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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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!


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.


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!


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


I don’t remember Manuel winning the 50 free, 50 fly or 100 butterfly. Or breaking any world records.

I guess Schooling is better than Phelps too, he won their last race.


Jealous. Sarah is far the best.


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.


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.


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.


Yes, of course it’s not what happened. The previous sentence is “The result of all this speculation?” for a reason – this is just speculation.


50 Free is of course the main event for sprinters?




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.

samuel huntington

just curious then – who do you consider a sprint legend? if Sjostrom isn’t then who is?


Inge de Bruin

samuel huntington

I agree – and Sarah is a legend already and I am certain will add to her legacy in the next few years


Dawn Fraser


Dean farris*


Cesar ceilo


You’re meaningless.


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.


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