The Woman Who Went Head-to-Head with Michael Phelps in Open Competition

While the world is taking mandatory time out of the water, we’ve been looking back at some really awesome races. And luckily, NBC, FINA, and other tele-providers have been helping us by putting up race videos from the vault. Todays comes from the 2007 Duel in the Pool, which was not only against Australia (later renditions were against the “European All-stars”) but was also long course.

It was the mixed 400 free relay (did not realize they had that event in 2007): the Aussies opted for the Female-Female-Male-Male Strategy, while the USA put 2 women in the middle and bookended with their males, the first of which was Michael Phelps. This put Phelps up against Libby Lenton. She didn’t do so bad, considering: Phelps split 48.72, while Lenton touched at 52.99, unofficially becoming the first woman under 53 in the 100 freestyle.



Libby Lenton – 52.99

Jodie Henry – 53.25

Eamon Sullivan – 48.19

Kendrick Monk – 48.96

Total – 3:23.41

United States:

Michael Phelps – 48.72

Kara Lynn Joyce – 54.04

Lacey Nymeyer – 54.16

Jason Lezak – 48.88

Total – 3:25.80

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3 years ago

Interesting that neither team uses the usual two men two women order that you see at World Champs now… Messing around with it could allow for some draft advantages with women onto men but I don’t know how well that will fare out when you’re surrounded by wake on both sides if you’re the only team who doesn’t do that order.

3 years ago

I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t recognize the name Libby Lenton

3 years ago


3 years ago

To think Lezak would go 46.0 the next year

Reply to  Harambe
3 years ago

Seriously don’t know how that race can be topped. Top moment in Olympic history given the implications, although Kerri strugs one legged landing would rank close. SwimSwam there’s a new series! Top olympic swimming moments/top Olympic moments. I’ll vote on a 🥌 pole if you put it up, better than the cornhole and spikeball on ESPN

Reply to  Ragnar
3 years ago

-In front of the home crowd
-USA as the underdog (we love winning as an underdog)
-Against the best swimmer in the world
-Losing the lead mid leg
-Hayes may have been the slowest leg on the relay
-The announcer said at the 135 mark ‘there is absolutely nothing Bruce Hayes can do, he is helpless.’

Reply to  Harambe
3 years ago

By the way, Lezak was moving pretty slow in that race. This took place two days after Worlds ended, so most of these swimmers were beat up, past their taper, and had just traveled halfway across Australia. Lezak had been like a 47.1 two days previous, so he definitely didn’t just jump from a 48.8 to a 46.0 in a year.

3 years ago

52.99 leadoff was under the world record of the time!

3 years ago

Best underwaters in swimming history by Lezak and Monk at the 350m mark.

Reply to  Eugene
3 years ago

Berkoff would have his mind blown by them!

You’re Wrong
Reply to  Seeger33
3 years ago


Reply to  Eugene
3 years ago

Was this 2007 or 1987?

3 years ago

did fina acknowledge that as a record?

Reply to  Swimmer
3 years ago

No, but that was an historical race indeed (first sub-53″, great Libby)

Reply to  Swimmer
3 years ago

why not?

Reply to  swimboi
3 years ago

Because the mixed relay, at that time, wasn’t an official race. And then Fina didn’t ratify the individual performances made in the lead-off of mixed relays; this remains true also nowadays.

Reply to  swimboi
3 years ago

Unfair advantage with drafting and pacing. Pretty relevant for Pelligrini’s recent swims too. I think FINA had decided beforehand that they wouldn’t count it. I remember they were able to clarify that pretty quickly after the race

About Coleman Hodges

Coleman Hodges

Coleman started his journey in the water at age 1, and although he actually has no memory of that, something must have stuck. A Missouri native, he joined the Columbia Swim Club at age 9, where he is still remembered for his stylish dragon swim trunks. After giving up on …

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