SwimSwam Pulse: 58% Believe Women’s 200 Fly World Record Will Stand Longest

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 which existing world record will be the last to be broken:

Question: Which LCM world record will stand the longest?


  • Women’s 200 fly (2:01.81) – 58.3%
  • Men’s 200 free (1:42.00) – 19.5%
  • Men’s 800 free (7:32.12) – 13.4%
  • Men’s 400 free (3:40.07) – 4.4%
  • Women’s 50 fly (24.43) – 3.6%
  • Women’s 200 IM (2:06.12) – 0.8%

There are world records, and then there are world records that are seemingly untouchable.

There are currently nine world records set pre-2010 that remain, with the polyurethane suits being banned at the beginning of the decade after we saw an astonishing 43 records broken at the 2009 World Championships in Rome.

While a few of the records listed above haven’t been seriously approached by anyone in more than 12 years since they were set, a clear top pick emerged in the poll when asking readers which record would stand the longest: the women’s 200 butterfly.

Based on the numbers, that result is hard to argue with. In 2009, Liu Zige swam to a time of 2:01.81. Only one swimmer in history, Australian Jessicah Schipper, has been within two seconds of that time, winning the 2009 world title head-to-head over Liu in 2:03.41.

Zhang Yufei produced the third-fastest swim of all-time en route to winning Olympic gold last summer, but that was still well shy of Liu’s WR in 2:03.86.

The men’s 200 free sits second in the poll, with Paul Biedermann‘s 1:42.00 from 2009.

The closest a swimmer has come since that race was Yannick Agnel, who won Olympic gold in 2012 in 1:43.14. The fastest time since 2013 was done in Tokyo, when Great Britain’s Tom Dean won Olympic gold in 1:44.22.

While the gap between Liu and Zhang is smaller than the one that exists between Biedermann and Dean, the women’s 200 fly was well ahead in the poll. This is likely due to the fact that numerous men have been entering the 1:44 territory over the last few years, while Zhang’s 2:03.8 in Tokyo was very much a one-off in the 200 fly. Only two other swimmers have broken 2:05 since 2014.

The men’s 800 free is another record that looks untouchable, with Zhang Lin‘s mind-boggling 7:32.12 from 2009. Since that performance, only Sun Yang (7:38.57) and Gregorio Paltrinieri (7:39.27) have broken the 7:40 barrier.

However, given that it only became an Olympic event last year, an increased focus on the men’s 800 free could see this record approached more seriously after a few more years of swimmers’ zeroing in on it.

Another Biedermann record, the men’s 400 free, earned just over four percent of votes. There’s perhaps some hope to see that one fall soon, with Germany’s Lukas Märtens hitting a 3:41.6 earlier this year.

The women’s 50 fly is a blistering record at 24.43, as Sarah Sjostrom remains the only swimmer sub-25 in history. However, there’s not much belief that it will last the longest.

Bringing up the rear was the women’s 200 IM, where Katinka Hosszu holds the standard at 2:06.12. While it’s not a time that’s been threatened since Hosszu and Siobhan Marie O’Connor battle head-to-head at the 2016 Games in Rio, Alex Walsh just dropped a 2:07.84 at the U.S. World Trials, the fastest non-Hosszu swim since 2017.

Perhaps overlooked from inclusion in the poll: Aaron Peirsol‘s 1:51.92 world record in the men’s 200 backstroke, and Michael Phelps‘ 4:03.84 in the men’s 400 IM.

The men’s 400 IM has seemingly gone backwards in recent years, in terms of the time required to win a major title. Kosuke Hagino and Chase Kalisz were 4:06.0 and 4:05.9, respectively, to win the 2016 Olympics and 2017 Worlds, but 4:08.9 (2019 Worlds) and 4:09.4 (2021 Olympics) have won the last two titles.

Peirsol’s 200 back record is still way out there, with Ryan Lochte being the only swimmer to have dipped under the 1:53 barrier in a textile suit (1:52.96 in 2011).

The only other individual long course world records that remain from 2009 appear to be well within reach as soon as this year: men’s 50 free (20.91), men’s 100 free (46.91) and women’s 200 free (1:52.98).

Below, vote in our new A3 Performance Pollwhich asks: What was the biggest (World Championship qualifying) surprise performance on the women’s side at the 2022 U.S. International Team Trials:

If Hunter Armstrong's 50 back WR is the answer on the men's side, what was the biggest surprise swim of US Trials for the women?

View Results

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The A3 Performance Poll is courtesy of A3 Performance, a SwimSwam partner.

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Swim, Summer, swim
6 months ago

No doubts that Summer will beat 200 fly record if she sticks to this event. Though I can understand non-believers, but they just didn’t have a chance to see her all those years 🙂

6 months ago

I always love to read these! Any idea how many mens LC world records were broken in the last cycle compared to womens? There’s probably an article somewhere but I can’t find it. It feels like women have broken more LCM records recently but I could be way off. However “hot” womens record-watch is right now, that 200 fly just won’t get hit

6 months ago

No Peaty? Surprising

Reply to  Matthew
6 months ago

Probably 2 reasons:

1. The record hasn’t stood for as long as these other records mentioned.

2. There’s still a person currently swimming who can potentially break the record: Adam Peaty himself

7 months ago

Turboturtle’s picks:

The 200 free is impossible for anyone we have seen currently seen swimming at the top level.

200 fly same boat.

800 free – someone could get close but I don’t think it will go down.

400 free – doable by the current group making waves.

50 fly – very unlikely unless Sarah does it herself.

200 IM – this event gets to 2:04/5 in the next 4 years.

7 months ago

On the women’s side of the ledger, only two world records from the polyurethane “super” suit era remain:

200 FR
200 FL

In calendar year 2009, 147 world records were broken and 43 of the aforementioned world records were set at the 2009 World Aquatics Championships.

