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 individual records ever held by a single swimmer, picking the longest streak for each swimmer in case of multiple such streaks:
|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 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.