Revisiting Phelps’s Insane 1:52.09 200 Fly from the 2007 World Championships

2007 was one of the most exciting years in the history of swimming. While Michael Phelps will best be remembered for winning 8 gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, he was arguably better in 2007.

At the 2007 FINA World Aquatics Championships, Phelps set individual World Records in the 200 butterfly (1:52.09), 200 IM (1:54.98), 400 IM (4:06.22), and the 200 freestyle (1:43.86), erasing Australian legend Ian Thorpe’s 1:44.06 which had stood since 2001. Phelps also won the 100 meter butterfly at the 2007 World Championships with a time of 50.77, a mere 0.05 ahead of then-World Record holder and fellow American Ian Crocker. Phelps took home 7 gold medals overall, though he might have come away with 8 if Team USA’s 400 medley relay had not disqualified after an early take-off by Crocker in the prelims.

While the loss of an opportunity to contest the 400 medley relay in the finals stung, the men’s 400 freestyle relay was exceptional for Phelps. As the lead-off swimmer for Team USA, Phelps got the team out to an early lead by clocking a 48.42, which would have won gold in the individual 100 freestyle, 0.01 ahead of Canadian Brent Hayden and Italy’s Filippo Magnini who shared the gold with a 48.43 final.

Though Phelps did swim faster at the Beijing Olympics in every single one of these events, his dominance in 2007 was unparalleled. Phelps abolished his own World Record in the 200 fly in Melbourne, taking a massive 1.62 seconds off his former mark. The record Phelps broke is noteworthy in its own right in that, when Phelps put up his 1:53.71 at the Mizzou Grand Prix he was still in hard training and even had a full goatee and hair spilling out from his cap. For the record, Phelps wore a Fastskin Pro legskin swimsuit when he set the World Record in Columbia, though in Melbourne he opted for the Fastskin II jammers, released in 2004.

Swimsuit technology at the time of the 2007 World Championships is another thing to consider. The Speedo Fastskin II was at the apex of swimsuit technology during the 2004 Olympic Games, while the newer Fastskin Pro was revealed in early 2007. Though technical racing suits would go through their infamous polyurethane phase in 2008 and 2009, the Fastskin Pro paved the way for the textile swimsuits used today, but that’s a topic for another article.

Phelps took the race out quickly, setting the pace at the 50-meter mark. At 100 meters Phelps was nearly a full second ahead of the next-closest competitor, Russia’s Nikolay Skvortsov who would take third. Phelps’s underwaters throughout the race were classically great, though the rhythm of his stroke rate throughout the race is what propels him so far ahead of the competition and his own World Record line, which is beneath his feet when he finishes the race.

Phelps won the race by more than three seconds; China’s Wu Peng took second in 1:55.13, just ahead of Skvortsov who hit the wall in 1:55.22.

Now, on the 13th anniversary of the race (March 28th, 2007), Phelps’s swim in Melbourne still stands as the 4th-fastest performance all-time. Phelps only ever eclipsed the time twice: first, at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games (1:52.03), when his goggles famously filled with water causing him to swim blind, and again at the 2009 FINA World Championships (1:51.51) in Rome. Phelps’s 2009 mark stood until 2019 when it was broken by Hungarian Kristof Milak.

Over the course of his career, Phelps won LCM World Championship titles in 2001, 2003, 2007, 2009, and 2011. He won Olympic titles in 2004, 2008, and 2016, as well as Pan Pacs titles in 2006, 2010, and 2014.

