Michael Phelps Becomes the Longest Standing LCM World Record Holder in Modern History

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.

Longest Standing LCM World Record Holders in a Single Event Since the 1950s, Via SwimmingStats

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

Event Gender Athlete Country Since Until Total
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.

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1 month ago

This is an incredible achievement no doubt. As far as the pre-1957 world records that you mentioned. The change and how long it was lasting or in effect is unclear. And it’s at best very inconsistent. For example if you go to the world record progressions in the women that are currently acknowledged in the 100 m free, it’s not actually until 1958 when the first 110 yards swim, done by dawn Fraser is in the books. And there are several more that continue to be acknowledged in yards format until the mid 60s. And that also includes at least one if not two world records done by the youngest world record holder ever in swimming or maybe even in… Read more »

2 months ago

Many people probably questioned Petra Schneider’s record during the East vs. West era in 1980.

Michael Mooney
2 months ago

He had a polyurethane super suit? Does anyone know what kind of suit he wore? Definitely helped his times..agree????

2 months ago

Great achievement by the GOAT!
Given that Marchand will likely break it in a month, it’s likely that some of the 09 records will be destined to surpass this record in 7 years

Reply to  John26
2 months ago

It will be interesting to see Marchand breaking Phelps’s record since both have been under another GOAT in the coaching field, Bob Bowman. I guess we can say that Coach Bowman is the longest-standing coach in the 400IM WR holders.

Last edited 2 months ago by WhereIsBoboGigi
Viking Steve
2 months ago

True legend… It will be interesting to see how long Lochte’s 200IM record lasts.

I bet to this day, the biggest annoyance that Phelps has is Lochte edging him out for the 200IM WR (I say annoyance and not regret because, you know, GOAT)

Mr Piano
Reply to  Viking Steve
2 months ago

Lochte’s record could go down at the same week lol. If not this year then Paris

2 months ago

I hate Thorpe as a person but his 4 free record should still stand.

Also, when Milak goes 1:49 2 fly in Paris it’ll stand longer than Phelps’s 4 IM

Reply to  Andrew
2 months ago

Why the hell would you hate Thorpe?
oh wait…….it’s Andrew

Reply to  Joel
2 months ago

Maybe he doesn’t like the gays.

2 months ago

I’m curious what is the cumulative time for the people who have held world records the longest across multiple events. IE if a swimmer holds world records in 2 different events for 4 years each, a total of 8 years. I have to imagine Phelps would come out top in this metric because of the longevity of his 400IM, plus he held so many in different events. But I am wondering what the top 10 would look like.

2 months ago

If not for the suits, how many years Thorpe 400 free would have?

Reply to  Rafael
2 months ago

To quote a certain namesake of yours…if if if, doesn’t exist.

Reply to  Rafael
2 months ago

20 years 332 days at this moment

Last edited 2 months ago by KSW
Reply to  KSW
2 months ago

The clock starts when the record is first broken, so you need to add about three years here.

Reply to  Rafael
2 months ago

August 22nd 1999.From 3:43.80 to 3:41.83