Virginia’s Kate Douglass had a very impressive NCAA Championship performance, breaking American records in three individual events and being chosen as the swimmer of the year in the 2022 Swammy Awards.
Three American records in the same meet is a feat for a few. Let alone in three diverse events like the 50 free, 100 butterfly and 200 breaststroke. And Douglass already is an Olympic bronze medalist in the 200 IM. So versatile.
But how rare is winning individual events in three different strokes at the same NCAA Division I meet? It’s incredibly rare. So rare that Douglass is the first swimmer, man or woman, to achieve this feat – not considering individual medley events as “stroke” races.
There are some swimmers who have won events in two different strokes, mainly freestyle and butterfly events, like Mark Spitz (1969), Dara Torres (1988) and Caeleb Dressel (2017, 2018). Some have won freestyle and backstroke events, like Alan Ford (1944), John Naber (1975) and Missy Franklin (2015).
Winning a breaststroke event and an event in another stroke is much rarer. Before Douglass, only John Schmieler (1932, 220 freestyle and 220 breaststroke), Richard Fadgen (1956, 220 breaststroke and 200 butterfly), Tracy Caulkins (1984, 100 breaststroke and 200 butterfly) and Andrew Seliskar (2019, 200 freestyle and 200 breaststroke) managed to do that.
Caulkins is the only swimmer ever to own American records in all four strokes. But even she didn’t manage to win individual events in three different strokes at the NCAA level. In 1984, she won the 100 breaststroke and the 200 butterfly, along with the 200 IM and 400 IM. It was close, but we are not considering the individual medley races here. If we factor in relay events, Caulkins also won freestyle events in 1984, as Florida won the 400 and 800 free relays.
But winning events in three different strokes individually? Only Kate Douglass in 2022. Winning the 50 freestyle + 200 breaststroke combo is unprecedented, as well as the 100 butterfly + 200 breaststroke duo.
Truly a performance for the ages.