How Many Swimmers Have Reclaimed A World Record?

In 2023, two swimmers managed to reclaim world records that had previously been theirs.

During the 2023 World Championships in Fukuoka, Australia’s Ariarne Titmus won the women’s 400 freestyle in 3:55.38. In the process, she got back the world record she had lost four months earlier to Canada’s Summer McIntosh.

Also in Fukuoka, Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte set the women’s 50 breaststroke world record in  a time of 29.16. She was the world record holder in the event from 2013 to 2017, then she was surpassed by American Lilly King, and from 2021 onwards the world record was held by Italian Benedetta Pilato. Meilutyte reclaimed her record after six years.

If it happened twice this year, is reclaiming world records a common occurrence in swimming?

At least in recent years, it has not been frequent. In long course meters, before 2023, the last occasion had occurred in 2015, when South Africa’s Cameron van der Burgh equaled Great Britain’s Adam Peaty‘s world record in the heats of the men’s 50 breaststroke at the World Championships in Gwangju, getting back the mark that had been his from 2009 to 2014.

But in the history of swimming, reclaiming world records is more frequent than perhaps one would suppose. Since World Aquatics was founded in 1908, there have been 153 occasions on which world record reclaimings have occurred in long course meters.

The first time was in 1924, when German Erich Rademacher set the men’s 200 breaststroke world record with 2:50.4, getting back the record he had lost two weeks earlier to American Bob Skelton.

In this century (since 2001), there have been 42 long course world records reclaimed by swimmers. Obviously, the 2008-2009 biennium, in the era of the supersuits, featured the majority of these occasions: 28 world records were reclaimed in those two years.

In the last 20 years, Aaron Peirsol and Kosuke Kitajima have managed to reclaim their records three times. Peirsol did it twice in the men’s 200 backstroke and once in the 100 backstroke. Kitajima, twice in the men’s 200 breaststroke and once in the 100 breaststroke.

Ruta Meilutyte is not the only one who has gotten back a world record after six years. Michael Phelps did it too, in the 100 butterfly. He had broken the world record in the semi-final of the 2003 World Championships, and lost it to Ian Crocker the following day, in the final. Phelps would only reclaim his record at the U.S. National Championships in 2009.

Swimmers who have gotten back their world records (LCM)

