Former and Almost-World Record Holders: The Second-Fastest Performers All-Time

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)

WOMEN EVENT MEN
Year Swimmer Time LCM Time Swimmer Year
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)
2017/
2019
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

 

In This Story

53
Leave a Reply

Subscribe
Notify of

53 Comments
newest
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
CA_LAWYER
2 years ago

Damn shame the GOAT has so many on this list.

Drewbrewsbeer
Reply to  CA_LAWYER
2 years ago

Its pretty wild

jd14
2 years ago

Any chance of listing the second-fastest relays?

John
Reply to  jd14
2 years ago

I was thinking the same thing. curious what the oldest 2nd all-time is

Ervin
Reply to  jd14
2 years ago

USA went 3:27:95 in Rio in the mens medley…not sure if thats the second fastest tho

Last edited 2 years ago by Ervin
frug
Reply to  Ervin
2 years ago

Relay records are technically held by the countries not the individual swimmers so the second fastest performer has to be from a different country than the WR holder.

Last edited 2 years ago by frug
Coach
2 years ago

Lotte’s 1500 was a pretty damn good swim. No respect.

Sean S
2 years ago

Interesting that 3 of these swims remain textile world records. Schmitt’s 200, Thorpe’s 400, and Lochte’s 4IM.

Ghost
2 years ago

Too many 2009!

Caleb Montrealez
2 years ago

If Michael Phelps had only swam a couple races as a part of his program, I could imagine his 100fly would be 49.5 or even better.

Mrs. Swimming
Reply to  Caleb Montrealez
2 years ago

Agree, to be fair though it’s not like Dressel only trains for that event either.

Tea rex
Reply to  Caleb Montrealez
2 years ago

He’s the most natural 200 flyer I’ve seen. I bet peak Phelps swimming 2-3 events only would still have the 200 fly WR.
On the other hand, Caeleb is way more explosive than Phelps over 100 meters. Every worlds or Olympics Phelps won the 100 fly, he eked out a win.

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Tea rex
2 years ago

Mr. Milak would like a word.

Robbos
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
2 years ago

Exactly, lets not degrade Milak. Phelps is the greatest swimmer I have seen, no doubt, he’s also a winner, he wants to win more then most, big time swimmer. But Milak swim in his WR swim was awesome, never seen anything like it.

CA_LAWYER
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
2 years ago

I like my heroes with 23 gold medals.

Robbos
Reply to  CA_LAWYER
2 years ago

Hero, there is only 1.

CA_LAWYER
Reply to  Robbos
2 years ago

It’s an Ol’ Longhorn quote…are you new here?

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  CA_LAWYER
2 years ago

Not many here have a personal archivist.

John
Reply to  CA_LAWYER
2 years ago

might be a generation or 2 before that “s” makes sense

SAMUEL HUNTINGTON
2 years ago

Agree, Thorpe is the most legendary name on this list.

swimfast
2 years ago

not sure which gap from 1st to 2nd all time performer is more unreal: the men’s 100 breast or women’s 800. i didn’t even realize until now how insanely dominant peaty’s WR is mostly because i’ve seen him do a sub 58 several times now (including relays)…but now that i see this list i’m like..holy cats

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six.  At age 14 he began swimming club year-round and later with his high school team, making state all four years.  He was fortunate enough to draw the attention of Kalamazoo College where he went on to …

Read More »