Phelps’s 200 fly splits over time:

Splits 2003 World Champs 2006 Pan Pacs 2007 Mizzou Grand Prix 2007 World Champs Beijing 20008 2009 World Champs
1st 50 25.95 25.79 25.90 25.26 25.36 24.76
2nd 50 28.94 (54.89) 29.48 (55.27) 29.25 (55.15) 28.36 (53.62) 28.17 (53.53) 28.12 (52.88)
3rd 50 29.39 (1:24.28) 29.38 (1:24.65) 29.57 (1:24.72) 29.25 (1:22.87) 29.22 (1:22.73) 29.05 (1:21.93)
4th 50 29.65 29.15 28.99 29.22 29.28 29.58
Total Time 1:53.93 1:53.80 1:53.71 1:52.09* 1:52.03 1:51.51

Phelps’s second 100 remains fairly consistent over time despite his increasingly quicker pace on the first half of the race, where he set the pace and dared the competition to try and keep up. In 2003, Phelps took the race out in 54.89, though 2006 and early 2007 were characterized by (relatively) slow second-50 splits which caused him to rely more on his back-half. By Melbourne 2007 Phelps was over a full second faster on the first 100 splitting a 53.62, and by 2009 Phelps was out in a 52.88, fully 2 seconds faster than 2003.

Skip to 2:53 if you want to get to the start of the race.

Phelps’s performance is one of only 15 in the long course pool to ever break the 1-minute 53-second barrier. Phelps was, of course, the first person to ever break 1:55, 1:54, 1:53, and 1:52, though Milak stands alone as the sole performer under 1:51. Though the 1:53 barrier has been broken 15 different times in the history of the sport, only 6 men have actually done so, with Phelps owning six of those performances, Milak four, Laszlo Cseh having two, and Daiya Seto, Chad le Clos, and Takeshi Matsuda holding one each.

Top-15 Performances All-Time:

Rank Time Swimmer Country Date
1 1:50.73 Kristof Milak Hungary 7/24/2019
2 1:51.51 Michael Phelps USA 7/29/2009
3 1:52.03 Michael Phelps USA 8/13/2008
4 1:52.09* Michael Phelps USA 3/28/2007
5 1:52.20 Michael Phelps USA 7/2/2008
6 1:52.53 Daiya Seto Japan 1/18/2020
7 1:52.70 Laszlo Cseh Hungary 8/13/2008
8 1:52.71 Kristof Milak Hungary 3/28/2018
9 1:52.76 Michael Phelps USA 7/8/2009
10 1:52.79 Kristof Milak Hungary 8/5/2018
11 1:52.91 Laszlo Cseh Hungary 5/19/2016
12 1:52.94 Michael Phelps USA 8/7/2015
13 1:52.96 Chad le Clos RSA 7/28/2012
13 1:52.96 Kristof Milak Hungary 7/23/2019
15 1:52.97 Takeshi Matsuda Japan 8/13/2008


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9 months ago

Due to the overall decrease in times since, 2007 Phelps is hard to explain for those who don’t remember it.

To me, the equivalent would be if last summer Dressel:

1) Won all 4 races he did.
2) Also won the 200 IM.
3) Went 49 flat in the fly and 46 mid in the free.
4) Led off the 200 free relay in 1.44 high.

Reply to  Togger
9 months ago

Phelps ‘07 was indeed the best world championships performance, ever…and behind the ‘08 games the second best swim meet performance of anyone, ever.
yup, i said it. better than spitz, dressel etc

Reply to  swimfast
9 months ago

I love watching his 200 free vs PVDH…great underwaters!

Mr Piano
Reply to  swimfast
9 months ago

Phelps always considered 2007 to be his best year

Reply to  Togger
9 months ago
Reply to  Togger
9 months ago

Phelps in ’07: – 200 free erased legendary Ian Thorpe WR; beat rest of field by 2.5 seconds – 200 fly destroyed his own WR by 1.7 seconds; beat rest of field by over 3 seconds – 200 IM destroyed his own WR by nearly 1 second; beat rest of field by over 1 second – 400 IM destroyed his own WR by 2 seconds; beat rest of field by 3.5 seconds – 100 fly beat out then WR holder Ian Crocker – 100 free fastest flat start time in the whole championship So to add detail to Togger’s comment, Dressel would not only have to win the four races he swam, but also set world records, of which (at… Read more »

9 months ago

My shoulders hurt watching Skvortsov (lane 7) swim ‘fly

9 months ago

Lane 7 has very good shoulder flexibility.

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six.  At age 14 he began swimming club year-round and later with his high school team, making state all four years.  He was fortunate enough to draw the attention of Kalamazoo College where he went on to …

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