Kansas City Chiefs Win First Super Bowl in 50 Years: a Swimming Retrospective

On Sunday evening in Miami, Florida, the Kansas City Chiefs came from 10 points down at the start of the 4th quarter to win 31-20 over the San Francisco 49ers and win Super Bowl LIV (54). This stands as their 2nd-ever Super Bowl win, having last won in January of 1970 in Super Bowl IV (4).

A lot has changed in football in the last 50 years. The last Chiefs win came so long ago that the father of Patrick Mahomes, quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs, wasn’t even born yet. Since the Chiefs last won the Super Bowl, field goals all became 10 yards longer, the merged NFL as we know it today was formed, player names were added to the backs of jerseys, the NFL season was expanded to 16 games, numerous player safety rules were instituted, and generally, the game is almost unrecognizable as to what the style of play was 50 years ago.

Similarly, the sport of swimming has changed a ton in the last 50 years. 50 years ago, there was no such thing as the FINA Swimming World Championships – an event that launched for the first time in 1973. Some of the fundamental ideals that today we recognize as an unalienable part of the sport didn’t even exist: goggles were still viewed as ‘training equipment,’ with the first person to use them in international competition believed to be Britain’s David Wilkie a few months after the 1970 Super Bowl at the Commonwealth Games (source: International Swimming Hall of Fame). In 1970, the 50 freestyle still wasn’t an Olympic event, and there were no World Records in any of the 50 meter races.

USA Swimming wouldn’t even be founded for another 10 years after the Chiefs last were champions of the football world.

The suit technology, common use of swim caps (Mark Spitz didn’t wear one nor cut his hair particularly short in 1972 when he won 7 Olympic golds), the development of underwater swimming, and a ton of technique changes have all led to big changes in times. The last time the Chiefs won the Super Bowl, for example, every World Record in men’s swimming was slower than the current World Record in women’s swimming.

Using the Chiefs’ drought as a yardstick to measure the passage of time, we wanted to look back at how World Records have evolved in the last 50 years. See the table below focusing on long course times (short course meters World Records are another thing that weren’t kept in 1970).


  • Women’s World Records on average have improved by 12.28%, while men’s World Records on average have improved by 11.17%.
  • For the men, the breaststrokes (by 13.56% and 13.26%, respectively) have seen the biggest improvements. For the women, it’s the butterfly races (by 13.98% and 13.61%, respectively).
  • Mike Burton‘s 800 free World Record has improved by 11.14%, as compared to just 9.69% for his World Record in the 1500 free. That’s as compared to the women’s equivalents, which have improved by a much more similar percentage. Coupled with just a 9.81% improvement in Hans-Joachim Fassnacht’s 400 free World Record, this highlights what an extreme outlier Zhang Lin‘s 7:32 in the 800 free is.
  • 50 years ago, World Records were limited to only 7 countries (if we count Germany and East Germany separately): USA, Australia, Germany/East Germany, South Africa, Netherlands, and the USSR. Today, 10 countries are represented by the same events that existed in 1970.
  • While Australia does have 7 World Records today, 5 of them are in short course events and 2 are in long course relays. None of those 7 World Records are in individual events that World Records were recorded in 50 years ago. In 1970, they held 3 individual long course World Records.
  • 50 years ago, only 8 men and 8 women held individual World Records. In these same events today, 12 men and 8 women hold records. Only 1 man, Paul Biedermann, currently holds multiple World Records among these reference distances, showing an increase in specialization in modern swimming. Even the great Michael Phelps currently only has 1 individual World Record remaining, in the 400 IM.

50 Years of Individual World Records in Swimming

1970 2020 Change Event 1970 2020 Change
52.2 – Michael Wenden, Australia 46.91 – Cesar Cielo, Brazil 10.13% 100 free 58.9 – Dawn Fraser, Australia 51.71 – Sarah Sjostrom, Sweden 12.21%
1:54.3 – Mark Spitz, USA 1:42.00 – Paul Biedermann, Germany 10.76% 200 free 2:06.7 – Debbie Meyer, USA 1:52.98 – Federica Pellegrini, Italy 10.83%
4:04.0 – Hans-Joachim Fassnacht, Germany 3:40.07 – Paul Biedermann, Germany 9.81% 400 free 4:24.5 – Debbie Meyer, USA 3:56.46 – Katie Ledecky, USA 10.60%
8:28.8 – Mike Burton, USA 7:32.12 – Zhang Lin, China 12.91% 800 free 9:10.4 – Debbie Meyer, USA 8:04.79 – Katie Ledecky, USA 11.92%
16:04.5 – Mke Burton, USA 14:31.02 – Sun Yang, China 9.69% 1500 free 17:19.9 – Debbie Meyer, USA 15:20.48 – Katie Ledecky, USA 11.48%
57.8 – Roland Matthes, East Germany 51.85 – Ryan Murphy, USA 10.29% 100 back 1:05.6 – Karen Muir, South Africa 57.57 – Regan Smith, USA 12.24%
2:06.6 – Roland Matthes, East Germany & Gary Hall, USA 1:51.92 – Aaron Peirsol, USA 11.60% 200 back 2:21.5 – Susie Atwood, USA 2:03.35 – Regan Smith, USA 12.83%
1:05.8 – Nikolai Pankin, USSR 56.88 – Adam Peaty, Great Britain 13.56% 100 breast 1:14.2 – Catie Ball, USA 1:04.13 – Lilly King, USA 13.57%
2:25.4 – Nikolai Pankin, USSR 2:06.12 – Anton Chupkov, Russia 13.26% 200 breast 2:38.5 – Catie Ball, USA 2:19.11 – Rikke-Moeller Pederson, Denmark 12.23%
55.6 – Mark Spitz, USA 49.50 – Caeleb Dressel, USA 10.97% 100 fly 1:04.5 – Ada Kok, Netherlands 55.48 – Sarah Sjostrom, Sweden 13.98%
2:05.7 – Mark Spitz, USA 1:50.73 – Kristof Milak, Hungary 11.91% 200 fly 2:21.0 – Ada Kok, Netherlands 2:01.81 – Liu Zige, China 13.61%
2:09.6 – Gary Hall, USA 1:54.00 – Ryan Lochte, USA 12.04% 200 IM 2:23.5 – Claudia Kolb, USA 2:06.12 – Katinka Hosszu, Hungary 12.11%
4:31.0 – Gary Hall, USA 4:03.84 – Michael Phelps, USA 10.02% 400 IM 5:02.97 – Gail Neall, Australia 4:26.36 – Katinka Hosszu, Hungary 12.08%


In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Pats Fan
11 months ago

Don’t let this distract you from the fact that the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead

Reply to  Pats Fan
11 months ago

Don’t let this distract you from the the fact that in 1966, Al Bundy scored four touchdowns in a single game while playing for the Polk High School Panthers in the 1966 city championship game versus Andrew Johnson High School, including the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds against his old nemesis, Bubba “Spare Tire” Dixon.

Reply to  Pats Fan
11 months ago


Woke Stasi
Reply to  Pats Fan
11 months ago

@Pats Fan: Kyle Shanahan is the Hillary Clinton of Super Bowl Coaches!

11 months ago

Ryan lochte will win first 200 IM in 5 years non negotiable

2 Cents
11 months ago

Not to mention countries that don’t exist anymore had WR back then too… and drug testing was not a thing, and we walked to school every day uphill both ways in the snow….

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

Read More »