The Oldest (And Most Underrated) World Record: Grant Hackett’s SCM 800 Free

When we think of the most dominant world records in swimming, a few specific performances and names come to mind.

Katie Ledecky is an obvious one, having run rampant on the women’s distance freestyle records dating back to 2013. There’s also the exploits of Paul Biedermann (men’s 200, 400 free), Zhang Lin (men’s 800 free) and Liu Zige (women’s 200 fly) in the super-suit era of 2009, and of course, Adam Peaty‘s recent superiority in the men’s sprint breaststrokes.

All of the athletes mentioned above established their world records in the long course pool. The short course records (25m) are a little less well known, as the Short Course World Championships only occur once every two years (and swimmers typically don’t take it as seriously as LC). Due to this, a few all-time marks fly under the radar, including the oldest world record still on the books.

In July of 2008, less than three weeks before the start of the Beijing Olympic Games, Australian legend Grant Hackett swam to a time of 7:23.42 in the SCM 800 freestyle at the Victoria Open in Melbourne.

That swim is one of just three individual records set prior to 2009 that still stand today — joined by Michael Phelps‘ 4:03.84 400 IM at the Olympics in August and Amaury Leveaux‘s 44.94 100 free at SC Euros in December  — and holds up almost 12 years later as one of the most dominant currently on the books.

It is worth noting that the men’s 800 free, along with the women’s 1500, are possibly the two least contested events on the swimming program. They have never been done at the Olympics (though that will change when the Tokyo Games eventually take place), and also aren’t even on the Short Course Worlds schedule.

So, had recent distance dynamos such as Zhang, Sun Yang or Gregorio Paltrinieri taken a proper stab at this event, perhaps it wouldn’t be so dominant.

When Hackett broke the record in ’08, he did it by a relatively large margin, 1.86 seconds. Nothing unheard of, but a sizable amount nonetheless. The seven-time Olympic medalist had previously been 7:25.28 back in 2001, and also went 7:27.81 in August of 2007.

The real jaw-dropper is the fact that the next fastest man in history, Yannick Agnel, is almost six seconds behind. At the 2012 French Nationals, Agnel went 7:29.17, joining Hackett in the sub-7:30 club. This was the same meet where Agnel shocked everyone by breaking Biedermann’s SCM 400 free record in 3:32.25. So despite being on incredible form (while also acknowledging Agnel was always better in the 200 and 400), the Frenchman was still a distant 5.75 seconds shy of Hackett.

ALL-TIME PERFORMERS, MEN’S SCM 800 FREE

Rank Swimmer Time Year
1 Grant Hackett  (AUS) 7:23.42 2008
2 Yannick Agnel (FRA) 7:29.17 2012
3 Henrik Christiansen 7:29.39 2019
4 Gregorio Paltrinieri (ITA) 7:30.31 2018
5  Federico Colbertaldo (ITA) 7:31.18 2009
6 Mykhailo Romanchuk (UKR) 7:31.92 2018
7 Jan Micka (CZE) 7:33.23 2018
8 Florian Vogel (GER) 7:33.44 2015
9 Wojciech Wojdak (POL) 7:33.60 2015
10 Michael McBroom (USA) 7:33.99 2013

HACKETT’S SPLITS

25.39 52.92 (27.53)
1:20.76 (27.84) 1:48.55 (27.79)
2:16.47 (27.92) 2:44.62 (28.15)
3:12.83 (28.21) 3:41.02 (28.19)
4:08.99 (27.97) 4:37.22 (28.23)
5:05.43 (28.21) 5:33.75 (28.32)
6:01.92 (28.17) 6:30.09 (28.17)
6:57.29 (27.20) 7:23.42 (26.13)

The now 39-year-old Queensland native averages out to be 0.71875 seconds faster than Agnel per 100, ranking third among all male world records behind Peaty’s 100 breast (1.41) and 50 breast (0.76).If we look at the dominance of each world record by calculating each record-holder’s gap over the #2 swimmer of all-time per 100 meters, Hackett’s swim comes out near the top (excluding all yards swims).

World Record Gaps Over Next-Fastest Swimmer Per-100m (Male Only)

Rank Swimmer Event World Record #2 All-Time Performer Gap (Per-100m)
1 Adam Peaty (GBR) 100 Breaststroke LCM 56.88 58.29 1.41
2 Adam Peaty (GBR) 50 Breaststroke LCM 25.95 26.33 0.76
3 Grant Hackett (AUS) 800 Freestyle SCM 7:23.42 7:29.17 0.71875
4 Florent Manaudou (FRA) 50 Backstroke SCM 22.22 22.55 0.66
5 Ryan Lochte (USA) 200 IM SCM 1:49.63 1:50.47 0.42

Now if we bring the women’s records into the mix, they take over a lot of the top spots. Ledecky and Hungarian Katinka Hosszu both rank inside the top-10 twice, and Sarah Sjostrom‘s 50 fly shoots up to #2 overall. But, Hackett’s swim still keeps a spot in the top-10.

