2019 World Champs Preview: Dressel Closing in on 100 Butterfly World Record


  • All sports: Friday, July 12 – Sunday, July 28, 2019
  • Pool swimming: Sunday, July 21 – Sunday, July 28, 2019
  • The Nambu University Municipal Aquatics Center, Gwangju, Korea
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For the first time in the history of the men’s 100 butterfly at the FINA World Championships (LCM), swimmers may have to swim sub-51 seconds just to qualify for the championship final. In 2017, four of the eight finalists were sub-51 in semifinals, with all but two of the swimmers going 50-point or faster in the final.

The men’s 100 meter butterfly is Caeleb Dressel‘s event to lose. This season, Dressel has already been faster than he was in all of 2018, having posted a world-leading time of 50.36 at the Mission Viejo Swim Meet of Champions earlier this month. For comparison, Dressel’s in-season performance would have won gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where Singaporean and former Bolles School Shark Joseph Schooling claimed gold in 50.39. Dressel’s time in California was also faster than every other competitor in the championship final of the 100 fly from the 2017 World Championships with the exception of Dressel himself, who won gold in 49.86, nearly breaking Michael Phelps‘ suited World Record of 49.82 from the 2009 World Championships in Rome.

Prior to the 2017 World Championships, Dressel’s best time in the 100 fly came from the 2017 U.S. National Championships, which he won in 50.87. Not everybody thought Dressel had much more room for improvement at Worlds, having already dropped so much time at Nationals. In the prelims and the semifinals of the 100 fly, Dressel scared the 50-second barrier with a 50.08 in the morning and a 50.07 in the evening. The following day, hardly 30 minutes after winning the 50 freestyle, Dressel blew away the competition and nearly broke Phelps’ World Record, posting a 49.86. Untapered–or perhaps only a little tapered–Dressel has already been half-a-second faster than he was in 2017 before the World Championships. Dressel’s best time in 2018 came at the U.S. National Championships, which he won in 50.50. At the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships, Dressel also won the 100 fly in 50.75. His time from Nationals remained the fastest in the world in 2018, even though he’d missed training due to a motorcycle accident earlier in the season. Now that Dressel has returned to form and is swimming faster than he ever has in-season, a World Record, which would take little more than a best time for Dressel, seems fairly likely.

The race for silver and bronze behind Dressel is full of veterans and relative newcomers. Hungary’s Kristof Milak won silver in 2017, registering a new World Junior Record in 50.62. Though Milak’s true specialty is the 200 fly, his prowess in the 100 makes him a repeat medal-threat. His best time this season sits at 51.50 from the Youth Olympic Games in November 2018, though more recently Milak posted a 51.67 at the FINA Champions Series in Budapest. Despite the fast time and the fact that he raced in front of a home crowd, Milak still took silver in the 100 fly behind South Africa’s Chad le Clos.

Le Clos hasn’t gone a best time in the 100 fly since 2015 when he won the World Championship title in a blistering 50.56, though last summer at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, le Clos came close with his winning time of 50.65. In December, Le Clos successfully defended his short course world championship, holding off Dressel to win in 48.50. Japan’s Daiya Seto upset le Clos in the 200 fly and stole his World Record, though le Clos still took silver and slipped under his previous record, so you can hardly call the swim a failure. With a 50.10 fly split in the medley relay at last year’s Commonwealth Games, and a 51.25 put up in May, le Clos could deliver a redemptive 100 fly in Gwangju, making up for missing the championship final in 2017.

29-year-old Piero Codia of Italy boasts one of the fastest lifetime bests in the field with a 50.64 from the 2018 European Championships, where he took down heavyweights James Guy (Great Britain) and Mehdy Metella (France). Though Codia hasn’t been within a second of that time yet this season, it’s notable that his performance at the 2018 European Championships came out of lane 8, which is both a rare feat for a major international win, and it could prove that he knows how to conserve his energy through prelims and semifinals.

Russia’s Andrei Minakov won the gold medal at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games last fall in a very impressive 51.12, a new Russian National Record, which still ranks 3rd in the world this year, behind only Dressel and Metella. Minakov has also shown promise in the 100 freestyle and 50 fly, winning YOG gold in each of those races in Buenos Aires as well. Minakov is the top 18 & Under in the world this year in the 100 fly, and already has substantial international experience, making him a contender for the championship final in Gwangju.

In 2017, Great Britain’s James Guy tied for bronze with 2016 Olympic Champ Joseph Schooling with a 50.83, though he put up a 50.67 in the semifinals, making him the 11th-fastest performer all-time in the event (the day of the race in 2017, Guy’s swim ranked as 9th-fastest all-time). Guy has already been 51.42 this season from the British Championships in April. Schooling, on the other hand, recently triumphed over some of the fastest butterflyers in the world at the 2019 Japan Open in early June, posting a time of 52.00, though at the 2018 Asian Games last summer, Schooling blasted a 51.04 to win that title.

