SwimSwam Pulse: Fans Have Appetite For Phelps In 200 Back, Dressel In 200 Free

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 to pick which hypothetical race that never happened they’d most love to go back in time and see how it would’ve played out.

RESULTS

Question: In a dream scenario, which of these races would you go back in time to see what would’ve happened?

It seems to be a bit of a common theme at major championship meets: I wish (blank) was entered in this event to see what they could go! 

Busy event schedules have played a prominent role in preventing some of our favorite swimmers from racing all the events they could at certain competitions, so this poll was intended to get a feel for which race fans would’ve most liked to see from the past.

Leading the way at 31.5 percent was a potential 200 backstroke for Michael Phelps at the 2008 Olympic Games, where he won a historic eight gold medals and was on the best form of his career.

The 200 back was an event Phelps was always elite in, but it never really emerged as a focus for major championship meets due to his loaded lineup.

In 2004, Phelps qualified to swim the 200 back at the Olympics by placing second to Aaron Peirsol at the U.S. Trials, but ultimately opted to drop the event and instead turn his focus to Ian Thorpe and Pieter van den Hoogenband in the 200 freestyle.

In the summer of 2007, Phelps dropped a 1:54.65 in the 200 back at U.S. Nationals, a time that was just three-tenths shy of the world record set by Ryan Lochte (1:54.32) at the World Championships earlier in the year.

In 2008, Phelps was never going to swim the race due to the event schedule, with the 200 IM final and 100 fly semis taking place during the same session as the 200 back final. But it’s certainly interesting to think about how he might’ve done had the schedule worked more favorably.

First Phelps would’ve had to qualify for the event at the Trials, where Peirsol (1:54.32) and Lochte (1:54.34) threw down some big-time swims. But had Phelps gotten through there, given his form in Beijing, it’s easy to imagine him being faster than Lochte’s gold medal-winning world record of 1:53.94.

Filled-up-goggle 200 fly aside, Phelps improved by nine-tenths of a second from 2007 to 2008 in the 200 free, and three-quarters of a second in the 200 IM. His 200 back time from 2007, which was also not done at the World Championships and therefore might’ve been even faster if it had, was only 71 one-hundredths shy of Lochte’s winning time.

While Phelps’ 200 back led the poll, there were two options related to Caeleb Dressel swimming the 200 free, which combined for close to 47 percent of votes.

The top option was Dressel swimming the event at the 2018 NCAA Championships, the meet where he went off as a senior and rewrote the record books in the 50 free (17.63), 100 free (39.90) and 100 fly (42.80).

There was a rumor that never came to fruition that Dressel was going to lead-off Florida’s 800 free relay at the meet, and his absence there, coupled with his amazing performances throughout the competition, left everyone wondering what might’ve been.

Finishing just behind that swim in the poll was a potential appearance by Dressel on the U.S. men’s 4×200 freestyle relay this past summer in Tokyo.

Dressel addressed his absence from the relay on the SwimSwam Podcast, saying he and coach Gregg Troy ultimately decided that he was more valuable to the American team later in the meet and that it was unlikely the team would win the race anyway (they ended up fourth), but it clearly still intrigues fans what he might’ve split there.

Also receiving votes was a potential 400 free for Katie Ledecky at the 2012 Olympics, though she failed to qualify in the event after placing third at Trials. However, Ledecky dropped more than five seconds from Omaha to London to win gold in the 800 free, and her Trials time (4:05.00) was less than two seconds outside of what took bronze (4:03.01).

Kaylee McKeown dropped the women’s 200 IM from her Olympic program this past summer, focusing on the backstrokes and Australian relays, and nine percent picked that race as the one they would’ve liked to have seen. McKeown’s best time, 2:08.19 from the Australian Olympic Trials in June, was more than three-tenths quicker than what Yui Ohashi went to win gold in Tokyo (2:08.52).

The other option was Lochte swimming the 200 free in Beijing, which justifiably didn’t get a ton of votes because Phelps was always going to win that race.

But Lochte had said after the fact that he regretted not swimming the final of the event at Trials (his semi-final time of 1:45.61 would’ve placed second to Phelps and qualified him individually), and he clearly would’ve given Park Tae Hwan (1:44.85) a run for the silver medal given his 1:44.28 split on the 800 free relay.

Below, vote in our new A3 Performance Pollwhich asks: Which swimmer has most exceeded your expectations so far in ISL Season 3?

Which swimmer has most exceeded your expectations so far in ISL Season 3?

View Results

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2Fat4Speed
1 month ago

Dressel 2 free in relay at Olympics because it mostly means USA gets a medal. USA already 1/2 in 2back in 2008. Dressel 200 free SCY? I think “just” another 1:29

Mr Piano
Reply to  2Fat4Speed
1 month ago

Honestly 1:28

Last edited 1 month ago by Mr Piano
Swim nerd
Reply to  Mr Piano
1 month ago

Considering just how well dressel was swimming, a 1:28 low would have been the expectation

Thomas
Reply to  2Fat4Speed
1 month ago

This isn’t a question about medals (obviously…they include NCAAs). Which time would you be most interested to see? Medal count/everything else excluded

Daeleb Creseel
1 month ago

Caeleb 800 free relay split, my guess, 1:44high

uhhh
Reply to  Daeleb Creseel
1 month ago

I mean…….naaaaaah

Sub13
Reply to  Daeleb Creseel
1 month ago

Lol no. His PB is 1:46.63 from the US trials. He’s not dropping two full seconds from that.

