How Did Michael Phelps’ Prelims 200 IM Stack Up?

In prelims on the final day of the 2014 Santa Clara Grand Prix, Michael Phelps cruised to a 1:00.89 and the top seed in the men’s 200 IM rounds. His NBAC teammates Chase Kalisz (2:01.69) and Conor Dwyer (2:02.05) are chasing him, and in fact after the 400 IM, we might even pick Kalisz to win that final, but Phelps sits in a good position as the top seed.

A deeper look at his splits reveals a lot more about this time than does his final time necessarily, as there’s not a good distinguishable 200 IM time pattern for him when looking back to 2010, 2011, and 2012.

His splits here in Santa Clara: 25.40 – 30.98 – 34.60 – 29.91

In rough terms, the front-half of his IM, when he’s having a good mid-season meet, takes up around 46% of his total time.

So, looking back to 2012 and his last full season, at the Indianapolis Grand Prix, he swam a 1:56.32 in finals, which was his best swim other than during the Olympic Trials and Olympics (where he won gold).

His splits in Indy in 2012: 25.02 – 29.21 – 34.18 – 27.91

At that meet, in finals, the butterfly and backstroke legs took up 46.621% of his final time. This morning in Santa Clara?  His butterfly and backstroke legs took up 46.637% of his final time. When tweaked for the final result, that’s a difference of approximately .01 seconds off of pace.

Here in Santa Clara, the back-half varied more significantly. His breaststroke, in relative terms, was much better, and his freestyle, in relative terms, was worse. That, however isn’t worrisome at all, because when he’s swimming well, his breaststroke is on fire, and among the four disciplines, the breaststroke is an improvement most likely to be explained by some technique tweaks. Similarly, the freestyle could have been an intentional conservation at the end of a prelims race, though that wouldn’t jive as much with what we’ve seen from him in the past (he typically finishes his freestyle pretty well in prelims, as a percentage of his whole time).

At any rate, watch again during finals for these ratios, to see where Phelps is at in his pacing and feel for this race where he’s been the best ever throughout his career. Also see if Chase Kalisz can edge Phelps out of his patterns a little bit, given how strong he is on the breaststroke – something that Phelps doesn’t usually have to race in guys like Laszlo Cseh and Ryan Lochte: his traditional IM competitors.

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8 years ago

Don’t think Phelps is going to touch his prelim time as reported (1:00.89). I hope we see the NBAC guys under two minutes. I wouldn’t be surprised if Phelps gets a better race from Dwyer (opposed to Kalisz) at the end.

law dawg
8 years ago

I agree. I knew Phelps would be strong, but to break the world record by 44 seconds is incredible.

Reply to  law dawg
8 years ago


Reply to  law dawg
8 years ago

44 would be a pitiful drop. Luckily, your math is off and he broke it by a respectable 54 seconds

Steve Nolan
8 years ago

I wouldn’t expect any of these guys to switch their strategy up too much based off the other guys in the heat. Just doesn’t seem like something that’d help them swim faster overall, ya know?

Reply to  Steve Nolan
8 years ago

That’s a good point, you might be right. Still, we’ve seen the sort of thing happen before. A few years ago at a big meet (OT’s maybe?), I remember Bowman and/or Troy talking about how Phelps and Lochte got so caught up racing eachother instead of swimming their own race that they actually ended up slowing themselves down.

Even if it’s not a planned departure from strategy, you know it’s going to be in the back of Chase Kalisz’s mind that he can’t let MP get too far ahead in the front half, and I think that MP will experience a vague sense of creeping dread around the start of the breaststroke leg. No matter how experienced they are, it… Read more »

8 years ago

Tonight is a tough call. I’m going to tentatively say Phelps will win it. I think each will adjust their strategy for the other, with Kalisz trying to really crank the fly and back, and Phelps working the breast, and then both holding on for dear life on the freestyle.

Phelps will lead at the 100 by .5-1 body length, Kalisz will pull slightly ahead during the breast, and Phelps will just barely come from behind for the touch out. A risky prediction, given how he finished the 200 free and his general conditioning right now, but I’m sticking with it.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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