Despite his success at the 2008 Olympic Games, winning eight gold medals and breaking Mark Spitz’s record for most Olympic golds won in a single games, the year that Michael Phelps had in 2007 was arguable even more impressive.
In 2007, at the FINA World Aquatics Championships, Phelps claimed gold in 7 events, missing out on the chance for an 8th with a disqualification by Ian Crocker during the prelims of the 400 medley relay. En route to those 7 golds, Phelps also set individual World Records in the 200 IM (1:54.98), 400 IM (4:06.22), 200 fly (1:52.09), and the 200 free (1:43.86). While he would go on to lower the World Records in all 4 of these events in 2008, he was absolutely dominant during 2007.
Amidst the other record-breaking swims, the 200 IM stands out as one of Phelps’s most impressive. Going into the meet his best time, and the current world record, was nearly a second slower than what he swam, a 1:55.84 from the 2006 Pan Pacific Championships the year before.
In 2007, Phelps set the pace early, taking the 50 fly out in a 24.96, already .15 under World Record pace. At the 100 he had widened the gap between himself and the World Record to .91. After swimming nearly the same split on the breaststroke leg as he had the year prior (only .01 faster), he brought it home slightly slower on the final leg, finishing with a split of 27.51.
Phelps was far from the only big-name competing in the 200 IM at the 2007 World Championships. Joining him in the final were names such as Ryan Lochte, who set the current World Record in the event in 2011, 2007 Swimmer of the Year and former short course World Record holder Thiago Pereira, current European record holder in the event Laszlo Cseh, and former short course meters 400 IM World Record holder Brian Johns.
While his time has since fallen out of the top-10 all times swims, it still stands as the 11th fastest swim of all-time in the event. Of the top-10 times, 7 of them are Phelps’s, while the other three belong to fellow American teammate Ryan Lochte.
Throughout the course of his career, Phelps won 3 Olympic titles (2008, 2012, and 2016), 3 World Championships titles (2003, 2005, and 2017, and 2 Pan Pacific titles (2002 and 2006) in the 200 IM. Across that time he reset the World Record 7 times, with the first being at the 2003 Santa Clara Invitational a month before he reset it at the 2003 World Championships. Between 2003 and 2008 he became the first man to swim sub-1:58, sub-1:57, sub-1:56, and sub-1:55.
Phelp’s 200 IM splits over time
|Split||2003 World Championships||2006 Pan Pacific Championships||2007 World Championships||2008 Olympic Games|
|50 Back||29.04 (53.33)||29.38 (54.49)||28.62 (53.58)||28.81 (53.40)|
|50 Breast||34.17 (1:28.84)||33.90 (1:28.39)||33.89 (1:27.47)||33.50 (1:26.90)|
Looking at his swim in comparison to the previous World Record he had set in 2006, the biggest difference in his splits came in the backstroke leg of the race. In 2006 he was over half of a second slower (29.38) than he was in 2007 (28.62). While the rest of his splits were similar to the previous years swim, this drop was pivotal in him becoming the first man to dip below the 1:55 barrier.
Through the 5-year period where Phelps reset the World Record 7 times, he maintained similar splits while slowly lowering his time. Across the 5 year span, the largest change in splits came in his strength, the fly leg of the race, and arguably his weakest leg, the breaststroke. Both of those splits saw time drops of over half a second from 2003 to 2008, while his free leg was actually slightly slower in 2008.