Murica
Reply to  Daeleb Creseel
1 month ago

After seeing the footage of the 25.7 at the end of his scm IM (after a 3 week break…), which is like a 23.mid scy, I’m reconsidering my old assumptions about him being just carried by the start and getting lucky in those 100s at the lympics.

In that IM he never went into overdrive stroke. His breathe-every-2 grind stroke looked like what you’d expect from a 200 freestyle ind. medalist tier athlete.

If CD swam olympic 200s only w no sprints, but with no or minimal difference in training or prep (give him a few more pace 50s the week before):

Free: 1:44 mid – bronze
Fly: 1:52+/1:53 – silver
IM: 1:55 low/ mid – bronze

Thomas
Reply to  Murica
1 month ago

It’s interesting because I think if he was not a fast-twitch-muscle-pure-sprinter, I truly think he would be a fringe athlete in every 200 distance (with his current state). 200FR, 200BR, 200FL, 200IM it’s tough to argue he wouldn’t be top 4 if he focused on longer distances. He only misses the 200BK, but he could still do well in a 200BK SCM/SCY

Swammerstein
1 month ago

Did phelps nearly break the 100 and 200 bk WR at a grand prix in like 2007ish?

Mr Piano
Reply to  Swammerstein
1 month ago

2007 nationals. He swam a 1:44.9 200 free, then half an hour later 53.01 100 back which was only .04 off the wr at the time. He also went 1:54.6 in the 200 back at that meet. He was 1:55.3 in the 200 back in 2002, missing the world record by .12

He probably would have been 1:53 low or so in Beijing if he opted for the 200 back.

Xman
Reply to  Mr Piano
1 month ago

The 2007 Nationals are my favorite Phelps meet. He was coming off the world championships that March and was doing the 100 Free, 100 back, and 200 back at a lot of Grand Prix meets, as well as the US Open and Nationals. And he was giving the 100 Back WR a scare at each one.

At one of those meets (might be nationals, but might be US Open) Club Wolverine even swam the Medley relay with him leading off so he can attempt to break it.

Philip Johnson
Reply to  Mr Piano
1 month ago

Phelps was built different.

bobthebuilderrocks
1 month ago

I voted for Dressel leading off the 800 free relay back during 2018 NCAA’s because I kind of figured we’d be going by whatever schedules each individual swam during the specific meet. So I figured MP would have had the triple and it wouldn’t be logical to expect a crazy time for the 2 back after a 2 IM. But if we’re just going by “what would a 2008 era Phelps have done in the 200 back?” I’d pick that over Dressel 200 yard free in 2018. I gotta figure 2008 MP would be good for a 1:52/1:53 low.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  bobthebuilderrocks
1 month ago

A fresh 2007-08 MP in a 2009 suit in a 200 back could’ve been faster than Piersol’s WR.

bobthebuilderrocks
Reply to  Steve Nolan
1 month ago

Oh yeah, for sure. 2007-2008 MP in a 2009 suit could’ve set numerous world records that would still have us scratching our heads as to who will ever break them. A 2008 MP doing a 200 back with the level of underwaters he had during that time period would’ve been a sight to see.

Swim nerd
Reply to  bobthebuilderrocks
1 month ago

2008 Phelps in an 09 suit would probably have swam like 1:39 in the 200 free

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Swim nerd
1 month ago

I think he could’ve beaten Biedermann but only barely.

Xman
1 month ago

What percentage of improvement did he Dressel make in his 50, 100 free, 100 fly from his in season times to his Olympic times. We can take the average and apply that to his in season 200 free

Also the percentage improvement from his 50, 100 Free / Fly – semi final times from traisl to Olympic final times. I would use the Semi finals since I think he held back on prelims except in the 200 free. We can apply this average to his trails time.

Bill
1 month ago

How about a Ledecky 1500 in 2016 when she was at the top of her game?

frug
Reply to  Bill
1 month ago

My first thought when I saw this poll was Ledecky swimming the 1500 in 2012 when she was 15. Sadly, they stuck with events that existed at the time…

Last edited 1 month ago by frug
Just give the trophy to the condors already
1 month ago

Duh

M L
1 month ago

Phelps 200 IM, Rome 2009.
Phelps 200 Free, London 2012.
Phelps 400 Free, Melbourne 2007.
Pablo 100 Fly, Seoul 1988.
Dressel 200 IM/Free/Fly, LCM shaved, anywhere, anytime.

Last edited 1 month ago by M L
Steve Nolan
Reply to  M L
1 month ago

Phelps 400 free in 2007 is the only one I’d put on the same level as any of those that were in the poll. (We got plenty of MP swimming 2 FR/IM over his career, a fully tapered Phelps in 2007-08 could’ve been special.)

Dressel LCM 200 free is the only one even close to as interesting as a SCY 200 free. He set that AR in the SCY 200 IM and was, by his own admission, not great at half of the strokes. Given his speed endurance in 100s LCM and his walls, he’d have done something insane in a 200 yard free. (Honestly he should bust one out next year or in 2025, sort of the perfect… Read more »

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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