Why Michael Phelps’ 50.45 Fly at 2015 Nationals Was A Big Deal

On April 24th, 2014, Michael Phelps officially made his competitive swimming comeback, marking his pursuit towards the 2016 Olympics. However, on September 30th of that same year, Phelps was arrested with a DUI charge that resulted in ‘a mutual agreement’ that he would not be on the 2015 Worlds Championships team. While Phelps could not compete at the World Championships in 2015, he was still eligible to compete at the 2015 U.S. Nationals. Phelps pushed forward with his training, but needed to prove to himself that he was ready for Rio.

Coincidental Dates

While Phelps also had the 200 fly and 200 IM in his focus, themen’s 100 fly finals at both the U.S. Nationals and World Championships were scheduled on the same date, August 8th, 2015. Phelps was now in an optimal position to redeem himself of losing his Worlds spot, paving a new goal for himself in 2015: to become the unofficial 100 fly World champion with the top time in the world. However, this would be a more difficult goal to achieve than what one would think.

One hour before the start of the men’s 100 fly preliminaries at U.S. Nationals, South African Chad le Clos won the men’s 100 fly World title at 50.56. In order for Phelps to become the unofficial World champion in the 100 fly, he would have to beat le Clos’ 50.56. Phelps’ last swim under 51 seconds was at the 2012 Olympics, where he swam 50.86 in semi-finals before clinching the Olympic title in 51.21.

Roughly an hour later, Phelps won the last heat of the men’s 100 fly prelims at the U.S. Nationals with a 52.12, qualifying 2nd into the A-final. While the World final was 24 hours after semi-finals, Phelps only had roughly 9 hours between prelims and finals at nationals. On top of the smaller recovery, Phelps would have to pace his own race to hit 50.55 or faster since no other American in the 2015 national final had swum under 51 seconds.

Racing Against the Clock

When watching the 2015 World final, the last 30 meters was a shear dog-fight towards the wall. Luckily, Phelps’ back-half speed is his racing specialty. About 10 hours after the World final, Phelps dove in to the national 100 fly final. He opened his race in a 24.10, marking Phelps’ 6th-fastest opening 50 from any major international final. After surging to the lead off the wall, the rest of the race would have to be up to Phelps racing against the clock.

At the finish, Phelps clocked in a 50.45, officially marking the fastest male 100 fly time in 2015. When Phelps closed his race, he split 26.35, which marked his fastest closing 50 stacked against his other closing 50s at a major international 100 fly final. His 2015 national title time became his 3rd-fastest performance ever and fastest textile swim.

Fastest Closing 50s: Major International 100 Fly Finals

Rank Final 1st 50 2nd 50 Time
1 2015 U.S. Nationals 24.10 26.35 50.45
2 2009 Worlds 23.36 26.46 49.82
3 2003 Worlds 24.61 26.49 51.10
4 2008 Olympics 24.04 26.54 50.58
5 2014 Pan Pacs 24.62 26.67 51.29
6 2011 Worlds 23.94 26.77 50.71
7 2007 Worlds 23.99 26.78 50.77


Best 100 Fly Times All-Time

Best 100 Fly Times Since 2010*

Rank Time Meet Rank Time Meet
1 49.82 2009 World Champs 1 50.45 2015 U.S. Nationals
2 50.22 2009 U.S. Nationals 2 50.65 2010 U.S. Nationals
3 50.45 2015 U.S. Nationals 3 50.71 2011 World Champs
4 50.48 2009 Quebec Cup 4 50.86 2010 Pan Pacs
4 50.48 2009 World Champs 4 50.86 2012 Olympics

*not including swims after 8/5/16

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Overall, his meet at 2015 Nationals was in my honest opinion his best meet out of retirement. While it didn’t have the glory of the Rio games, he really showed here why he was the GOAT and he’ll prove it as long as he has a lane.


