arena Swim of the Week: Honda Shatters 200 Fly World Record By Historic Margin

Swim of the Week is brought to you by arena, a SwimSwam partner.

Disclaimer: Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The Swim of the Week is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.

We’ve seen not one, but two world records fall over the last week, and both came by significant margins.

At the Japanese Short Course Championships in Tokyo, Tomoru Honda obliterated the all-time mark in the men’s 200 butterfly, touching in a time of 1:46.85. Five days later at the Chinese Championships in Beijing, Li Bingjie demolished the women’s 400 freestyle world record in 3:51.30.

On a per 50-meter basis, Honda and Li lowered their respective world records by similar margins.

Event (SCM) Old WR New WR Margin (per 50 m)
Men’s 200 butterfly 1:48.24, Daiya Seto 1:46.85, Tomoru Honda 1.39 (0.3475)
Women’s 400 freestyle 3:53.92, Ariarne Titmus 3:51.30, Li Bingjie 2.62 (0.3275)

By a slim two one-hundredths of a second, Honda broke his record by a greater relative margin, earning him arena Swim of the Week. (There’s also a chance Li’s record will be challenged on Friday night, as Katie Ledecky races the 400 free at the FINA World Cup in Toronto.)

Looking at recent world records broken, there are a few examples that were lowered by a similar margin on a per 50 basis.

At the 2021 Short Course World Championships, Maggie MacNeil broke the women’s 50 backstroke record by 33 one-hundredths, and a few weeks later at the Turkish Championships in late December, Emre Sakci took down the men’s 50 breaststroke mark by 0.30.

Looking strictly at world records set in 200-meter events, there aren’t many examples of records falling by more than a second over the last decade.

In the last 10 years, the only 200-meter world records to fall by more than a second were the women’s 200 fly (SCM) and the women’s 200 IM (SCM). Mireia Belmonte broke the 200 fly record by 1.17 seconds (1:59.61) in 2014, and Katinka Hosszu took down the 200 IM mark by 1.19 seconds (2:03.20) in 2013.

Going back a bit further, there are more examples from the last 15 years of records going down by more than a second in the 200-meter distance. As you might expect, the majority come in short course meters, with the 200 fly appearing the most times by far.

200-meter World Records To Fall By More Than 1 Second (Since 2007)

Event Old WR New WR Margin
Women’s 200 back SCM 2:03.24, Reiko Nakamura (2008) 2:00.91, Kirsty Coventry (2008) 2.33
Women’s 200 fly SCM 2:02.50, Liu Zige (2009) 2:00.78, Liu Zige (2009) 1.72
Women’s 200 IM SCM 2:07.79, Allison Wagner (1993) 2:06.13, Kristy Coventry (2008) 1.66
Men’s 200 fly LCM 1:53.71, Michael Phelps (2007) 1:52.09, Michael Phelps (2007) 1.62
Women’s 200 fly LCM 2:03.41, Jessicah Schipper (2009) 2:01.81, Liu Zige (2009) 1.60
Men’s 200 IM SCM 1:51.55, Darian Townsend (2009) 1:50.08, Ryan Lochte (2010) 1.47
Men’s 200 free SCM 1:40.83, Paul Biedermann (2008) 1:39.37, Paul Biedermann (2009) 1.46
Men’s 200 IM SCM 1:52.99, Laszlo Cseh (2007) 1:51.56, Ryan Lochte (2008) 1.43
Men’s 200 fly SCM 1:50.53, Nikolay Skvortsov (2009) 1:49.11, Kaio Almeida (2009) 1.42
Women’s 200 IM LCM 2:08.45, Stephanie Rice (2008) 2:07.03, Arianna Kukors (2009) 1.42
Women’s 200 breast SCM 2:16.83, Annamay Pierse (2009) 2:15.42, Leisel Jones (2009) 1.41
Men’s 200 fly SCM 1:48.24, Daiya Seto (2018) 1:46.85, Tomoru Honda (2022) 1.39
Women’s 200 IM SCM 2:06.01, Evelyn Verraszto (2009) 2:04.64, Evelyn Verraszto (2009) 1.37
Women’s 200 free SCM 1:53.18, Coralie Balmy (2008) 1:51.85, Federica Pellegrini (2008) 1.33
Men’s 200 breast SCM 2:01.98, Christian Sprenger (2009) 2:00.67, Daniel Gyurta (2009) 1.31
Women’s 200 fly LCM 2:05.40, Jessicah Schipper (2006) 2:04.18, Liu Zige (2008) 1.22
Men’s 200 back SCM 1:49.05, Ryan Lochte (2006) 1:47.84, Markus Rogan (2008) 1.21
Women’s 200 IM SCM 2:04.39, Katinka Hosszu (2013) 2:03.20, Katinka Hosszu (2013) 1.19
Women’s 200 fly SCM 2:00.78, Liu Zige (2009) 1:59.61, Mireia Belmonte (2014) 1.17
Men’s 200 back LCM 1:53.08, Aaron Peirsol (2009) 1:51.92, Aaron Peirsol (2009) 1.16

Honda’s 1.39-second margin on the previous world record is the biggest we’ve seen in a 200-meter race since 2010. And while there were several instances of records going down by more than a second during the super-suit years, it’s still only the fourth time it’s happened since the beginning of 2010.

Keying in on the men’s SCM 200 fly world record in particular, the timeline of barriers being broken further punctuates how staggering Honda’s record swim was:

  • First Sub-1:51 – Franck Esposito, 1:50.73 (December 2002)
  • First Sub-1:50 – Kaio Almeida, 1:49.11 (November 2009)
  • First Sub-1:49 – Chad le Clos, 1:48.56 (November 2013)
  • First Sub-1:48 – Tomoru Honda, 1:46.85 (October 2022)
  • First Sub-1:47 – Tomoru Honda, 1:46.85 (October 2022)

It took nearly seven years for the record to go from sub-1:51 to sub-1:50, and then four more years for the mark to get under 1:49. And then all of a sudden, nine years later, Honda goes under 1:47.

It was an incredibly unexpected swim from a swimmer who has largely flown under the radar despite his international success, mostly due to the fact that Kristof Milak has become a dominant force in the long course pool.

Long course and short course are two different games, but Honda’s swim begs the question: can he bridge the gap up to Milak in the big pool?

Time will tell, but either way, his short course swim was one to be remembered.

See arena North America here.

Follow arena USA on Instagram here.

About arena

arena has revolutionized the world of aquatic sport through insightful collaboration with world class athletes and the development of cutting edge competitive swimwear since 1973. Today, this spirit of collaboration and innovation lives on through a continuous evolution of advanced materials and Italian design that improves the performance, style and expression of all those who chose arena. From leading the lanes to living in style, arena is dedicated to providing all swimmers with the tools they need to express themselves, feel confident, win and achieve more. Because in arena, you can.

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

Read More »