Swim of the Week: Tang Muhan Negative Splits Record-Setting 1:54.26 200 Free

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.

Fast swims have been dropping left and right at the 2021 Chinese National Games in Shaanxi, but none were more jaw-dropping than the performance delivered by Tang Muhan in the women’s 200 freestyle.

Tang, who turned 18 on September 4, out-duelled Yang Junxuan in a hotly-contested race to touch first in a time of 1:54.26, lowering Yang’s Chinese National Record of 1:54.37 set on the lead-off leg of China’s gold medal-winning 800 free relay at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Tang’s swim marked a massive personal best, with her previous-fastest time coming into the competition the 1:57.29 she produced leading off the preliminary relay at the Olympics (she split 1:55.01 swimming second in the final), but dwarfing the impressiveness of her final time was the way she split it.

The Shenzen University product unbelievably negative split the race, flipping fourth at the 100m wall in 57.17 before closing in 57.09. This included an absolutely scorching 27.95 final 50, which isn’t far off what some of the top men typically bring their 200s back in.

For context, only one swimmer—gold medalist Ariarne Titmus—came home under 29 seconds in the Tokyo Olympic final, at 28.80. Granted, the pressure of an Olympic final certainly isn’t a place for someone to experiment with race splitting, but still, Tang’s closing 50 was surely spectacular.

Yang led the race at every wall, out in 56.52 at the 100, and she maintained a lead of 43 one-hundredths on Tang at the final turn. But Tang’s closing 27.95 proved too much, overtaking Yang despite her solid 28.60 closing split that earned her a final time of 1:54.48—just over a tenth off her previous record.


Yang, Chinese Games Tang, Chinese Games
27.35 27.64
29.17 (56.52) 29.53 (57.17)
29.36 (1:25.88) 29.14 (1:26.31)
28.60 (1:54.48) 27.95 (1:54.26)


Yang, Olympic Games Tang, Chinese Games
26.99 27.64
29.03 (56.02) 29.53 (57.17)
29.13 (1:25.15) 29.14 (1:26.31)
29.22 (1:54.37) 27.95 (1:54.26)


Tang’s time would’ve been good enough for third had she done it in the Olympic final, where Canadian Penny Oleksiak grabbed bronze in 1:54.70 over Yang (1:55.01).

Tang swam the 400 free individually in Tokyo, placing fifth in a time of 4:04.10, and also won that event at the Chinese Games this week in a negative-splitting effort.

Tang clocked a big best time of 4:01.95, out in 2:02.57 at the 200 before storming home in 1:59.38. That puts her within nine-tenths of the Asian and Chinese Record of 4:01.08 set by Li Bingjie in the Tokyo Olympic final where she won bronze.

In the 200 free, Tang sits 45 one-hundredths shy of the Asian Record of 1:53.92, set by Hong Kong’s Siobhan Haughey en route to winning Olympic silver in Tokyo.

Tang also leapfrogs up into seventh all-time in the women’s 200 free, trailing only the last four Olympic gold medalists in the event—Federica Pellegrini, Ariarne Titmus, Allison Schmitt and Katie Ledecky—plus the last two Olympic silver medalists in Haughey and Sarah Sjostrom.

All-Time Performers, Women’s 200 Freestyle (LCM)

  1. Federica Pellegrini (ITA), 1:52.98 – 2009 World Championships
  2. Ariarne Titmus (AUS), 1:53.09 – 2021 Australian Olympic Trials
  3. Allison Schmitt (USA), 1:53.61 – 2012 Olympic Games
  4. Katie Ledecky (USA), 1:53.73 – 2016 Olympic Games
  5. Siobhan Haughey (HKG), 1:53.92 – 2020 Olympic Games
  6. Sarah Sjostrom (SWE), 1:54.08 – 2016 Olympic Games
  7. Tang Muhan (CHN), 1:54.26 – 2021 Chinese Games
  8. Yang Junxuan (CHN), 1:54.37 – 2020 Olympic Games
  9. Taylor Ruck (CAN), 1:54.44 – 2018 Pan Pacific Championships
  10. Emma McKeon (AUS), 1:54.55 – 2019 Australian World Championship Trials

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About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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