Sarah Sjostrom – Queen Of All The Sprints

by SwimSwam Contributors 62

August 07th, 2017 News, Records

Courtesy of Barry Revzin

Sarah Sjostrom had a remarkable World Championships in Budapest. She broke the World Records in the 50m and 100m freestyles, winning gold and silver in the individual events. She won the 50m and 100m butterflies, events in which she already held the World Records, in times that nobody but her has ever achieved before. Her victory margin in the 50m butterfly was the second largest in any Olympic or Worlds final in my lifetime.

But she wasn’t done for the summer. Just a few days later, at the Moscow stop of the FINA World Cup, Sjostrom broke the SCM world records in the 50m and 100m freestyles too. Now owning all of the sprint freestyle world records, all four of which were broken within the span of 12 days, she holds a whopping eight individual world records concurrently. The most by any swimmer. Ever. Here are the most[1] individual records ever held by a single swimmer, picking the longest streak for each swimmer in case of multiple such streaks:

# Swimmer Duration Events
8 Sarah Sjostrom 2017-08-03 to present 50/100 LCM Free, 50/100 LCM Fly, 50/100/200 SCM Free, and 100 SCM Fly
7 Katinka Hosszu 2016-08-06 to present 200/400 LCM IM, 100/200 SCM Back, 100/200/400 SCM IM
6 Michael Gross 1985-06-29 to 1986-06-23 200/400 LCM Free, 100/200 LCM Fly, 200/800 SCM Free
6 Denis Pankratov 1997-02-08 to 1997-10-09 50/100/200 LCM Fly, 500/100/200 SCM Fly

But we can’t stop there. Her record in the 50 fly long course stands at 24.43, but the 50 fly short course (Therese Alshammar’s from 2009) is just 0.05 faster at 24.38. This is the smallest margin[2][3] between an SCM and LCM record and it’s really only a matter of time before she might have 9 records to her name!

Event SCM Record LCM Record Margin
W 50 Fly 24.38 24.43 0.21%
W 1500 Free 15:19.71 15:25.48 0.63%
W 400 Free 3:54.52 3:56.46 0.83%
W 800 Free 7:59.34 8:04.79 1.14%
W 100 Fly 54.61 55.48 1.59%

Nine individual records would be an amazing feat, but as noted in the comments by many people, one of the things holding Sjostrom back from truly legendary status (assuming she doesn’t have it already) is her nationality. Sweden’s relays are good, but they’re not medal-contender good. Imagine if she were American. How would the relays in Budapest have played out?

As-is, the US won all the women’s and mixed relays, three in world record time. But Sjostrom would’ve certainly been on all of them, and if you consider the two relays that did not break a world record:

Day Relay USA Outcome Slowest USA Split Gap to world record
1 W 4×100 Free Gold – 3:31.72 (AM) 53.83 (Ledecky split) +1.07s
5 W 4×200 Free Gold – 7:43.39 1:56.92 (Comerford split) +1.31s

In the very same freestyle relay final, Sjostrom led off in 51.71, meaning she was a full 2.5 seconds faster than Ledecky considering time in the water. Make that substitute, and we crush the world record. In the longer relay, while Sjostrom has said she’s done with the 200 internationally, given that she won the silver in Rio with a 1:54.0 and her other performances in Budapest, it seems reasonable to guess she’d be able to throw down a split of at least 1:55.6, more than enough to take down one of the last few remaining suit records.

The result of all this speculation? A World Championships performance for the ages: 8 golds, 1 silver, and 7 world records. That’s hard to fathom, really.

Even without the relay medals though, we’re witnessing history. One historically fast sprint after another.

[1] There are many cases of a swimmer holding 5 records concurrently. In order, from longest such streak to shortest: Kieren Perkins (for just over four years from Sept 1994 to Sept 1998), Grant Hackett, Natalie Coughlin, Kornelia Ender, Mireia Belmonte, Shane Gould, Laure Manaoudou, Ian Crocker, Kirsty Coventry, Lenny Krayzelburg, Helene Madison, and Ryan Lochte (for one day: April 12th, 2008). Michael Phelps made the list, if only for about 3 weeks from July 9th, 2009 until Paul Biedermann swam his 1:42.00 in the 200 free on July 28th.

[2] Katie Ledecky certainly seems like she has more than a fair shot at the 6-record club, if she wants to give it a try.

[3] Notably, the five largest such gaps are backstroke events (and the sixth backstroke event has the 8th gap). The largest such, by far, is the men’s 50 backstroke with a gap of 8.19% (scm 22.22, lcm 24.04). Mind you, it’s the long course time that’s suit-aided.

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Jim C
5 years ago

I would like to complain about the shabby treatment given to Ledecky in this article. You said she certainly seemed like she has more than a fair shot at the 6-record club if she wants to give it a try. You are saying she would probably have more than a 50% chance to set SCM WRs in 400, 800, and 1500 if she wants to give it a try, but you are unwilling to go out on a limb and actually say she has more than a 50% chance. If Ledecky were to declare her intention of going after SCM records do you really think odds makers would make it anything close to an even money proposition?

