Olympians Michael Andrew vs Michael Phelps in The 200 IM, Swim Data Dive

We asked our swimming data partner TritonWear to help us with a deeper insight into performances and what makes elite swimmers fast and where they can improve. This is their TritonWear analysis.

The Men’s 200 IM at the US 2021 Trials was arguably one of the fascinating races to watch. GOAT Michael Phelps himself was at a loss of words after Andrew’s ground-breaking 23.77 FLY split with him later commenting that the last leg of Michael Andrews 200 IM ”shows training error”. Is Phelps right, or will Andrew’s all-out all-the-time race strategy stand the test and claim the throne as the best athlete in the 200IM 2021 Olympics?

We have pinned the two winners of the US Olympic Trials 2016 and 2021 against each other to find out. The 200 IM is an event with great history and some unforgettable battles between Michael Phelps and world record holder Ryan Lochte.

Undoubtedly when they are on the blocks, these guys are ready to swim fast, but we are about to look at their metrics and uncover how they are doing it. To do this, we used our TritonWear metrics to analyze these races and broke them down by phase (transitions, overwater, underwater) the same way it is done in the TritonWear app. Here is the epic showdown:

Transitions

Andrew started the race with a Dive Block Time (a.k.a reaction time) of 0.68, slightly faster than Phelps 0.70. Unfortunately, the faster reaction time did not translate to a better dive time or distance gained from the start. On the other hand, despite Phelps being slightly slower on the reaction time, he still clocked the highest Dive Hang Time of 0.42 (stayed longer during flight and covered more distance) and Dive Time of 1.12 building his speed and distance advantage heading into the water. Both his Hang Time and Dive Time are the best among all the finalists from both Trials.

Underwater

Andrew Time UW is nearly the lowest in the field, but his speed is the fastest by far while Phelps stays midrange on both.

Despite his great speed underwater, Andrew forfeits his advantage by surfacing too early.

Overwater

Andrew set out in a ground-breaking 23.77 for his FLY split 1.12 seconds faster than the world record split but perhaps went a little too much on his legs to go that fast. We are definitely seeing a tradeoff in Andrew’s Backstroke Underwater Time ( 2.64) due to his Fly Overwater Speed. For the same comparison, Phelps split a 25.05 for his Fly with an Underwater Time in Backstroke of 4.82.

Andrew outperformed on Breaststroke Distance Per Cycle of 2.55 by pairing it with a strong Stroke Rate and securing a fantastic 32.29. Phelps, on the other hand, dominated in Freestyle by increasing his Stroke Rate to finish strong.

Key Takeaways

  • Andrew’s Fly split created a big lead but was perhaps too fast, impacting his underwater time in backstroke and overwater speed in freestyle.
  • His powerful underwater created great speed on all splits but would benefit from improving his underwater time.
  • Lastly, to claim his throne as the world’s best in the 200IM, he needs to keep his stroke rate up through the middle and end of his freestyle and power through to the finish.

How TritonWear Can Help You Swim Faster

Even though these athletes are elite athletes at the highest level, we were able to analyze their data and uncover insights for faster swimming, and we can do the same for your training.  TritonWear is a sleek wearable device and app that helps you train well consistently, so you can swim faster. It captures and relays 30+ data points in real-time to any mobile device on deck. Triton Score analyzes your data and provides you with actionable insights highlighting exactly where you’re excelling and what you need to improve on to swim faster.

Learn more about the science behind analyzing your data for you by clicking here.

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sscommentor
2 months ago

really well done comparison, easily digested/concise graphics

Sam B
2 months ago

the psychology of leading by 3 seconds at 150 is pretty powerful so maybe he doesn’t need to change it

Last edited 2 months ago by Sam B
Emg1986
Reply to  Sam B
2 months ago

I reckon the final will be closer than that. Seto’s PB splits are 1.5 seconds slower at 150, and Scott is 2.7 (But can clock 27s even without the potential draft if he’s in the next lane to Andrew)

Irish Ringer
Reply to  Emg1986
2 months ago

Scott will be demoralized by the size of that lead.

Emg1986
Reply to  Irish Ringer
2 months ago

Nathan Adrian would like a word.

Coach Mike 1952
Reply to  Emg1986
2 months ago

So would Jason Lesak (though in a different event obviously)

dresselgoat
Reply to  Sam B
2 months ago

This is incredibly true. But! There are some out there who will swim better seeing someone so far out there they think they can catch.

Coach Rob
2 months ago

“Despite his great speed underwater, Andrew forfeits his advantage by surfacing too early.” Any further and he’d go past the 15 meter mark. Who analyzed this? Obviously someone who doesn’t watch MA swim.

RandomSwammer
Reply to  Coach Rob
2 months ago

Maybe on the start, but definitely not on the back or free. MA barely makes it past the flags UW on his freestyle leg. The analysis seems to be an aggregate of all time spent underwater, not just off of the start.

