A Walk Through British Men’s National Swimming Record History

British swimming, particularly on the men’s side, has kicked into major gear the past few years, culminating with the squad exceeding medal expectations at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. The upward trajectory had been in the works well before then, however, with the likes of Adam Peaty, James Guy and Ben Proud wreaking havoc on the British swimming record book pre-Rio.

British swimming has recently published its national record progressions across all of its men’s and women’s events, which gives insight into just how far the sport has come for the nation. Specifically looking at the men’s long course meters records, although several supersuit era records still remain, the trend is heavily leaning towards faster swimming across the majority of events, with national marks broken as recent as the World Championships last month in Budapest.

As with most nations, there was a distinct post-supersuit record-breaking drought post-2009 for Great Britain, with its swimming history remaining unchanged until Michael Jamieson fired off a wicked-fast 2:07.43 in the 200m breaststroke at the London Olympics. That checked in as a new national record and scored the Scot a silver medal at those Games, foreshadowing the strong British continent we see on starting blocks today.

Seeing Jamieson stand atop international swimming’s biggest stage appeared to kickstart a resurgence of British swimming, as 2013 brought about 3 national records’ demise. In 2013, now-retired Adam Brown slid into the record mix with a new mark in the 50m freestyle time of 21.92, making the Auburn University-trained athlete just the 2nd British swimmer ever to dip under the 22 second threshold in the splash n’ dash event.

Daniel Sliwinski also made his mark in 2013 with a new 50m breaststroke NR of 27.40, while Ben Proud notched a new national mark in the 50m butterfly with his 2013 time of 23.10. The trend continued with Peaty‘s 100m breaststroke national record of 59.25 (not a typo!) in 2014 and Ross Murdoch‘s 200m breaststroke time of 2:07.30 to win gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. That led to Brit James Guy‘s destruction at the 2015 World Championships, where the young rising star earned the world title in the 200m freestyle along with a silver medal in the 400m free, both under the previous British national marks.

Here are just a few additional key points gleaned from reviewing the successive British national swimming records for the men, with a subsequent post to be published with the women’s records analyzed.

  • The man who set a national record the most number of times in one event falls on the shoulders of backstroker Liam Tancock. In the 100m distance, Tancock set the British national mark at 54.53 back in 2006, then proceeded to chip away at the clock, bringing the mark down an incredible 9 more times. He still holds GBR’s national record in the 100m back event with the 52.73 set at the 2009 World Championships in Rome.
  • Behind Tancock is Peaty, who holds 8 iterations of the 50m breaststroke record and 7 iterations of the 100m breaststroke record.
  • 2009 supersuit era records remain in the form of David Davies‘ 800m freestyle record of 7:44.32, Michael Rock‘s 200m butterfly record of 1:54.58 and Tancock’s other backstroke record, his 24.04 time in the 50m distance. All were set at the 2009 World Championships in Rome and remain on the books.
  • James Guy appears the most across the long course meters record listing, holding 3 to his name with the aforementioned 200m and 400m freestyles from 2015. He also most recently notched a new mark in the 100m butterfly, with his time of 50.67 that garnered the Bath swimmer a bronze medal in Budapest for his efforts.
  • The oldest record still standing belongs to Davies, with his monster 14:45.95 1500m freestyle time from way back in Athens, Greece at the 2004 Olympic Games. That outing produced a bronze medal for Davies 13 years ago, but still would have placed 5th in the 2016 Rio Olympic final, for perspective.
  • The most recent national record to fall happened just last month in Budapest, courtesy of Max Litchfield. Over the course of the 2017 World Championships, Litchfield broke both the 200m IM and 400m IM marks, with the former time of 1:56.54 happening on July 26th, while the latter time of 4:09.62 arrived on July 30th. Guy’s 100m fly national record, Proud’s 50m butterfly record and Peaty’s 50m breaststroke record were also produced in Budapest.

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6 years ago

That 50bk NR is going to stand for so many years. 200fl could go next year. 800fr in the next few cycles.

Ex Quaker
Reply to  Dee
6 years ago

I’d love to see James Guy take a crack at the 200 fly. Based on his 100 speed and his 400 free endurance, I don’t think 1:53 is out of the question.

Peter L
Reply to  Dee
6 years ago

Especially with Guy giving up the 400

Reply to  Dee
6 years ago

100% agree re 50back

200fly – quite possible if Guy drops 400fr and decides to seriously pursue 200fly

4X200 – would amend that to “over the rest of this Olympic cycle” where I think both the GBR record and the top spot in the intl pecking order in this event will remain “fluid” to say the least. Anything further out than that open to speculation …. and there being new blood of sufficient quality.

6 years ago

I like their improvement. Now they just need to fill up all the events with great swimmers and they’ll be untouchable.

Reply to  breaststroker
6 years ago

Simple enough

Reply to  Pvdh
6 years ago

But they will never have the necessary spread of talent, let alone the depth, at any given time ….. and they are smart enough to realise that. Therefore they do not select “tourists” but rather only those who are likely finallists at worst and no uncompetitive relays.

They’re probably still surfing the post London ‘wake” re a peak generation of talent and investment but their infrastructure remains sound and their strategic direction far sounder and more realistic than that of AUS.

6 years ago

I thought Gyurta won in a 2:07.2
So Jameison couldn’t have gotten silver with 2:07.13

About Retta Race

Retta Race

Former Masters swimmer and coach Loretta (Retta) thrives on a non-stop but productive schedule. Nowadays, that includes having just earned her MBA while working full-time in IT while owning French 75 Boutique while also providing swimming insight for BBC.

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