World Record Gaps Over Next-Fastest Swimmer Per-100 (Overall)

Rank Swimmer Event World Record #2 All-Time Performer Gap (Per-100m)
1 Adam Peaty (GBR) 100 Breaststroke LCM 56.88 58.29 1.41
2 Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) 50 Butterfly LCM 24.43 25.07 1.28
3 Katie Ledecky (USA) 1500 Freestyle LCM 15:20.48 15:38.88 1.22667
4 Katie Ledecky (USA) 800 Freestyle LCM 8:04.79 8:14.10 1.16375
5 Katinka Hosszu (HUN) 200 IM SCM 2:01.86 2:04.18 1.16
6 Liu Zige (CHN) 200 Butterfly LCM 2:01.81 2:03.41 0.80
7 Adam Peaty (GBR) 50 Breaststroke LCM 25.95 26.33 0.76
8 Grant Hackett (AUS) 800 Freestyle SCM 7:23.42 7:29.17 0.71875
9 Florent Manaudou (FRA) 50 Backstroke SCM 22.22 22.55 0.66
10 Katinka Hosszu (HUN) 100 IM SCM 56.51 57.10 0.59

Unless FINA goes ahead and adds the men’s 800 and women’s 1500 to the lineup at Short Course Worlds, or someone like Paltrinieri, Florian Wellbrock or Mykhailo Romanchuk make it a priority to really go after Hackett’s time at a different SC meet, this record could stand for another 12 years and beyond.

Paltrinieri is the fourth-fastest performer ever, flipping in 7:30.31 on the opening 800 of his 1500 at the 2018 Short Course Worlds. In 2015, the Italian broke Hackett’s SC 1500 free record of 14:10.10 in 14:08.06, which, at the time, was the oldest record in the books (standing for over 17 years).

Norwegian Henrik Christiansen became the third man under 7:30 when he went 7:29.39 at the Dutch Championships (going for the 800 split during a 1500) in December of 2019. He also went 7:30.79 in the individual race, giving the #5 and #7 fastest swims of all-time.

Hackett also previously held the long course 800 record for four years (broken by Zhang in 2009), the long course 1500 record for 10 years (broken by Sun in 2011), and the long course 200 free record for five months in 1999.

In This Story

33
Leave a Reply

Subscribe
Notify of
33 Comments
newest
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
PFA
2 months ago

The fact that this world record is currently still standing is extremely impressive considering the threats from Romanchuk and Christiansen both swam 7:25 highs and is only still the 3rd and 4th fastest times in history behind Hackett’s 7:25.2. really shows how impressive this record is and also the fact that it is also older than Phelps 400 IM record by exactly 3 weeks. Still a bit surprised Hackett didn’t swim the LC 800 in Beijing but maybe there’s more to it than that. If by some unlikely force this world record lasts longer than Phelps’ 4 IM record, would it become the greatest world record of the century at that point?

Bruce Van Bebber
4 months ago

One more fact to add about Mary T’s 200 fly record of 2:05.96 from 1981. At last year’s Olympic Trials Mary’s 1981 record time would have placed her 2nd and thus making the team (beating our Haley Smith) Haley Flickinger’s winning time was 2:05.85 which only .11 faster than Mary’s former world record. That was 40 years ago.

Bruce Van Bebber
4 months ago

Although no longer a world record, Mary T Meager’s 200 meter fly record of 2:05.96 set in 1991 stood for 19 years which is crazy when you think about it. They didn’t submarine off the walls the way they do now, which makes that time even more impressive.

SwimWood
2 years ago

I love looking at records progression. My favourite is Ian Thorpe’s 3.40.08 4free from 2002. Which, If not for the Super suits, would still stand as the current world record 18 years later. Crazy Talent

Troyy
2 years ago

Why hasn’t FINA added the men’s 800 and women’s 1500 to the SC worlds program? Is it because the meet is 2 days shorter?

DLswim
Reply to  Troyy
2 years ago

Probably… they probably could handle it if they did timed finals for the 800 and 1500

Khachaturian
2 years ago

ok imo it isn’t underrated, it is a weird distance that not many people train for and it is scm

Olympian
2 years ago

Govorov’s 22.27 50 fly is still in my opinion the sickest world record I’ve ever witnessed, even more impressive if you weight the fact that he’s not an amazing starter, his underwaters are nothing but average… but boy he got power!!

A$AP Pocky
2 years ago

Why are all peopled named Grant ridiculous swimmers

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 …

Read More »