SwimSwam Pulse is a recurring feature tracking and analyzing the results of our periodic A3 Performance Polls. You can cast your vote in our newest poll on the SwimSwam homepage, about halfway down the page on the right side, or you can find the poll embedded at the bottom of this post.
Our most recent poll asked SwimSwam readers if we’ll see a male swimmer break the 1:44 barrier in the 200 freestyle this year:
Question: It’s been a decade – will 2022 be the year we finally see another 1:43 in the men’s 200 free?
- No – 62.3%
- Yes – 37.7%
The golden era of the men’s mid-distance freestyle came in the 2000s.
When the calendar turned from 1999 to 2000, the world record in the men’s 200 freestyle stood at 1:46.00, set by Ian Thorpe at the 1999 Pan Pacific Championships.
Over the course of the next year, the record was lowered three times. Thorpe became the first to crack 1:46, but his friendly rival Pieter van den Hoogenband brought the record down to 1:45.35 in the Olympic semi-finals in Sydney before matching it to upset the home crowd favorite in the final.
Next year, again in Australia, Thorpe became the first swimmer sub-1:45 in 1:44.69, and then at the 2001 World Championships in Fukuoka, brought it all the way down to 1:44.06.
Since that swim, some 21 years ago, it has only been surpassed in a textile suit on two single occasions, the most recent one coming nearly 10 years ago.
That Thorpe world record stood for nearly six years before Michael Phelps became the first under 1:44 at the 2007 World Championships in Melbourne (Australia, again?), clocking 1:43.86.
We then saw records tumble with the super-suits in 2008 and 2009, with Phelps clocking 1:42.96 at the 2008 Games in Beijing before Germany’s Paul Biedermann put up his otherworldly 1:42.00 at the 2009 World Championships.
But since the polyurethane suits were banned in 2010, only Frenchman Yannick Agnel has surpassed Thorpe’s 1:44.06, setting a textile world record of 1:43.14 at the 2012 Olympics in London.
After Agnel slowly declined, the winning times in the men’s 200 free became somewhat stagnant. At the 2015 World Championships, no one broke 1:45. At the 2016 Olympics and 2017 Worlds, China’s Sun Yang was the only man to dip into the 1:44s.
The event seemed stuck, to an extent, but in recent years it’s started to turn a corner.
At the 2019 Worlds, we saw Australia’s Clyde Lewis (1:44.90) and Great Britain’s Duncan Scott (1:44.91) crack 1:45, though neither came in the individual final (which Sun won in 1:44.93). One month later, Lithuanian Danas Rapsys scorched a 1:44.38 swim on the FINA World Cup (Rapsys actually touched first in the Worlds final before being DQed for a false start).
Then at last summer’s Olympics, we saw the fastest textile swims on record since Agnel’s 2012 swim, as Tom Dean (1:44.22) and Scott (1:44.26) went 1-2 for Great Britain in Tokyo.
Men’s 200 Freestyle (LCM) – Sub-1:45 Swimmers, 2021
- Tom Dean (GBR), 1:44.22 – Tokyo Olympic Games
- Duncan Scott (GBR), 1:44.26 – Tokyo Olympic Games
- Hwang Sunwoo (KOR), 1:44.62 – Tokyo Olympic Games
- Katsuhiro Matsumoto (JPN), 1:44.65 – Japanese Nationals
- Fernando Scheffer (BRA), 1:44.66 – Tokyo Olympic Games
- David Popovici (ROU), 1:44.68 – Tokyo Olympic Games
- Kieran Smith (USA), 1:44.74 – Tokyo Olympic Games
- Martin Malyutin (RUS), 1:44.79 – European Championships
All of this led to the question: will we see any sub-1:44s in 2022?
Swimmers will have plenty of opportunities to do so, with the World Championships, Commonwealth Games and European Championships scheduled to take place over the next two months.
However, 62.3 percent don’t believe it’s time, likely due in part to the fact that it’s a post-Olympic year, and some of the leading candidates to go 1:43 (like Dean, Scott and Popovici), will have multiple target meets, and it could mean they’re not firing on all cylinders at any of them due to their proximity and difficulty of timing tapers (though as mentioned above, there will be more opportunities).
Well over a third, 37.7 percent, are more bullish that we’ll see it this year. Hwang and Popovici are two extreme talents, the likes of which we haven’t seen in this event in recent memory, and appear to be on track to join the exclusive sub-1:44 club.
Will it be this year? Only time will tell.
Below, vote in our new A3 Performance Poll, which asks: Which matchup later this month are you more intrigued by?
The A3 Performance Poll is courtesy of A3 Performance, a SwimSwam partner.