Looking At The Last Decade Of The Women’s 200 Fly

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
2010 0 1 3 4
2011 2 3 5 10
2012 2 4 5 11
2013 3 1 3 7
2014 1 1 4 6
2015 0 4 5 9
2016 2 3 6 11
2017 0 2 6 8
2018 0 2 2 4
2019 0 1 3 4
2020 0 0 4 4

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.

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1 month ago

I wonder if having the wr be so untouchable has any impact on people’s mentality for the event.

Reply to  Dresselfan22
1 month ago

And let’s be honest… The world record is absolutely suspect.

Mr Piano
Reply to  Mikeh
1 month ago

Agreed. It’s like if biedermann had gone 1:41 low in his 200 free. I just don’t really think Zige could have been clean. She was 2:03.9 at 2009 worlds, losing her WR, in the process, probably got angry and juiced up to end up going sub 2:02 in just 3 months, dropping over 2 full seconds. No way she was clean.

Reply to  Mr Piano
1 month ago

Also considering she wore the full polyurethane at worlds and the old fashion LZR at Chinese Nationals.

Reply to  Mikeh
1 month ago

It sucks that there are countries where we automatically jump to all these suspicions because of their national “get them to win by any means necessary” policy.
Because throwing down incredible times seemingly out of nowhere isn’t new in swimming and it’s not limited to Russian and Chinese swimmers. I wish we could look at that time the way we look at Mary T’s time… with admiration and in awe.
Because let’s face it, if Mary T had been Russian, there would be a heavy cloud of suspicion hanging over her PB to this day.

Last edited 1 month ago by FSt
Reply to  FSt
1 month ago

I agree it would be like accusing misty hyman of being “juiced up” at the Sydney 2000 Olympics just because she dropped so many seconds off her Pb to knock out Susie o Neil in that event

Reply to  FSt
1 month ago

“Because let’s face it, if Mary T had been Russian, there would be a heavy cloud of suspicion hanging over her PB to this day.”

Of course there would. It only makes sense. Russia had a state-sponsored doping program for its athletes. All times from the Eastern Bloc during that time period are suspect.

Reply to  Dresselfan22
1 month ago

I think It mirrors W’s 200bk. The 100 fly is competitive so someone will take it down.

College Swimmer
1 month ago

Has any other event regressed as much as this one? Only other real contenders I could think of would be mens 2/4 frees

Lil Swimmy
Reply to  College Swimmer
1 month ago

zhang lin would like a word

Mr Piano
Reply to  College Swimmer
1 month ago

200 and 400 free haven’t regressed really, more or less stagnant. Sure, nobody’s matching Thorpe and Angel, today but that’s because they were gods. The field today is stronger on average by miles.

1 month ago

“ Knowing that it took a 2:06.78 for Hungary’s Boglarka Kapas to win the 2019 World Championships title..,”

Simply unbelievable that Mary T’s time from 1981 would have won worlds in 2019.

About Retta Race

Retta Race

After 16 years at a Fortune 1000 financial company, long-time swimmer Retta Race decided to change lanes and pursue her sporting passion. She currently is Coach for the Northern KY Swordfish Masters, a team she started up in December 2013, while also offering private coaching. Retta is also an MBA …

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