On August 15, 2002, Michael Phelps broke the men’s 400 IM world record for the first time in his career. In an epic showdown against Erik Vendt, he set a 4:11.09, well under Tom Dolan‘s previous world record of 4:11.76 from the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Since then, Phelps broke the 400 IM world record six more times. The current world record is 4:03.84, from the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Today, June 27, 2023, marks 20 years, 316 days since Phelps set the world record for the first time. Since FINA started to recognize world records only in metric measurements, in 1957, Phelps is the longest standing world record holder in long course meters.
He just overtook Mary T. Meagher, who held the women’s 200 butterfly world record from 1979 to 2000, which counts for 20 years, 315 days.
Phelps’ world record was seriously threatened for the first time last year, during the 2022 World Championships, as Leon Marchand clocked 4:04.28 for the second-fastest swim in history.
After his great performances during the NCAAs this year, some people thought that Marchand could break Phelps’ world record during the French Elite Championships two weeks ago, but it didn’t happen. So, Phelps’ world record has survived for at least one more month, as Marchand will have another shot next month at the 2023 World Championships.
In short course meters, Grant Hackett has held the men’s 800 freestyle world record since August 3, 2001, which means it will likely hit the 22-year anniversary next August.
Before 1957, FINA recognized world records in a myriad of metrics. For example, one could break a 200-meter freestyle world record swimming in a 25-yard pool – which means the swimmer should swim 8 laps, and additional 18,7 yards, since 200 meters are equivalent to 218,7 yards. Many people thought this was unfair, since it takes 3 turns to swim a 200 event in a 50-meter pool, and 8 turns in a 25-yard pool, which could be an advantage.
Anyway, we should acknowledge that two women held the world record in an event longer than Phelps has in the 1930s. Dutch swimmers Cornelia Kint (women’s 100 back) and Willy den Ouden (women’s 100 free) held world records for 25 years, 22 days and 22 years, 227 days, respectively.
Longest standing LCM world record holders in a single event
|100 back||Women||Cornelia Kint||NED||22/09/1939||14/10/1964||25 years, 22 days|
|100 free||Women||Willy den Ouden||NED||09/07/1933||21/02/1956||22 years, 227 days|
|400 IM||Men||Michael Phelps||USA||15/08/2002||27/06/2023||20 years, 316 days|
|200 fly||Women||Mary T. Meagher||USA||07/07/1979||17/05/2000||20 years, 315 days|
|800 free||Women||Janet Evans||USA||22/03/1988||16/08/2008||20 years, 147 days|
|1500 free||Women||Janet Evans||USA||31/07/1987||17/06/2007||19 years, 321 days|
|400 free||Women||Ragnhild Hveger||DEN||10/02/1937||25/08/1956||19 years, 197 days|
|100 fly||Women||Mary T. Meagher||USA||11/04/1980||23/08/1999||19 years, 134 days|
|400 free||Women||Janet Evans||USA||20/12/1987||12/05/2006||18 years, 143 days|
|200 fly||Men||Michael Phelps||USA||30/03/2001||24/07/2019||18 years, 116 days|
|400 IM||Women||Petra Schneider||GDR||30/03/1980||13/10/1997||17 years, 197 days|
|200 back||Women||Krisztina Egerszegi||HUN||25/08/1991||16/02/2008||16 years, 175 days|
|200 free||Women||Federica Pellegrini||ITA||11/08/2008||27/06/2023||14 years, 320 days|
|100 free||Women||Dawn Fraser||AUS||01/12/1956||30/04/1971||14 years, 150 days|
But, in modern history of swimming, this is another accolade to add to Phelps’ long list of accomplishments.