China’s Li Zhuhao took silver in the 100 fly at the 2018 Asian Games behind Schooling, touching in 51.46. Li went under 51-seconds at the 2017 World Championships, where he touched 6th in 50.96. Li also had a very impressive week of racing at the 2018 World Championships (short course), where he took bronze in both the 100 fly (49.25) and the 200 fly (1:50.39).

2018 Pan Pacs silver medalist Jack Conger will also represent Team USA in Gwangju in the 100 fly. Conger’s best time of 51.00 could make him competitive for a berth in the championship final, though he will need to dip under that time in order to medal. Likewise, Pan Pacs bronze medalist Vini Lanza, whose best time stands at 51.44, could also have a shot at the final.

Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh was another 50-point at 2017 Worlds, but he’s now 33 years old and went just 51.6 last year. Cseh will not be swimming the 200 fly in Gwangju, such as he did in 2015 and 2017, and will focus exclusively on the 50 and 100 fly.

Top 8 Picks:

Place Men’s 100 Butterfly Country Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Caeleb Dressel USA 50.36 49.86
2 Chad le Clos South Africa 51.25 50.56
3 Kristof Milak Hungary 51.50 50.62
4 Mehdy Metella France 50.85 50.85
5 Piero Codia Italy 51.75 50.64
6 James Guy Great Britain 51.42 50.67
7 Joseph Schooling Singapore 52.00 50.39
8 Li Zhuhao China 51.66 50.96

Dark Horse: Germany’s Marius Kusch had a great showing at the 2018 FINA World Championships (SCM), placing 5th in 49.50. Later in March, Kush performed incredibly a the 2019 NCAA Division II Championships, where he posted a 44.32 to become the 5th-fastest performer all-time in the 100 yard butterfly. Kusch’s time would have also won the Division I title, which was taken by Brazilian Vini Lanza in a 44.37. Kusch has been as fast as 51.35 in the big pool this year, but will likely need to shave a few more tenths just to make top-8 in Gwangju.

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WV Swammer

Don’t see Le Clos with bronze this year..

1. Dressel 49.65 WR
2. Milak 50.59
3. Metella 50.64
4. Le Clos 50.75
5. Codia 50.79
6. Conger 50.86
7. Guy 50.89
8. Kusch 51.01

Fastest 100 fly field in history


As Italian I would love to see Codia at least 3rd, if he gets into the final with his PB should be fine but the problem for me is how hard will be this year to get to the final!


Schooling not even in the final lol

WV Swammer

Let me ask you this…what exactly has schooling done in the past 12 months that puts him ahead of anyone I listed?


I didn’t say I disagreed with it

WV Swammer

My mistake, came across that way


To be fair to Schooling, he usually performs well when it matters. Since 2014 he has medalled at major meets every year. 2014 Asian Games, 2015 Worlds, 2016 Olympics, 2017 Worlds, 2018 Asian Games. This year’s Worlds will probably be his toughest competition yet.

Michael Schwartz

To be fair to Schooling, he usually does his best times in practice.




51.06 at Asian games is faster than Kusch has ever been, and essentially the same as Conger’s best.

WV Swammer

Not under 52 this year much worse than Kusch this year and I have reason to believe Conger is hunger than Schooling…and his head is much less inflated from fame



Wanna sprite?

Conger is definitely not beating James Guy and I don’t see Kusch going faster than 51.5


James Guy hasn’t been quicker than 51.4 since worlds 2017…

Ol' Longhorn

Sadly, I don’t see 7 guys going 50 point in a third round. The semis are going to be insane though. LeClos’ fate depends on how he handles the rounds of 200 free. Anyone who can go b’s out the first 50 for three rounds in a 200 free, do 2 rounds of 200 fly, and still do a 51.1 in the third round of the 100 fly after that, as he did at Rio, should be ok.

Tea rex

I’ll rank 100 butterfliers by historic talent since 2000: 5. LeClos/Cseh/Schooling/Klim/Milak – some had a flash in the pan, some consistent performance over years. 4. Milorad Cavic (c 2008) – he was the fastest flyer in the world for a couple years, just had some bad finishes. 3. Michael Phelps (incredible longevity) – he was never a sprinter, but his success in this event exceeded a lot of people who were objectively better fly sprinters. Fun fact: MP’s best 50 fly (23.1) was the front half of his 2009 WR. 2. Ian Crocker (c 2005) – at his peak, he was better than Phelps and way better than anyone else. Period. 1. Caeleb Dressel (now) – I have never seen… Read more »


Sorry but there’s no way I can agree with putting Crocker above Phelps in the 100 fly in terms of talent. He put together a more illustrious record in the event while the two were active at the same time…while having to deal with like 6 other events ranging at three distances and 3 disciplines plus the IMs AND multiple relays while Crocker was only a 100 flyer with some free relay duties (which he legendarily botched in the most important race btw)

Also, I’d put everyone at your number 5 except Klim ahead of Cavic. Especially Chad.

