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.

In This Story


  1. N P says:

    Didn’t Phelps also hold five world records concurrently? 100/200 Fly LCM, 200/400 IM LCM, and 200 Free LCM between 2009 US world trials and 2009 world champs; at least, I think that’s right.

    Also, thanks for all this data! It’s awesome!

    • Ben says:

      He did hold 5 individual world records for a few months, all long course. Imagine how many he would have held if he also competed in short course, especially considering he had the best turns in the world.

    • Barry says:

      Yes, good catch! This was my mistake, he did indeed hold 5 in July 2009 (from the 9th when he broke Crocker’s mark to the 28th when Biedermann swam that 1:42.00). I’ll ask Braden to fix this!

  2. Tim says:

    Didn’t win last week when it counted or in Rio. Simone Manuel is still he best 100 Free LCM swimmer on the day

  3. Pat says:

    What holds Sjostrom back from “legendary” status is NOT that she is Swedish and/or the supposed lack of relay opportunities. It is that, across three Olympic Games, she has won exactly ONE Olympic gold medal in an INDIVIDUAL event and despite a lot of opportunities she has lost several big races (against Vollmer in 2012 Oly, against Ledecky in 2016 Oly, against the entire 100 Free field in 2016 Oly, against Manuel at 2017 WC). Winning matters, and it is hard to be the Queen of anything if one keeps losing.

    • Joe says:

      Lot easier to lose if you swim a lot, or rather you will lose eventually. Especially in sprint. That you single out the silver medal at 2017 WC when she won 3 golds in the other races or losses where she wasn’t the favorite to win(Rio 2016) makes absolutely no sense to your point.

      A reason for some losses could also be swimming relay prelims, something big nation swimmers never does and can’t relate to.

      Do you know another legendary swimmer that has lost a lot of races? Ryan Lochte. But he won a lot more than he lost. Sjostrom does the same. She will lose races in the future aswell, but she will win even more.

      • Tim says:

        Sjostrom is an excellent swimmer and her three golds and a silver in Budapest were fantastic. Her 100 Fly is an incredible thing.

        I reacted to the click bait title “Queen of all the sprints”. It has always been that the 100 Free is the main event for sprinters and she didn’t win it.

        Also “A World Championships performance for the ages: 8 golds, 1 silver, and 7 world records.” that just isn’t what happened. She set two world records.

      • Pat says:

        So, let me get this straight. Sarah will become a “legend” by racing a lot and losing a lot more individual Olympic and WC races, even in ones where she was the current World Record holder (for example the 2012 Vollmer race and the 2017 Manuel race)? And the excuse she will have for losing her individual races is that she has to swim in losing relays? If the standard of “legendary” is just racing a lot and losing a lot–or simply winning a few more races than one loses–then there are a lot of “legends” out there, and the word is meaningless.

    • Swimfan says:

      Sarah have many years of swimming ahead of her and many more wins to get. 2012- she had a rough year all together. 2016- she was never the clear favorite in the 200 and that she lost against the entire 100 free field in Oly 2016 is funny since only 2 people were ahead of her? However, she’s still the fastest woman ever in the event and she still will be for a long time- even if Manuel might be the WC champ for now. She broke her first WR at age 15 and is still breaking them- that to me makes her a Queen.

    • Brownish says:

      Are you from the States, body? You are talking about the very best sprinter in the World.

  4. Joe says:

    “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.”

    Yeah well, that’s why we should separate the two. Unfortunately some don’t. Hosszu would’ve been a six time gold medallist in Rio had she competed for USA.

    • Jim C says:

      If Hosszu had competed for the USA in Rio she would not have picked up an additional three gold medals in the relays. 11 American women had faster 100 frees last year than Hosszu, so Hosszu would not have made the 4×100 free relay–and even if she had the Australians would have won gold in the event.

      • Brownish says:

        Perhaps true. Or definitely not. In 2015/16 only 6 had bettter times. 52.70, 53.28, 53.59, 53.72, 53.75, 53.77 and Katinka with 53.81, Including Rio. BTW we know what theese times mean. Exatly nothing for the relays. Let’s se MP. And your trials. Oh….sorry.

        • Jim C says:

          If the Americans had replaced their weakest link with Sarah Sjostrom,, and she had swum the same time that she did as anchor for the Swedes, the Aussies still would have won. Do you really think Hosszu is better than Sjostrom in the 100 free?

          But as you mentioned, there are also the US trials. Hosszu won an individual gold in the 100 back, but there were two American finalists in that event. Hosszu would not have even been able to swim the event in Rio unless she beat at least one of them in the trials. Would she have been able to do that without tapering for the trials, and if she did taper how might that have effected her performance a month later?

  5. Siphiwe Baleka says:

    Wow! Sjostrom can boast that she is the fastest EVER, across five different sprint races in both LCM and SCM and people have a problem with the title “Queen of All the Sprints” ????? Do you have any idea what is to be the fastest, EVER, in anything? In just one event? Want to swim a sprint with no turns? Sjostrom is the fastest. Ever. Want to swim a sprint with seven turns? Sjostrom is the fastest. Ever. Want to switch from freestyle to butterfly? Sjostrom is the fastest ever. If that can’t earn someone the title “Queen of the Sprints” then I don’t know what does. If you want, we can have separate titles like “Queen of All Sprints – Fastest Ever” and “Queen of All Sprints – Best Racer”, etc. If it were the other way around, if Sjostrom didn’t hold all the records, but won all those races (like Manuel), you would still not give her the title “Queen of All the Sprints”. So, therefore, by that logic, no current swimmer should be given the title “Queen of All The Sprints” since no swimmer holds all those records and has won all those races. But if you HAVE to give it to someone, then yes, Sjostrom gets it. Easily. No argument.

