During the 2023 Swimming World Cup, Australia’s Kaylee McKeown set new world records in the women’s 50 and 100 backstroke. She was already the world record holder in the 100 back, first establishing the mark in 2021, but in the 50 back, her 26.86 swim in Budapest was her first time grabbing hold of the all-time mark.
Already the world record holder in the 200 back, McKeown entered rarefied air when she broke the 50-meter WR, giving her the 50, 100 and 200 records simultaneously in one stroke.
Just how rare is this feat? As it turns out, incredibly so.
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In long course meters, this is the first time someone has completed the trifecta in 24 years. In 1999, South African Penny Heyns and American Lenny Krayzelburg held world records in the 50, 100 and 200 breaststroke and backstroke, respectively.
Heyns had held the world record in the women’s 100 breaststroke dating back to 1996, and in the 50 breast since 1998. In 1999, she broke the world record in the 200 breaste during the Janet Evans Invitational in Los Angeles in July. The following month, she broke world records in all three events during the Pan Pacific Championships in Sydney. Her 200-meter world record was surpassed in 2001 by China’s Qi Hui – which means that Heyns held the world records for all three events simultaneously from July 17, 1999, until April 13, 2001.
Krayzelburg, in turn, broke three world records in individual events during his career, doing so in all three men’s backstroke events at the 1999 Pan Pacific Championships. He held the three world records simultaneously from August 28, 1999, until March 30, 2002, when his 200 backstroke world record was surpassed by Aaron Peirsol.
In long course meters, Heyns, Krayzelburg and now McKeown are the only three swimmers to have held the 50/100/200 record treble simultaneously.
However, there are some other notable athletes who, more or less, accomplished the feat, just not officially. Russian Denis Pankratov broke world records in the men’s 100 and 200 butterfly in 1995, and in 1996 he set the “world best” in the 50 butterfly – it was the fastest time in history, but FINA still did not recognize world records in the event at that time.
The same goes for East German Kornelia Ender and American Rowdy Gaines. In 1975 and 1980, respectively, they set the “world best” in the 50 freestyle, an event that did not yet have a recognized world record, and they were also world record holders in the 100 and 200 freestyle.
However, officially, it cannot be said that Pankratov, Ender and Gaines set world records in the three distances.
In short course meters, Pankratov achieved the feat. In 1997, he broke world records in the three butterfly events during the 1997 World Cup. Besides Pankratov, the only other swimmer to hold world records in the 50, 100 and 200 in short course meters is American Ed Moses, who achieved the feat in 2002 – holding all three records for just four days.