Ol' Longhorn

Crocker didn’t have the benefit of going pro the way later athletes did.


I would say he had the same opportunity that his teammates the backstroke GOAT Aaron Piersol and Brendan Hansen did

Ol' Longhorn

Benefits for pros weren’t nearly the same for Crocker as for the other guys you mentioned, because Phelps hadn’t Beijing’d swimming into the global endorsement picture.


Just to show you how great Phelps was that he could be rated among the best ever 100 butterfly sprint, as well as world class 100 free, while tackling other events including the 400IM, one of the most grueling events. Just a freak!!!

tea rex


tea rex

Glad to inspire some conversation –

I had to say Crocker (at his prime) because he beat Phelps more often than not from 2003-2005. And Phelps only went under 50.4 in a rubber suit. Phelps’ butterfly was the most natural I have ever seen, but his sprint speed was always a liability.

2003 – Crocker 50.98* WR, Phelps 51.10.
2004 – Crocker 50.76* WR, Phelps 51.15. (Phelps won at the Olympics, 51.25 to 51.29, though)
2005 – Crocker 50.40* WR, Phelps 51.65.

And to the point, Caeleb Dressel is the strongest over 100 meters I have ever seen. (42-point scy, WTF? That wasn’t all underwaters…)


In terms of absolute speed crocker, cavic and tons of other people where probably faster than Phelps in the 100 fly. The thing is Phelps is a racer, he knows how to push under pressure and dig deep when the other guys don’t.


And as more of a 200m specialist, he had the endurance that the pure sprinters didn’t have. That always seemed to be the difference maker in the 100m butterflies.

Ed Tex

Crocker’s textile 100 Fly record of 50.4s in 2005 stood for 11 years across MP prime years in swimming. Schooling eclipsed it in Rio 2016 with MP last major swim.

Ol' Longhorn

Phelps 10 of the top 50 swims all-time plus the WR (plus all the other events he navigated — see PVDH below) > 6 of the 10 50 swims all-time and no WR (Dressel). Crocker’s 50.4 in 2005 was the biggest gap (1.2 sec) to the next best guy (Phelps) that we’ve seen since 2000. So if you’re talking talent over the entire span of 2000-now, I’m going Phelps #1, and if you’re going for a one year swim, I’m going Crocker #1. Dressel may win by about a second at Worlds, but not by 1.2 sec.

Mr Piano

I’d wager he’d win by a second


I think Phelps went out 23.3 in Rome.

tea rex

You are correct, 23.3.
In any case, Phelps at his prime could *maybe* final in the 50 fly. MP’s back-half was second to none, but of the names I mentioned, almost all could beat him in a straight 50.


You’re forgetting Tom Shields


As an Italian, I can tell Codia as very little chance to go 50.79, as I think last year win at Glasgow was a lifetime swim.


Man—Crocker would have flew in the rubber suits. Bit of a bigger guy with front end speed/harder time at the finish. Guessing the record would have been 49.4 if he got the chance.


Put him in a Jaked and he goes 49.4

Wanna sprite?


Ol' Longhorn

We’re not talking about Schooling’s 100 free here. But let me keep this in my file of hilarious Dressel predictions. Favorite so far was 20.8 in the 50 free.


As hilarious as 17.6 in Jan. 2018 . . .

Ol' Longhorn

If Flo Manaudou had swum a 50 SCY free, we wouldn’t be talking about Dressel’s. And Flo’s only been 21.1.


You have had some bad predictions but I would put several of your comments preemptively on the mount Rushmore of horrendous swimming takes.


Sprite is talking about a measly improvement of 0.37. For a young swimmer in his prime. For a swimmer who has a history of shocking time drops. In a season where he’s been showing great form all summer. He might not go 49.49 – of course – but it wouldn’t be remotely shocking. (or hilarious)

Justin Thompson



Faster than MA’s 100 free

Ol' Longhorn

Fun fact: MA beat Dressel last year in the 50 free.




It’s unlikely, but that fact that the whole field could possibly be sub 51 is incredible. 100 fly became a super quick event like any the snap of the fingers after Rio. A 51 flat used to be good enough to possibly win a world title…

If Milak really progresses this year we could see 2 sub 50s (I’m not putting money on it)

I’m excited to see Dressels 2018 NCAA form translate to long course without a motorcycle accident

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six.  At age 14 he began swimming club year-round and later with his high school team, making state all four years.  He was fortunate enough to draw the attention of Kalamazoo College where he went on to …

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