Since 2001

Swimmer Event Time Date WR holder before
Ian Thorpe (AUS) Men’s 200 free 1:44.69 March 27, 2001 Pieter van den Hoogenband (NED),  2000
Roman Sloudnov (RUS) Men’s 100 breast 1:00.26 June 28, 2001 Ed Moses (USA),  2001
Anna-Karin Kammerling (SWE) Women’s 50 butterfly 25.57 July 30, 2002 Inge de Bruijn (NED),  2000
Kosuke Kitajima (JPN) Men’s 200 breast 2:09.42 July 24, 2003 Dimitri Komornikov (RUS),  2003
Amanda Beard (USA) Women’s 200 breast 2:22.44 July 12, 2004 Leisel Jones (AUS),  2004
Leisel Jones (AUS) Women’s 200 breast 2:21.72 July 29, 2005 Amanda Beard (USA),  2004
Libby Trickett (AUS) Women’s 100 free 53.42 January 31, 2006 Jodie Henry (AUS),  2004
Leisel Jones (AUS) Women’s 100 breast 1:05.71 February 3, 2006 Jessica Hardy (USA),  2005
Eamon Sullivan (AUS) Men’s 50 free 21.41 March 27, 2008 Alain Bernard (FRA),  2008
Libby Trickett (AUS) Women’s 100 free 52.88 March 27, 2008 Britta Steffen (GER),  2006
Kosuke Kitajima (JPN) Men’s 200 breast 2:07.51 June 8, 2008 Brendan Hansen (USA),  2004
Katie Hoff (USA) Women’s 400 IM 4:31.12 June 29, 2008 Stephanie Rice (AUS),  2008
Natalie Coughlin (USA) Women’s 100 back 59.03 June 30, 2008 Hayley McGregory (USA),  2008
Aaron Peirsol (USA) Men’s 200 back 1:54.32 July 4, 2008 Ryan Lochte (USA),  2007
Stephanie Rice (AUS) Women’s 400 IM 4:29.45 August 10, 2008 Katie Hoff (USA),  2008
Kosuke Kitajima (JPN) Men’s 100 breast 58.91 August 11, 2008 Brendan Hansen (USA),  2004
Federica Pellegrini (ITA) Women’s 200 free 1:55.45 August 11, 2008 Laure Manaudou (FRA),  2007
Alain Bernard (FRA) Men’s 100 free 47.20 August 13, 2008 Eamon Sullivan (AUS),  2008
Eamon Sullivan (AUS) Men’s 100 free 47.05 August 13, 2008 Alain Bernard (FRA),  2008
Ryan Lochte (USA) Men’s 200 back 1:53.94 August 15, 2008 Aaron Peirsol (USA),  2008
Kirsty Coventry (ZIM) Women’s 200 back 2:05.24 August 16, 2008 Margaret Hoelzer (USA),  2008
Marleen Veldhuis (NED) Women’s 50 free 23.96 April 19, 2009 Libby Lenton-Trickett (AUS),  2008
Alain Bernard (FRA) Men’s 100 free 46.94 April 23, 2009 Eamon Sullivan (AUS),  2008
Federica Pellegrini (ITA) Women’s 400 free 4:00.41 June 27, 2009 Joanne Jackson (GBR),  2009
Aaron Peirsol (USA) Men’s 100 back 51.94 July 8, 2009 Aschwin Wildeboer (ESP),  2009
Michael Phelps (USA) Men’s 100 butterfly 50.22 July 9, 2009 Ian Crocker (USA),  2003
Aaron Peirsol (USA) Men’s 200 back 1:53.08 July 11, 2009 Ryan Lochte (USA),  2008
Cameron van der Burgh (RSA) Men’s 50 breast 26.74 July 28, 2009 Felipe França (BRA),  2009
Jing Zhao (CHN) Women’s 50 back 27.06 July 30, 2009 Anastasia Zuyeva (RUS),  2009
Jessicah Schipper (AUS) Women’s 200 butterfly 2:03.41 July 30, 2009 Mary Descenza (USA),  2009
Therese Alshammar (SWE) Women’s 50 butterfly 25.07 July 31, 2009 Marleen Veldhuis (NED),  2009
Liam Tancock (GBR) Men’s 50 back 24.08 August 1, 2009 Randall Bal (USA),  2008
Michael Phelps (USA) Men’s 100 butterfly 49.82 August 1, 2009 Milorad Cavic (SRB),  2009
Jessica Hardy (USA) Women’s 100 breast 1:04.45 August 7, 2009 Rebecca Soni (USA),  2009
Zige Liu (CHN) Women’s 200 butterfly 2:01.81 October 21, 2009 Jessicah Schipper (AUS),  2009
Rebecca Soni (USA) Women’s 200 breast 2:20.00 August 1, 2012 Annamay Pierse (CAN),  2009
Yuliya Yefimova (RUS) Women’s 50 breast 29.78 August 3, 2013 Jessica Hardy (USA),  2009
Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) Women’s 100 butterfly 55.74 August 2, 2015 Dana Vollmer (USA),  2012
Cameron van der Burgh (RSA) Men’s 50 breast 26.62 August 4, 2015 Adam Peaty (GBR),  2014
Ariarne Titmus (AUS) Women’s 400 free 3:55.38 July 23, 2023 Summer McIntosh (CAN), 2023
Kliment Kolesnikov (RUS) Men’s 50 back 23.55 July 27, 2023 Hunter Armstrong (USA), 2022
Ruta Meilutyte (LTU) Women’s 50 breast 29.30 July 29, 2023 Benedetta Pilato (ITA), 2021

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18 days ago

Sarah Sjostrom not only reclaimed the WR in the 100 fly that she first broke in the supersuit era, she also broke a long course WR in an Olympic event 14 years after breaking her first one (2009 100 fly – 2023 50 free). She is the closest thing swimming has to a superhero.

18 days ago

Interesting topic. Congrats to who ever decided on this.

18 days ago

Good stuff great people

18 days ago

Off topic but USA Swimming just announced their Doha team. 13 men and FIVE women. So many people must have turned it down!

Can’t wait to see the comments when an article is written on this.

Reply to  Sub13
18 days ago

claire and kate about to enter like 10 individual events each omg

Pieter H
Reply to  Sub13
18 days ago

I am ready with 🍿

Comments section will be entertaining.

Reply to  Sub13
18 days ago

LMAO 5 women 💀 4 of them are huge names though at least (Douglass, Curzan, Grimes, Weinstein) so at least we’ll get some fast times still

Last edited 18 days ago by jeff
Reply to  jeff
18 days ago

Given how weak the field will be those 5 women could legitimately top the medal table lol

18 days ago

Biondi and Jager in the 50 free was epic back in the day!

i thought i could read
18 days ago

am i missing something? why did they get reclaimed?

Pieter H
Reply to  i thought i could read
18 days ago

Huh? Isn’t it very clear?

Swimmer A broke WR.

Then swimmer B broke that WR.

Then swimmer A broke that WR (reclaimed it)

Emily Se-Bom Lee
Reply to  Pieter H
18 days ago

aptly explained at the beginning of the article

Chadius Daddus
Reply to  Pieter H
18 days ago

No, it’s because the swimmer didn’t properly pay the required taxes to FINA. The IRS would then repossessed the record, leaving the swimmer the swimmer record-less. The list in the article is all the swimmers who successfully won their court cases and reclaimed their records.

Just Keep Swimming
18 days ago

I always thought Rice and Hoff traded both IM records back and forth. Just learned today it was only the 400.

18 days ago

This is very unlikely, CCampbell in the 100m…..