arena Swim of the Week: Lukas Märtens Drops Fastest 400 Free Time In Five Years

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.

Lukas Märtens has been absolutely on fire over the last three weeks.

The German native, who only made his major international long course debut last summer at the Tokyo Olympic Games, has quickly asserted himself as a legitimate multi-gold medal contender at the upcoming World Championships in Budapest, having previously appeared to simply be one of many male distance freestylers in the mix to make a final.

Märtens, 20, first dropped a blistering time of 14:40.28 in the 1500 freestyle at a German meet in late March, immediately putting himself in the conversation with names such as Bobby FinkeMykhailo RomanchukGregorio Paltrinieri and countryman Florian Wellbrock to medal in the mile at Worlds.

But what he did at the recently-concluded Stockholm Open took his World Championships prospects to a different level.

Already ranking as the fastest swimmer in the world this year in the 1500, Märtens reeled off personal best times en route to the #1 position globally in the 200 free (1:45.44), 400 free (3:41.60) and 800 free (7:41.43), setting a new German Record in the latter.

But despite the fact that it wasn’t a National Record, his swim in the 400 free stands above the rest.

Märtens’ time of 3:41.60 hits a level that we haven’t seen for quite some time, since the days of Sun Yang dominating the men’s distance scene on the international stage.

It ranks as the 17th-fastest swim ever, and moves him to #8 on the all-time performers’ list. It’s also the fastest time in five years, with Sun having been 3:41.38 at the 2017 World Championships.

Previously, Märtens held a best time of 3:44.86, set in April 2021 at the German Olympic Trials.

All-Time Performers, Men’s 400 Freestyle (LCM)

  1. Paul Biedermann (GER), 3:40.07 – 2009
  2. Ian Thorpe (AUS), 3:40.08 – 2002
  3. Sun Yang (CHN), 3:40.14 – 2012
  4. Ous Mellouli (TUN), 3:41.11 – 2009
  5. Zhang Lin (CHN), 3:41.35 – 2009
  6. Park Tae Hwan (KOR), 3:41.53 – 2010
  7. Mack Horton (AUS), 3:41.55 – 2016
  8. Lukas Märtens (GER), 3:41.60 – 2022
  9. Grant Hackett (AUS), 3:42.51 – 2001
  10. Elijah Winnington (AUS), 3:42.65 – 2021

Behind that Sun swim and Mack Horton‘s 2016 Olympic gold medal-winning 3:41.55, Märtens’ performance ranks as the third-fastest we’ve seen in nearly a decade.

All-Time Performances, Men’s 400 Freestyle (LCM)

  1. Paul Biedermann (GER), 3:40.07 – 2009
  2. Ian Thorpe (AUS), 3:40.08 – 2002
  3. Sun Yang (CHN), 3:40.14 – 2012
  4. Ian Thorpe (AUS), 3:40.17 – 2001
  5. Sun Yang (CHN), 3:40.29 – 2011
  6. Ian Thorpe (AUS), 3:40.54 – 2002
  7. Ian Thorpe (AUS), 3:40.59 – 2000
  8. Ian Thorpe (AUS), 3:40.76 – 2001
  9. Ous Mellouli (TUN), 3:41.11 – 2009
  10. Ian Thorpe (AUS), 3:41.33 – 2000
  11. Zhang Lin (CHN), 3:41.35 – 2009
  12. Sun Yang (CHN), 3:41.38 – 2017
  13. Sun Yang (CHN), 3:41.48 – 2011
  14. Park Tae Hwan (KOR), 3:41.53 – 2010
  15. Mack Horton (AUS), 3:41.55 – 2016
  16. Sun Yang (CHN), 3:41.59 – 2013
  17. Lukas Märtens (GER), 3:41.60 – 2022
  18. Mack Horton (AUS), 3:41.65 – 2016
  19. Sun Yang (CHN), 3:41.68 – 2016
  20. Ian Thorpe (AUS), 3:41.71 – 2001

We also need to acknowledge that Märtens was 1.76 seconds faster than the time produced by Tunisian Ahmed Hafnaoui (3:43.36) to win the Olympic gold medal in the event last summer. Märtens was 12th in that race, clocking 3:46.30 in the prelims.

Digging into Märtens’ splits also gives the indication he might have even more in the tank.

He was out in 1:50.52 at the 200 and back in a blistering 1:51.08, holding 28-lows over the first half before splitting sub-28s on all four 50s of the back-end.

Märtens’ 400 free splits

We saw him deliver similar splits in the 800, negative-splitting his way to a 7:41.43, and given that he’s shown that he’s got a bit of speed behind him with that 200 performance, taking out the 400 with a bit more aggression could push him towards the 3:40 area, something only done by Paul Biedermann (super-suit), Ian Thorpe and Sun.

Given his rapid rate of improvement and incredible range from the 200 to 1500, there’s no question that Märtens is now one of the most intriguing swimmers to watch this summer. And he may just be scratching the surface.

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GTS
1 month ago

The men’s 200 and 400 has been stagnant for 20 years. We need breakout swimmers more than ever in these events.

Dylan
1 month ago

This guy is #1 in world in 4 events and only has one picture of him.

PFA
1 month ago

I have an interesting question if Paul Biedermann and Ian Thorpe we’re both at their prime racing each other in the 400 free who do you think would win? And what would the finishing times be? And yes super suits would be allowed in this.

There's no doubt that he's tightening up
Reply to  PFA
1 month ago

Give Thorpe an Arena X-Glide and it’s not a contest. 3:41.8 in a brief at 16…

Bobo Gigi
Reply to  PFA
1 month ago

Biedermann has much more benefit from the magical suit than many other swimmers.

SwimmerFan99
Reply to  PFA
1 month ago

I think there’s a simple answer to this. Biedermann was at his prime in Rome in 2009. He went 3:40.07 in a supersuit.

Thorpe at his prime (at least in the 400FR) went a 3:40.08 in 2002 without a supersuit. Would an Arena X-Glide, Jaked, or even a Speedo LZR Racer give him a mere .02 of a second advantage? I’d certainly think so.

The supersuit gave Biedermann a 4.07 second advantage over his best textile time ever that he swum in 2011 (6.60 second advantage over his best textile a month prior to Rome, in fact). Give one to prime Thorpe and I don’t think something like a 3:37.xx is unreasonable to guess.

Last edited 1 month ago by SwimmerFan99
Luigi
Reply to  PFA
1 month ago

Thorpe pulled the brakes on that 3:40 in the last meters. This is not even a contest.

1650 Onetrick
1 month ago

It’s been so, so long since we’ve seen a 3:40. 400 free. I think this is our guy

Caeleb’s left suit string
1 month ago

Crazy stuff, not to take anything away from Märtens of course, but Ian Thorpe going faster than this time 20 years ago is absolutely insane, literally built different

Last edited 1 month ago by Caeleb’s left suit string
SwimmerFan99
1 month ago

Lukas Märtens has been absolutely over the last three weeks.

Otherwise, a great feature! I’m very much hoping either him or Lorenzo Galossi can break Biedermann’s record by 2026.

Bobo Gigi
Reply to  SwimmerFan99
1 month ago

Biedermann’s 400 free record will be broken soon. Hopefully.
But unfortunately he will still hold the 200 free record in 60 years now that Dean Farris has retired.

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 …

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