Shanghai 2011: Which World Records are Most Likely to Fall?

This is the first of many preview-type pieces we will run in the leadup to the 2011 Shanghai World Championships.

A pretty good discussion popped up on our piece about Michael Phelps’ Birthday as to which World Records might go down in Shanghai at the World Championships.

Here’s my take on the 10 records most likely to go down:

1. Men’s 50m backstroke (HIGH ALERT) – I don’t see any way that this record doesn’t go down. France’s Camille Lacourt was so painfully close last year (a 24.07 on a record of 24.04) that I can’t see him letting it slip away again. Though the timeline of this season doesn’t match up perfectly with that of last season, he’s been faster meet-over-meet at just about every stop of his season. His 24.36 from French Nationals is faster than he’s ever been in-season (rubber suit or not). He’s battled a touch of elbow tendinitis, but there’s no way that affects him in this 50 (or likely in the 100, for that matter). His biggest challenge to coming away with the World Record will be holding off the current man-with-the-mark: Liam Tancock.

2. Women’s 100m backstroke (HIGH ALERT) – Lacourt was also dangerously close to Aaron Peirsol’s 100 backstroke record (51.94) at last year’s European Championships. You can pretty much copy and paste everything from the 50 into this space for the 100, with the exception that in recent meets, Lacourt’s been surpassed in the last 15 meters of several races. Still, he’s been his best in-season time ever this year. This is another one where Tancock is dangerous, if he can figure out his taper (in textile, he’s always had trouble hitting his best times at the big meet). But this year he’s already bested his European Championships time from last year, and I think he could take the upset. If this record doesn’t go down here, it will definitely go down in London when both men drop the 50 from their schedules.

3. Women’s 200m breaststroke (PRETTY HIGH ALERT) – This seems to be a late-arriver in the discussion for World Records, but Soni has a great shot at this one. Last year, her 2:20.69 was only half-a-second off of the all-time mark. She hasn’t been as fast this year as last, but she’s working with a training group like the world has never seen. One has to imagine that having the likes of Hardy, Shanteau, Alexandrov, Moses, and Efimova in the pool with her every day has gotta be good for at least a few tenths. She is so far ahead of her competition in this race right now (especially with Jones not swimming) that she’s pretty free to swim her own race. The only thing that might derail her is if someone like Canada’s Annamay Pierse, the current record holder, or Yuliya Efimova go after her early and force her into an early battle that she’s not ready for.

4. Men’s 1500m freestyle (YOUTH MAKES IT WELL WITHIN REACH) – This record seems among the most sacred, as it is one of only two long course marks to survive the rubber-suit era. Wouldn’t it be ironic for the only record to make it through armageddon to be the first one that goes down afterwards? China’s Sun Yang was under a second away from Grant Hackett’s 14:34.56, when he was only 19! Of course, Hackett’s best-time came at only 21, but a 19 (now 20) year old typically shows massive improvements in races of this length. Yang doesn’t need massive improvements, he only needs small improvements, and this record’s toast.

5. Men’s 200m IM (VERY POSSIBLE, IF YOU TRUST IN THE SYSTEM) – Ryan Lochte already broke the Short Course World Record in this race in Dubai in 2010. He was about 3-tenths off at Pan Pacs in 2010, and that was after a number of challenges, including multiple leg injuries, last season. This year, he’s looked absolutely dreadful. He’s been getting beat by guys who aren’t even in his same stratosphere. But that’s not a knock. This is how Gregg Troy’s teams always go. You can never write them off on the basis of in-season races. I know better than to pick against Lochte, and this one seems to have a good chance.

6. Women’s 100m breaststroke – This is another chance that Rebecca Soni will have at a World Record. She was a 1:04.9 last season, which made her the first swimmer sub-1:05 in textile in this race. The textile record should definitely be toast, and I think she’ll make a strong charge towards Hardy’s 1:04.45. Here’s an interesting thought – the 100 breast (which will be Soni’s first final) comes at the end of the event schedule. Coming from California time, that means her race will be swum around 5:30 AM “body time” (aka LA Time). While that’s not ideal, at least it’s awake time for a swimmer. If she were swimming at the beginning of the session, she’d be looking at more like 2 AM “body time”. When these swimmers are chasing records, every little thing can make a difference, and that’s gotta be good for a tenth, maybe?

