Disclaimer: Dolfin 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 Dolfin Swim 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.
Twenty years ago, Australian Ian Thorpe kicked off a new millennium with three world records and a 400 free swim that still stacks up among the best in history.
Swimming at Australia’s Olympic Trials, the 17-year-old Thorpe opened the meet with a blistering 3:41.33 in the 400 free. That cut a half-second off of Thorpe’s standing world record, which he’d set the summer prior while becoming the first man ever under both 3:42 and 3:43. An absolute freestyle dominator at the time, Thorpe was the defending World and Pan Pacs champ in the event, and even two decades later, he holds up as one of the best 400 freestylers in history. He would hit his peak in the race with a 3:40.08 at the Commonwealth Games in 2002, and that is the #2 time in history behind only a super-suited Paul Biedermann, who broke the world record by a single hundredth of a second in 2009.
Thorpe’s 3:41.3 from this day in 2000 is still the #10 performance of all-time, and since the fall of the super-suits, only one man (Sun Yang) has bettered a Thorpe swim from years before the peak of that rubberized suit era. Thorpe still owns 5 of the top 10 swims in history in the 400 free:
Top 400 Freestyles in History
- Paul Biederman (2009) – 3:40.07
- Ian Thorpe (2002) – 3:40.08
- Sun Yang (2012) – 3:40.12
- Ian Thorpe (2001) – 3:40.17
- Sun Yang (2011) – 3:40.29
- Ian Thorpe (2002) – 3:40.54
- Ian Thorpe (2000) – 3:40.59
- Ian Thorpe (2001) – 3:40.76
- Ous Mellouli (2009) – 3:41.11
- Ian Thorpe (2000) – 3:41.33
Over the next two days, Thorpe would put up the first 200 frees ever under 1:46 – he broke the world record in 1:45.69 on May 14, then went 1:45.51 on May 15. Despite losing that record briefly to Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband, Thorpe would regain the record and hold it until 2007, when a bodysuited Michael Phelps went 1:43.86. Thorpe remains the #5 performer in history in the event.
You can relive those swims in all their grainy, 2000-era glory courtesy of australianswimming on YouTube:
400 free – 3:41.33 world record
200 free – 1:45.51 world record
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