A palpable electricity engulfs the stands and sends shockwaves around the pool deck when a major record is broken. A similar surge emanates through the crowd and masses on deck when a record is nearly broken. Consider at the 2017 FINA World Championships when American Caeleb Dressel nearly broke Michael Phelps‘ 2009 World Record in the 100 butterfly, registering a 49.86 to Phelps’ 49.82.
Phelps’ name appears on the list of second-fastest performers all-time more than a casual viewer of swimming would probably expect, but for those deeply entrenched in the sport, watching Phelps’ records fall has been a bittersweet march forward for swimming. Phelps retains only one individual World Record in the 400 IM, though his influence, impact, and continued omnipresence is indelible.
Beyond Phelps, the list of second-fastest performers all-time includes many legendary swimmers and former records that were once thought untouchable.
Phelps graces the list four times, the most of any swimmer, male or female.
Lithuanian Ruta Meilutyte is the only woman to hold more than one position on the list as she remains the second-fastest all-time in both the 50 and 100 breaststroke.
Great Britain’s Rebecca Adlington has held on to the title of second-fastest ever in the 800 meter freestyle, though it’s also worth noting that American World Record Holder and double Olympic gold medalist in the 800 free Katie Ledecky holds the top-22 fastest performances all-time, meaning Adlington’s former World Record has been beaten on 22 separate occasions by Ledecky.
Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom has a similar dominance in the 50 butterfly where she is the sole contributor to the top-16 fastest performances all-time, meaning that the second-fastest woman in history in the event, compatriot and former-World Record holder Therese Alshammar, occupies the 17th-fastest position on the all-time performances list.
Similarly, on the men’s side, Ilya Shymanovich of Belarus is the second-fastest man ever in the 100 meter breaststroke, though his incredible 58.29 from 2018 is only the 19th-fastest performance all-time, leaving the top-18 to Great Britain’s Adam Peaty.
The Second-Fastest Performers All-Time (LCM)
|2009||Britta Steffen (GER)||23.73||50 Freestyle||20.94||Fred Bousquet (FRA)||2009|
|2018||Cate Campbell (AUS)||52.03||100 Freestyle||46.94||Alain Bernard (FRA)||2009|
|2012||Allison Schmitt (USA)||1:53.61||200 Freestyle||1:42.96||Michael Phelps (USA)||2008|
|2019||Ariarne Titmus (AUS)||3:58.58||400 Freestyle||3:40.08||Ian Thorpe (AUS)||2002|
|2008||Rebecca Adlington (GBR)||8:14.10||800 Freestyle||7:35.27||Ous Mellouli (TUN)||2009|
|2013||Lotte Friis (DEN)||15:38.88||1500 Freestyle||14:33.10||Gregorio Paltrinieri (ITA)||2020|
|2009||Zhao Jing (CHN)||27.06||50 Backstroke||24.04||Liam Tancock (GBR)||2009|
|2018||Kathleen Baker (USA)||58.00||100 Backstroke||51.86||Xu Jiayu (CHN)||2017|
|2012||Missy Franklin (USA)||2:04.06||200 Backstroke||1:52.51||Ryosuke Irie (JPN)||2009|
|2013||Ruta Meilutyte (LTU)||29.48||50 Breaststroke||26.33||Felipe Lima (BRA)||2019|
|2013||Ruta Meilutyte (LTU)||1:04.35||100 Breaststroke||58.29||Ilya Shymanovich (BLR)||2019|
|2013||Yulia Efimova (RUS)||2:19.41||200 Breaststroke||2:06.67||Ippei Watanabe (JPN)/
Matthew Wilson (AUS)
|2009||Therese Alshammar (SWE)||25.07||50 Butterfly||22.35||Caeleb Dressel (USA)||2019|
|2019||Maggie MacNeil (CAN)||55.83||100 Butterfly||49.82||Michael Phelps (USA)||2009|
|2009||Jessicah Schipper (AUS)||2:03.41||200 Butterfly||1:51.51||Michael Phelps (USA)||2009|
|2009||Ariana Kukors (USA)||2:06.15||200 IM||1:54.16||Michael Phelps (USA)||2011|
|2012||Ye Shiwen (CHN)||4:28.43||400 IM||4:05.18||Ryan Lochte (USA)||2012|