Last edited 2 months ago by RandomSwammer
ACC
Reply to  RandomSwammer
2 months ago

But part of why he’s fast underwater is because he spends so little time underwater. The average is skewed by the push-off, which is much faster than even the fastest underwater kick.

RandomSwammer
Reply to  ACC
2 months ago

Sure. That could certainly play a role in the data. However, I think this analysis serves as a way for him to focus on things that he can improve to get even faster. Every swimmer, elite or not, should be looking for things that they can improve. His UWs certainly are not perfect. If he works on longer, faster UWs, particularly on the freestyle leg, it would mean less swimming on the last 50 which would help him with the issue of locking up and shortening his stroke on the last 20 meters or so. He has the potential to be the greatest Men’s 200 IMer in history and analysis like this can be very helpful in setting up training… Read more »

theroboticrichardsimmons
Reply to  RandomSwammer
2 months ago

I agree with the idea that MA can trade over-water freestyle (his weakest stroke in anything over a 50, IMO) for underwater kick (a relative strength of his) but it comes at the cost of oxygen, which I’m not sure he can afford to pay. His first 150 is crazy fast because he’s mortgaging his final 50 to some extent. I don’t think he can simply stay underwater longer off that last wall unless he changes his strategy. Maybe it’s something he could train to execute better in Tokyo.

RandomSwammer
Reply to  theroboticrichardsimmons
2 months ago

Agreed. I think it would be more reasonable to work on a combination of strategy and UW for his 2IM into his training for the next quad plan. I am not sure he has enough time to make any large adjustments prior to Tokyo at this point. Subtle tweaks here and there, sure, but anything significant will require more time to develop.

Last edited 2 months ago by RandomSwammer
anonymous
Reply to  RandomSwammer
2 months ago

the most he can hope for at Tokyo is to get under 1:55 which should be enough for the gold

dresselgoat
Reply to  ACC
2 months ago

Very true – also makes Phelps underwater speed so crazy.

TritonWear
Reply to  Coach Rob
2 months ago

Yes on his start he stays under longer, sort of mid-field length of time. His Breaststroke leg he got back up to midfield timing, due to his strength in that stroke, but back and free he surfaces much faster than the rest of the field in both 2016 and 2021. Check out this graph for the details.

Last edited 2 months ago by TritonWear
Something
2 months ago

I’d be much more interested in seeing you compare him to the actual world record holder, true goat, and faster swimmer Ryan lochte.

Bobo Gigi
Reply to  Something
2 months ago

MP 4 olympic golds in the event
Ryan Lochte 0

Oof
Reply to  Bobo Gigi
1 month ago

Damn he should have the WR then

Coach Mike 1952
Reply to  Something
2 months ago

Interested, yes – true GOAT see next commenter none other than Bobo Gigi

Eugene
2 months ago

Andrew already looks almost older than Phelps

Big Kicker
2 months ago

Kind of a strange “analysis”, would’ve liked to see at least a split comparison or stroke rates by leg.

That being said, I would’ve loved to see a race between these two. I have no doubt that Phelps would’ve cruised by MA in the last 25, but I’m very curious how MAs “fly-and-die” strategy could’ve pushed Phelps on the first half. Makes me think he could’ve put up something even faster than Lochte’s current record.

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Big Kicker
2 months ago

I mean, he was in the lane next to Lochte when Lochte set the record. It that’s not being pushed, I don’t know what is.

The unoriginal Tim
Reply to  Big Kicker
2 months ago

If Andrew was going out like that against prime Phelps then I think Phelps would simply keep close and wreck him on the freestyle.

I have always though peak Phelps had a 1.53 low in him in a perfect race (a one off rather than one of 10’15 swims in a meet).

The crazy thing about Phelps is he was always saving a bit for his next event.

TritonWear
Reply to  Big Kicker
2 months ago

Ask and ye shall receive! Check out this graph for stroke rate by leg of the race!

Coach Steve
2 months ago

Thanks for the TritonWear analysis, SwimSwam. Here are some other stats I’d be interested in seeing next time: Underwater distance per kick / kick rate, whether they thank the meet officials, and vaccination status.

Dressel’s Eagle
2 months ago

While interesting, the author missed an opportunity by comparing Phelps to Andrew in the 200 IM- I get the temptation to do a Michael vs Michael comparison bc it’s catchy. MA has not been shy to state his intentions of going after Lochte’s WR- it would have been a much more interesting comparison to see the 1:54 swim with MA’s. Granted Phelps is one of the greatest 200 IMers of all time but let’s give Lochte some credit as the faster (and thus in my opinion, greatest) 200 IMer of all time given the WR.

Hank
Reply to  Dressel’s Eagle
2 months ago

Pretty sure we saw the split comparison to Lochte’s swim here before during trials.

The fact is right now MA is nowhere close to breaking the WR. He hasn’t even gone sub 1:55 yet, so a sub 1:54 does not seem to be on the immediate horizon unless he can figure out how to drop another 1.3 seconds in a month. Phelps was unable to go sub 1:54 after being sub 1:55 multiple times throughout his career.