times swum 30 or 20 years ago with times of now to draw the conclusion that swimmers of today are better! Because with your method of analysis you could say Greg Rutherford, the long jump olympic champion from last year, is much better than Jesse Owens! It’s stupid! Or Nesta Carter much better than Carl Lewis! It’s stupid! Or Anastasia Zueva much better than Krisztina Egerszegi! It’s stupid! Or Rebecca Adlington much better than Janet Evans! It’s stupid! I stop here.
In my opinion, Matt Biondi is the greatest 100 free swimmer ever.

Reply to  La
7 years ago

I am a fan of Cielo, but he is not.
For me, Weismuller is the best freestyler ever.How many guys do you know who ended his swimming life UNDEFEATED?
I will put Dawn Fraser in womens(best freestyler) spot.

7 years ago

Increasing at a decreasing rate. No on will ever break the 45 second mark, or 46 mark.

Reply to  Gigot
7 years ago

I’ll back that one up. I think 46 seconds is breakable, but it’s a longshot. Someone going 44.9 (let’s say 21.5-23.4) long course seems an impossibility.

Reply to  Anotherswimfan
7 years ago

I disagree. 44.9 will most likely be swum within 40 years and probably in 20-30 years. The rate at which WRs drop does slow down, but it is a very common mistake to believe that we are living in a special era, such as being within 1-2 seconds of the `ultimate limit’. People of all times have been putting limits on WRs in any sport and they were usually badly off and stunned by what actually happened. Although that is not an argument in itself, it shows that it doesn’t mean much for something to seem impossible. The 100m (textile) WR has been dropping at about 1 second per 15 years in the last 30 years. This may become 1… Read more »

Reply to  Gigot
7 years ago

Right now, breaking 45 mark sound ridiculous, but you never know what tomorrow will bring.
A lot of things can be done to brought swimming to another level.Right now, can be rising from the womb someone capable to have Cielo start(at his best, of course), Phelps underwaters and Magnussen best coming home speed.What time a beast like that will do?

Reply to  Gigot
7 years ago

we already have 47.1 in textile, 46 is only a second away. sure that’s a lot of time but records get broken. by the time adrian and magnussen are done we could be looking at 46.7. Maybe, if they keep improving swimming has been a constantly evolving sport. almost every year without fail records are broken, often in boatloads (except in ’96 and ’98 where very few records were set) consider our sporting rival track. track is pretty simple, all you have to do it run. shoes will improve, tracks will improve but essentially it will stay the same. track is now in a state of near stagnation- many many world records have lasted decades. Currently six world records are… Read more »

Reply to  mcgillrocks
7 years ago

Mcgill.. most of the Old World Records at least on the women side are from people everybody know had doped (Florence, Marita, Jarmila.. if yout take a closer look) almost all the women side have strong allegations of doping or are proved dopers who were never caught..

On the men side there are some monsters (Bubka, Sotomayor) but on Track and Field a lot of changes happened on some sports, and you have too many different factors (wind, altitude and others play a much bigger role)

Reply to  Gigot
7 years ago

Breaking 45 is definitely possible. There are a ton of advancements in nutrition science yet to be discovered. Finding the distinction between supplement and drug will be much more of a hot topic than the suits were in 2008/2009.
For instance, there are supplements like beta-alanine (ph buffering) or short-chain fatty acids (conserves glycogen stores) which can greatly increase athletic performance. More effective versions of these type of supplements will be available in the coming years. Also, I heard Lebron’s kid is interested in swimming so I guess it’s game over in the sprints.

7 years ago

Disagree. Thought we are reaching the point of diminishing returns and nonlinear behaviour, it is not asymptotic yet. 45 low will happen eventually, maybe sooner with new ultra race pace training methods but absolutely later when the average height increases another 3 or 4 inches from today. The 6’5″ ot 6’7″ sprinter of today will be 6’8″ to 7′ in the future with more power and improved drag coefficient.

Reply to  PAC12BACKER
7 years ago

I must agree with you, pac12backer, about the significance of height. Just look at the fast guys today: Agnel, Cielo, Adrian, Magnussen, Manadou, Yang. They are huge. Morozov is an exception but the exception proves the rule, and his technique is magnificent. On the Women’s side a similar progress is going on with emerging stars such as Cate Campbell 1.86 m (6 ft 1 in); not a small woman either.

So I don’t even try to predict the year or a decade when 45 second barrier will be broken, but I do predict that it is going to be done by a guy taller than 2.10m (6 ft 11 in) 🙂

About Gold Medal Mel Stewart

Gold Medal Mel Stewart

MEL STEWART Jr., aka Gold Medal Mel, won three Olympic medals at the 1992 Olympic Games. Mel's best event was the 200 butterfly. He is a former World, American, and NCAA Record holder in the 200 butterfly. As a writer/producer and sports columnist, Mel has contributed to Yahoo Sports, Universal Sports, …

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