7. Men’s 400m free (COMPETITIVE PUSH LEADS TO A SCARE) – This is the World Record chance that’s probably the most wide-open. Tae Hwan Park was tops in the world in 2010 with a 3:41.53, off of Paul Biedermann’s 3:40.07. Park, who’s only 21, and Sun, who’s only 20, will both be gunning for this mark, but you can’t count out Zhang Lin (the 800 World Record holder), also of China, Japan’s Takeshi Matsuda, and France’s Yannick Agnel (if he’s fully recovered from his lung infection). There’s just a ridiculous amount of young talent in this middle-distance event, and their competitive fires could flare up and push to some swift times. I don’t see this one going down, but it could get very close.

8. Women’s 50m breaststroke (GOTTA SWIM IT TO WIN IT) – USA Swimming still has not announced who will swim the women’s 50 breaststroke between Hardy and Beard. That’s significant, because they have listed some of the 50m racers (there’s no qualifying in those events like in the longer races, though “dibs” usually goes to the 100m winner). Beard is entitled to the spot, and though she’s tested it the past few weeks, she’s unlikely to medal in this race. If Hardy gets her shot on it–she’s clearly the best in the world in the race right now–she could take down her own World Record of 29.80.

9. Men’s 100m fly (MIGHT HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR) – The last thing that anyone’s thinking right now is that Michael Phelps might break a World Record in Shanghai. He’s been beatable this year for the first time in a long time. But last year, when we were hearing the same things, he came within 8-tenths of the mark. He seems to have turned things around, in the short-term, so maybe things will be turned around enough in this 100 fly to get even closer to the record. If he can maintain this focus through London, this record has to go down at the Olympics. I’d put it at maybe a 30% chance of it being busted in Shanghai though.

10. Women’s 50 fly (EXTREME MEASURES) – Sweden’s Therese Alshammar has nipped her own textile World Record already this year with a 25.37, which is only 3-tenths off of her own World Record. Three-tenths, however, over a 50 (without an extra wall, or a turn, where a lot of time can be shaved off) is a lot of time. Still, the wiley veteran has looked very good this year in her new training in Australia. She just knows how to get these sprint races done, so there’s an outside shot of a great performance and a record her.


I don’t see any relay World Records going down, just because the power of four swimmers in rubber suits is too much to overcome. I mean, do you really see Garrett Weber-Gale going a 47.0 again? When only one swimmer in the world last year was under 48 (albeit flat-starts)? The records are just too far out of reach. If one were to go down (and that’s a big if), I think it’d be the men’s 800 free relay record. It would take on average a 1:44.4 or so to get that mark. Again, it’s not going to happen, but in the “craziest dreams” scenario, where Lochte and Phelps both get into 1:43’s, maybe? The Australian 800 free relay also looked really good at their National Championship meet, but I don’t know how much more of a drop a lot of those women will have in them. They could get within two or three seconds of the 7:42.08 they need if they hit their starts, however.


I’ll go ahead and set the over/under at 3.5 World Records to be broken in Shanghai. Do you take the over or the under? Leave your guess in the comments, and be sure to vote in our poll on the right.

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
9 years ago

Hum, i think women 4×200(read Australia) will not be too far from WR.

9 years ago

I hope I am proven wrong, but I cannot see more than WRs going down in Shanghai. And when a WRs goes, it will be all fireworks and so sweet even more than the old times a WR was so precious. The 1,500 WR will depend on how Sun Yang quickly recovers from his 400 and 800 as well as the 1,500 prelims. There is a reason why only two men (Thorpe and Hackett) have ever won 3 freestyle events (and in WRs too!) in a world championships: It’s bloody hard. Also, I can’t see Phelps’ 100 fly goes, either in Shanghai or London. I agree that there’s no chance for a relay WR. I think all relay WRs will… Read more »

9 years ago

I meant “more than three WRs going down in Shanghai”.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

Read More »