With three men under 51.0, tonight’s 100 fly final at the 2015 Worlds Aquatics Championships in Kazan, Russia, was the fastest textile final ever in major international competition.
Chad le Clos, Lazslo Csesh, and Joseph Schooling all finished under 51.0 to take the medals. As far as we can tell, the only two other men to ever break 51.0 in textile are Michael Phelps and Ian Crocker.
How fast was this final tonight? Schooling’s bronze medal time of 50.96 would have won gold at both the 2013 World Championships and the 2012 Olympics.
However, it wasn’t just the top end of this final that was impressive. For instance, Pawel Korzeniowski took seventh place tonight with a time of 51.46. Two years ago in Barcelona, that time would have tied Konrad Czerniak for the bronze medal.
Here’s a chart showing medal-winning times at the Olympics and World Championships dating back to 2005:
|2015 World Championships||le Clos||Cseh||Schooling|
|2013 World Championships||le Clos||Cseh||Czerniak|
|2012 Olympics||Phelps||le Clos||Korotyshkin|
|2011 World Championships||Phelps||Czerniak||McGill|
|2009 World Championships||Phelps||Cavic||Munoz|
|2007 World Championships||Phelps||Crocker||Subirats|
|2005 World Championships||Crocker||Phelps||Serdinov|
Two years ago, in the wake of Phelps’s retirement, it looked like butterfly times had stagnated, both within the USA and internationally. In fact, Phelps alluded to the lack of progression in these events as he explained his reasoning behind both his comeback in general and his more recent decision to pursue the 200 fly.
Three days ago, the 29 year-old Cseh swam a 1:53.48 in the 200 fly to beat defending Olympic champion le Clos for the gold medal here in Kazan in an event that many thought should remain in the domain of younger swimmers.
The 30 year-old Phelps responded yesterday by breaking 1:53 to post the fastest time in the world since 2009.
Tonight, Phelps will swim the 100 fly final at USA Summer Nationals. He swam a 52.12 in preliminaries this morning. Having had a few hours to see the times that were thrown down in Kazan and to listen to comments by both Cseh and le Clos after their race, you know Phelps is going to be gunning to exceed their times and probably Crocker’s 50.40 from 2005 that is still the fastest time ever in textile.
If Phelps doesn’t surpass that mark tonight, then that’ll just heighten the tension for next summer’s Olympics in Rio, where most likely Phelps, Cseh, le Clos, Schooling, and one other American, perhaps Tom Shields or Jack Conger, will be squaring off in what seems sure to be a race for the ages.
A few months ago we were talking about how men’s butterfly had stagnated internationally. In the past few days we’ve witnessed some incredible progression, both in terms of times and of the ages of the competitors involved, that are stretching the limits of what many thought could happen.
Like Phelps said last night in his post-race interview, “anything is possible,” and the road to Rio over the next year sure looks like it’s going to be an exciting ride.