Swim of the Week: Kathleen Dawson’s 58.08 in 100 Back

Disclaimer: Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The Swim of the Week is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.

It was a busy week of 100 backstrokes for Great Britain’s Kathleen Dawsonincluding the 5th-fastest swim of all-time at 58.08.

The 23-year-old Dawson swam the 100 back six different times at the 2021 European Championships, including a stellar run of three swims on the same day between the 100 back prelims and semifinals and the mixed medley relay final. Dawson hit 58.4 twice in those three swims. Later, in the 100 back final, Dawson crushed a 58.18… but that race was officially voided due to errors with the timing system. That forced a fifth swim in a rescheduled final, where Dawson went 58.4 yet again, only about two hours after her original final swim.

When Dawson finally got a chance to swim just one single 100 back in a session, she responded with a new European-record 58.08 – the fifth-fastest swim in history:

Here’s a chronological look at her 100 back swims at Euros:

Time Date Race
59.32 May 20 100 back prelims
58.44 May 20
100 back semifinals
58.43 May 20
mixed medley relay final
58.18 May 21
100 back final (voided)
58.49 May 21
100 back final (official)
58.08 May 23
Women’s medley relay final

Dawson won gold medals in all three of the events above. In the 100 back, she won the original final by nearly a full second, and the re-swum final by more than half a second. In the women’s medley, Dawson outswam all other competitors by a whopping 1.4 seconds, staking her team to a massive lead. (Great Britain would win the relay by 2.2 seconds over Russia). In the mixed medley, Dawson beat all other women’s leadoff legs by more than a full second, and Great Britain won the relay by 2.4 seconds.

Dawson’s huge swim complicates an already-crowded backstroke field heading into this summer’s Olympics. The world record has fallen three separate times in this Olympic cycle to three separate swimmers. Dawson’s swim means that one of those three recent world record-setters may very well miss the Olympic podium in the event. Canada’s Kylie Masse set the world record at 58.10 back in 2017. Then in 2018, Kathleen Baker of the U.S. went 58.00 to break it. And in 2019, American Regan Smith crushed both times in 57.57.

Dawson has now passed Masse in the all-time rankings. She trails only Smith, Baker, and Australia’s rising star Kaylee McKeown:

Top Women’s 100 Backstroke Performances – All-Time

  1. Regan Smith (USA) – 57.57 (2019)
  2. Kaylee McKeown (AUS) – 57.63 (2021)
  3. Kaylee McKeown (AUS) – 57.93 (2020)
  4. Kathleen Baker (USA) – 58.00 (2018)
  5. Kathleen Dawson (GBR) – 58.08 (2021)
  6. Kylie Masse (CAN) – 58.10 (2017)
  7. Kaylee McKeown (AUS) – 58.11 (2020)
  8. Gemma Spofforth (GBR) – 58.12 (2009)
  9. Kaylee McKeown (AUS) – 58.14 (2021)
  10. Kylie Masse (CAN) – 58.16 (2019)

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About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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