Skipper
5 years ago

Sarah is a legend/queen/champion and more- silly to enter any other argument. Being Swedish has had its pros and cons for her- she was given time/support during the years between her first world title and olympic title without being labelled as a choaker, she has come through stronger as you can clearly see now. On the cons (but to her credit) she swims each Swedish relay that seems always one swimmer short- the relay load from the previous Olympics took its toll in the 100/50. I’m sure give it 4 years and repost this and there will be no doubters- can only hope that she has enough status to get a better sponsor than a betting agency, she and our… Read more »

Jim C
Reply to  Skipper
5 years ago

I think we need to make a distinction between being the best and being the queen. Sjostrom is the best in the 100 free but with Olympic and WC gold Manuel is the queen. Does Sjostrom have to be the queen of everything leaving nothing to anyone else? What took a toll for Sjostrom in the last Olympics was swimming the 200 free. Her only really hard morning swim was in the 4×100 free–and even there Ledecky had a faster morning swim.

As far as giving it another 4 years is concerned, a lot can happen in 4 years. My guess would be that in 4 years we won’t be talking about Sarah Sjostrom; we will be talking about… Read more »

Siphiwe Baleka
Reply to  Jim C
5 years ago

SwimSwam used the title, “Queen of All Sprints”. We, as readers, are commenting on this. In your opinion, Jim, who do you give that title to? Just answer the question directly with a name, no explanation needed. Right now, I give that title to Sjostrum.

Jim C
Reply to  Siphiwe Baleka
5 years ago

I would give the title of sprint queen to Sjostrom, but I would give the title of breaststroke sprint queen to Lilly King. The queen of all the sprints would have to be, among other things, the breaststroke sprint queen, which Sjostrom very definitely is not.

Siphiwe Baleka
5 years ago

To the argument about winning/losing races: On any given day, a number of things can happen that can hinder a swimmer having their best performance. Even the best swimmers can be ill, have an injury, have a suit or goggle malfunction, or any number of things leading up to a race or during a race. A swimmer swimming 12 times versus a swimmer swimming 3 or 4 times can make a big difference, too. But that’s what makes racing fun. Anyone in the finals can win on a given day. However, when talking about titles like “Queen of All Sprints”, I think it is fair to compare swimmers on their “best” days. How does one’s “best” (read: fastest) performance compare… Read more »

Jim C
Reply to  Siphiwe Baleka
5 years ago

Winning isn’t everything, and wining isn’t the only thing, but winnng isn’t absolutely nothing the way you are making it out to be.

Siphiwe Baleka
Reply to  Jim C
5 years ago

Really? You think I don’t understand the value of WINNING? LOL. I said I think it is “fair” to compare swimmers on their best days – that’s very moderate language, Jim. I didn’t say it’s the only comaprison, and I didn’t discount winning. I think I made a reasonable argument why it is FAIR to consider best day vs. best day instead of “best on that day”. Once again, you didn’t directly address the issue. Can you concede that, when considering the topic of this thread, when comparing “best day vs. best day” that Sjostrum wins the title? On the fli side, world records isn’t absolutely nothing the way you are making it out to be. LOL

Swims
5 years ago

With 7 WR (kromowidjojo taking back the sc 50 free for now- great way to push each other further) Sarah owns 20% of all individual world records sc+lc on the women’s side (7/35=20%). If she manages to get the 50 free back together with the very manageable 50 fly it would give her 25% of all ind. wr. I think that is more than enough in order to be called a Queen.

Brownish
Reply to  Swims
5 years ago

7/35 for Katinka, too. 14/35 for two women? Not so bad, either. I don’t know what would be happen in the case of the SS’s 50 fly WR at Therese’s home 🙂

expert coach
5 years ago

look at those arms… even as a D1 male swimmer I never had arms that looked that strong. 🙂 she’s a beast.

Liam
5 years ago

Definitely no hate on Kromowidjojo but her underwater is incredible and I think that’s the key to her success. When Ranomi and Sarah comes up to the surface, Ranomi is well ahead but Sarah swims faster and she approaches Ranomi every length. If Sarah wants to beat Ranomi she needs to swim even faster or have a better underwater.

Brownish
Reply to  Liam
5 years ago

SC-LC. Not so many many people can do it at the same level.

gregor
5 years ago

Ranomi Kromowidjojo (NED) just broke her 50m s/c free in 22.93, Sarah second in Berlin 23.00

Siphiwe Baleka
Reply to  gregor
5 years ago

I wonder if breaking your own world record and getting second in a race to the new world record holder will now disqualify her as the “Queen of All Sprints”. LOL…. But if she gets it back later during the World Cup, she can regain her crown? Maybe? Kinda? Or does this ruin her legendary status because, well, she got beat? Weird……

Pat
Reply to  Siphiwe Baleka
5 years ago

Well, according to Joe’s earlier comment, Sjostrom losing a lot makes her even more legendary! Queen for a day, I guess.

Brownish
Reply to  Siphiwe Baleka
5 years ago

And she was also inside the WR time. Jojo was outstanding in Berlin.

N P
5 years ago

Definitely not a kncok on Sjostrom, but she didn’t hold those 8 simultaneous world records for long… Here’s hoping she can get it back soon!