    • Swimfan says:

      She also broke her first WR at age 15- and is still breaking them 8 years later. I believe she’s the Queen if anyone is.

  6. Siphiwe Baleka says:

    And by the way, Sjostrom was the best swimmer of the World Championships:

    Keep it simple people:

    Individual Gold Medals –
    Sjostrom – 3
    Dressel – 3

    Individual World Records –
    Sjostrom – 2
    Dressel – 0

    Lowest Individual Finish –
    Sjostrom – 2nd
    Dressel – 4th

    Best Relay Performance –
    Sjostrom – 100 FR lead-off 51.7 WR

    Dressel’s other relay performances, great as they were, are not enough to compensate for the above.
    There’s no place where Dressel wins. Keep it simple. Sjostrom truly was, “Queen of ALL Sprints” – male or female. LOL

    • Thatguy says:

      And dressel is the king

      • Brownish says:

        Rather than L. King.
        Otherwise not so easy. When I wrote to a topic that Hosszu had been the best individual athlete (not only swimmer) at Rio with 3 Golds and 1 Silver Craig Lord from swimvortex and The Times used the delete key 🙂

    • Jim C says:

      If you compare Sjostrom’s times to the 13-14 year old age US age group records on the US swim site, you will find nothing listed for the 50 fly and Michael Andrew’s times are faster in the 50 free 23.19 to 23.67, in the 100 free 51.30 to 51.71, and in the 100 fly 54.59 to 55.48. Apparently little boys can swim faster than the Queen of all Sprints male or female. LOL.

      • samuel huntington says:

        news flash – males are faster than females.

      • Siphiwe Baleka says:

        Jim, I wasn’t saying Sjostrom is faster than them men. I’m saying, compared to the best male sprinter at the World Championships, Sjostrom out-performed him. So she get’s the title, “Best Sprinter of the Meet”. Because she is a woman, she’s “Queen”…. That, said, I would love to race Sjostrom and I would consider it an honor. Last year I broke Matt Biondi’s national record for the SCM 50 Free for the Men’s 45-49 age group with a 23.59. The long course Masters World record is 23.98, which I hope to break in Budapest next week. Even if I beat Sjostrum, she’s still the Queen! LOL

        • Jim C says:

          You might be able to outperform Dressel but to do so it will not be good enough for you to beat your opposition by more than Dressel beat his or set age group records, you will have to beat his times. In a similar way Sjostrom can say she outperformed Dressel when she beats his times.

          Consider the two Stanford distance swimmers Katie Ledecky and True Sweetser. As long as Sweetser swims faster than Ledecky I am sure Ledecky is not going to say she outperformed him.

          • Siphiwe Baleka says:

            That’s silly, Jim. Apparently, you are the only person who thinks this conversation is about a woman actually racing a man. LMAO! We are comparing performances relative to one’s competition category. How did the best female sprinter do against her competition versus the best male sprinter against his competition? Sad that his has to be explained to you.

          • Jim C says:

            I apologize. I really thought you would not consider yourself to be better than Dressel if you outperformed your Masters competition by more than Dressel outperformed his. Apparently I was wrong.

          • Siphiwe Baleka says:

            Nothing in my post even hinted that I would consider myself better than Dressel if I outperformed my Masters competition. Once again, you are being silly, and everyone else, with the exception of you, understands the point I am making. What you did was disingenuous and your condescending sarcasm is revealing. Again, if you respond to my ORIGINAL post with a valid, intelligent argument about any category where Dressel out-performed Sjostrum, then I would reconsider. As of yet, you have failed to respond to the facts. When it comes to gold medals, world records, lowest finish, etc – where is it that Dressel wins? And since Sjostrom wins all categories, she is, hands down, at this time, Queen of All Sprints. Case closed. LOL

          • Jim C says:

            Why do you have one rule for women and rule for Master’s swimmers? How can you justify having one rule with regard to men and women, and a different rule for younger men and older men?

          • Jim C says:

            The FINA has a point system to determine male and female swmmers of the meet. Dressel with 16 points got the male award and Sjsostrom with 22 points got the female award. Who got the overall award? Nobody. There is no overall award. The FINA doesn’t compare men and women.

            Why did you feel the need to bring Dressel into the conversation here and basically gloat about Sjostrom getting more FINA points then Dressel?

          • Siphiwe Baleka says:

            SwimSwam brought Dressel into the conversation when it posted an article about the top 15 swimmers at World Championships and they got it wrong when they put Dressel at #1 and Sjostrom at #2. I was trying to correct their mistake. Just because FINA doesn’t compare men and women doesn’t mean that swim fans cant engage in such a debate! That’s what fans do – debate the sport they love. Ligheten up Jim. LOL

          • Siphiwe Baleka says:

            So if you asked FINA, which swimmer, male or female scored the most points, they would say Sjostrum, making her the High Point Swimmer of the Meet. Thanks for making my point for me! LOL

        • Brownish says:

          Do it!

      • Brownish says:

        Apparently you might forget Michael Andrew for lifelong.

  7. N P says:

    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!

  8. gregor says:

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

    • Siphiwe Baleka says:

      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……

  9. Liam says:

    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.

  10. expert coach says:

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

  11. Swims says:

    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 says:

      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 🙂

  12. Siphiwe Baleka says:

    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 to another’s “best/fastest” performances. Now we are comparing best day vs. best day instead of “best on that day”.

    • Jim C says:

      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 says:

        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

  13. Skipper says:

    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 sport are much better than that.

    • Jim C says:

      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 Penny Oleksiak.

      • Siphiwe Baleka says:

        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 says:

          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.

  14. Jim C says:

    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?

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