It feels heretical to say it but 08 was my 3rd favorite Phelps 100 fly. He really wasn’t that suited to the 100, but the sheer force of will to beat Le Clos from across the planet or to throw that ridiculous 49 down after Cavic was ready and primed to slay the giant (22.69 to the 50 😱) shows the intensity that the man was able to find. And to beat Le Clos time from across the planet after going out above 24 was ridiculous.

1) suit wars 100 fly 09
2) 2015 “so le close yet so le far”
3) the touch 08


2015 was one of his greatest meets period. After Melbourne and Beijing I might even put it #3


I’d have to put Athens before San Antonio. Thing to remember about San Antonio for him is that there were no semis or relays, so much easier from an energy management perspective. I will say though that while it might not be in my top 3 “greatest” meets, but it’s certainly in the top 3 of my favorite Phelps performances


I’ll never forget Phelps’ incredible 2003 and his Barcelona Worlds. Some data: 5 WRs broken (3 in semifinals) and he was great (huge PB) also when he was second in the 100 fly final (historical final in many ways for the progression of times). He stunned Hackett in the lead-off of the 4×200 free relay (NR for Phelps) and in the 200 IM final the second, Ian Thorpe, finished behind him with the widest gap in history (3 seconds and 62 hundredths). In those Worlds, watching Phelps competing (and often surpassing), every time he dipped in the water the WR virtual line, I became a 100% swimming fan. And, after those never seen before Worlds (4 golds and 2 silver… Read more »


Honestly the 2015 Nationals meet he had was probably the best he swam since 2007-2008. The 2015 100 fly was faster than what he went in the 100 fly in Beijing, London, and Rio; he was right on the 2 IM WR through the 150 (final time was just a tenth off what he went to win in Rio); and the 200 fly was one of the few times he went 1:52 in a textile suit. I’d still say the 2007 Worlds was his best meet, then probably Beijing, but San Antonio was something special for him, especially given the circumstances, his newfound place in life, and the timing.

Let’s not forget that amazing 200 breast, either!

Irish Ringer

I remember how exciting that swim was in the sense that Phelps was coming back from the suspension focused and in shape. The timing of the WC and LeClos dropping a good time hours before. There was a lot of “King Chad” commentary in the Swim Swam comments and of course a large number of Phelps supporters as well. LeClos father was also critical about how what happens at US Nats doesn’t matter, the real racing was happening at the WC. They gave Phelps plenty of motivational material and he showed why he’s the GOAT. Of course the lesson wasn’t learned by “King Chad” and the following year he came out with his boxing antics in the ready room, but… Read more »

Justin Thompson's

Yeah, never understood crowning one as a King after a single gold medal. Sure it’s a tremendous feat, but King should be reserved for the best of the best, someone with multiple individual golds.

In most monarchies, the new King is one of three people: whomever married the queen (sometimes), whomever is the son of the king (often), or whomever killed the old King.

Le Clos fits one of those categories.


Bert le Clos is a king, no doubt about that.

Daniel Smith

And, remember your Machiavelli, never wound a king.


Must have been an immortal King he tried killing because he got that crown back 4 years later 🙂

M d e

Chad was robbed of the 200 free in Rio by a cheat, so he should atleast have 2.


To be fair to Le Clos, he also won 2 golds at the 2013 WCs and was FINA’s Male Swimmer of the Year in 2014, so he wasn’t exactly a one hit wonder.


A worthy opponent.


If he trained for it, he really could have contended for medals in the 200 breast at one point or another in his career… especially given how even the whole international field had been during his career.


I loved how he swam the 200 breast at this meet as well. Idk, something about the GOAT coming out of retirement and swimming an off event for a little fun at the age of 30/31/32… I forget how old he was.


He also tied Reece Whitley in the 200 breast at that meet

Ol' Longhorn

He also broke the NBAC record for it, held by Scott Spann. That was fun.


2:11 as well, nothing to be sniffed at. It’s a borderline semi-final time at Worlds/Olympics.

About Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro has had a huge passion for swimming since his first dive in the pool, instantly becoming drawn to the sport. He was a breaststroker and IMer when competing, but still uses the sport as his go-to cardio. SwimSwam has become an outlet for him to continue showing his …

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