7 months ago

What about just textile records?

Thorpe’s 400 free LCM from 2002 and Hackett’s 800 free SCM from 2001 are the only textile records from before the SS era. Hackett’s is particularly impressive being #2 of all time and himself being the person who beat it. If he hadn’t broken it himself, it would be more than 7 years older than Phelps 400IM which is the current oldest WR.

Reply to  Sub13
7 months ago

Hackett and Thorpe coming up at the same time was pretty special! Good points!

7 months ago

Not that I think it necessarily deserves the #1 spot here, but I do feel that Zhang Lin’s 7:32.12 800FR WR is severely underrated. A supersuited AND peak Mellouli only managed a 7:35.27 in his entire career. STILL 3.15 seconds off Lin. Next best all-time performance by any swimmer is then a 7:38.57 by Sun Yang (who is also the current 1500 WR holder, which further tells you how insane this record is).

Last edited 7 months ago by SwimmerFan99
Reply to  SwimmerFan99
7 months ago

Wasn’t Ous wearing two suits as well? I remember that being a thing.

Edit. To add I think they were wearing a lzr or something for the girdle and a polyurethane over it. Very smart!

Last edited 7 months ago by turboturtle
Reply to  SwimmerFan99
7 months ago

Did the supeesuits actually help with long distance races compared to the shorter and middle distances.

I know it helped but to what degree compared to the shorter distances?

What was the fastest men,s and women,s 800 free and 1500 free during the supersuit era?

The men,s 1500 free and the women’s 800 free didn’t seem crazy fast during the supersuit era

Last edited 7 months ago by Carlo
There's no doubt that he's tightening up
Reply to  Carlo
7 months ago

Hackett 7:38.65, Hackett 14:34.56

Janet Evans 8:16.22, Kate Ziegler 15:42.54

Both 1500 records survived the suits. Adlington took down Evans’ record in a LZR. Zhang Lin (in a Jaked) and Mellouli (in the Arena X-Glide) went under Hackett’s mark for the 800.

Perhaps the times don’t seem that fast because Hackett and Evans are GOATed.

Reply to  Carlo
6 months ago

Maybe because Hackett set an absolutely incredible world record in 1500 metre free in 2001 that lasted through the super suit era.

Reply to  SwimmerFan99
6 months ago

glad you mentioned Mellouli. He was as a whole underrated as well.

7 months ago

I think it’s really between Ledecky’s 800, Zige’s 200 fly, and Biedermann’s 200 free.
The case against Ledecky is that women’s distance really is taking off. Her record is bewildering, but I wouldn’t be shocked if one person challenges it within the next 10 years. Again, though, this does seem unlikely.

Biederman and Zige’s records are both bewildering AND the rest of the world is actually going backwards in these events. The men’s 200 free might have indeed reached some sort of peak that could take years to overcome, THEN the record will be pushed. The women’s 200 fly is legit the most disappointing result at every international meet, everytime. Back in 2015 it was looking ok, but… Read more »

Last edited 7 months ago by swimfast
Reply to  swimfast
7 months ago

Gonna have to strongly disagree about the men’s 200 free going backwards. Dean and Scott just went the fastest times since Agnel’s 2013 swim (Dean is only 22). And Popovici and Hwang are such massive talents (2.6 seconds away as age groupers!!). How can you say that event has reached a peak?

6 months ago

Because we still go nuts over 1:44s. The record is 1:42 flat. It’s in a different league, and the splits are something that those nowadays can’t seem to match. No one even goes out in sub 50, and if they did they would have to come back in SUB 53. Think: can anyone in the world go out in 49.5 and bring it home in 26.5, 25 high? That’s my point. Scott and the rest can go 1:44s til the cows come home, maybe a 1:43 low if the stars align…but 1:42.00…no. that seems like something for someone who’s probably currently 10 years old or maybe not even born yet.
When the man, Hwang, as you mentioned, went out… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by swimfast
Reply to  swimfast
6 months ago

May I add, it’ll take a *casual* sub 50 first 100. going 26 mid then 25 mid would require basically full leg energy thereafter. I then remind you that Biederman had the suit to assist him, hence his ability to go 50. 52….I’m not downplaying today’s contenders, just saying the suit made all the difference. It won’t be matched in this generation, probably.
I think within 10 years we will start to see some 1:43 lows regularly and maybe inching toward 1:42 highs. I think in 10 years we’ll start to at least be able to reasonably root for the guys to break the world record, but at this point we’re kinda just at a stepping stone toward that… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by swimfast
Swim nerd
Reply to  swimfast
6 months ago

Only thing that you are forgetting is that back halfs have been getting consistently faster over the past couple of years. Just look at all the youngsters going 24 mid/ low coming home in the 100, that speed will translate to the 200 very soon. Also, considering how popovici and Huang only seem to be getting faster every year, I wouldn’t be shocked if in Paris we will see a 1:43 low or 1:42 high out of them, though I genuinely think popovici has the potential to go 1:42 low.

Reply to  Swim nerd
6 months ago

agreed. hes probably the best bet because he has amazing 100 speed, so he could get out in 49 low and possibly bring it home in something respectable. and hmm…coming back in 24 mid in the 100 is a lot different than coming home in 24/25 in the 200. The 200 does something atrocious to the legs…the 3rd 50 is absolutely killer. meaning it really will probably take someone who can go 46 flat start…frankly the best bet in my mind would maybe even be Dressel. I really think he could be a phenomenal 200 freestyler for this exact reason, but the most he’ll give us is a pro swim series showing. even then he pops 1:47, and we know… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by swimfast

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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