Amidst many of the world’s best swimmers having limited long course competitions in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, just three women made it under the 2:07 barrier in the 200m fly for the season.
All three come from China, with Zhang Yufei leading the pack with her powerful 2:05.49 at this month’s Chinese Long Course Invitational in Shijiazhuang City.
Knowing that it took a 2:06.78 for Hungary’s Boglarka Kapas to win the 2019 World Championships title, I wanted to take a big-picture look at the women’s 200m fly event as a whole over the last decade.
When I looked at the men’s 200m breast, for instance, the total number of men under the 2:09 barrier in the event progressively grew from 2 in 2010 to 10 in 2015 to 22 in 2019. This has not been the case in this women’s 200m fly event.
Eight of the top ten women’s 200m fly performers produced their best time more than 5 years ago. Of the top ten, Aussie Maddie Groves‘ 2:04.88 from the 2016 Olympic Games was the most recent, making her the world’s 9th fastest performer to date.
The most recent sub-2:06 times came in 2018, with Wales’ Alys Thomas striking a 2:05.45 at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, followed by the United States’ Hali Flickinger clocking 2:05.87 at that same year’s U.S. Nationals.
Liu Xige‘s World Record of 2:01.81 from 2009, albeit in a supersuit, has still proven to be untouchable, while Mary T. Meagher‘s 2:05.96 time from 1981 keeps her ranked as the 22nd fastest performer ever nearly 40 years later. There are very few events on both the women’s and men’s side with this type of longevity for its past performers.
I grabbed all the women’s LCM 200 butterfly times in the 2:04-, 2:05- and 2:06-ranges spanning 2010 and 2020 to take a look at how many more members of the pack entered new time brackets from year-to-year. What pops out from the data is that this event has largely remained stagnant in terms of any breakthrough times.
2013 represented the year with the most swimmers in the 2:04-range over the past decade, but just 3 swimmers made the grade. The last Olympic year of 2016 was the last time we saw double-digits’ worth of 200m flyers under the 2:07 threshold, with this number dropping off by more than half by the time 2018, 2019 and 2020 came about.
|Year||2:04.XX||2:05.XX||2:06.XX||Total Swimmers Under 2:07 for the Year|
This article won’t theorize as to why the women’s 200m fly has been relatively progressing in a flat line over the past decade. We’ll leave that to you all to debate in the comments.