The 23rd of July 2023, one of the greatest days in the recent history of swimming, saw the oldest and 2nd newest world record on the books be wiped away. France’s Leon Marchand cruised by the 5460 days old record set by Michael Phelps in the men’s 400 IM, and Australia’s Ariarne Titmus took out the 117-day-old record of Summer McIntosh in the women’s 400 free.
Marchand’s time of 4:02.50 easily surpassed the 4:03.84 posted by Phelps back at the 2008 Olympic Games. A record that granted Phelps the accolade of holding a long course record for the longest time ever. He first broke the 400 IM record in 2002 and rebroke it a further seven times over the 21-year stretch he held it.
Titmus, one of many in a long line of Australian freestyle stars, took McIntosh’s 400 free record from 3:56.08 to 3:55.38 in a stunning performance. McIntosh held the record from her swim at the 2023 Canadian Trials, a meet that also saw her break the 400 IM record.
With Phelps’s name erased from the record board in the 400 IM, one must begin the search for the next oldest record that is waiting to be broken.
The now oldest LCM record on the books is not only a male swimming record but also held by a familiar name.
To be fair, he doesn’t hold it alone. One day after his 400 IM, the team of Phelps, Garrett Weber-Gale, Cullen Jones, and Jason Lezak came together to set a new benchmark in the 4×100 free relay. Their time of 3:08.24 shattered the previous record of 3:12.23, which coincidentally was set the night before, in the prelims, by Nathan Adrian, Cullen Jones, Ben Wildman-Tobriner, and Matt Grevers.
In the post-super suit era, only the American squad of Caeleb Dressel, Blake Pieroni, Bowe Becker, and Zach Apple have broken the 3:09 barrier; they swam 3:08.97 to win the gold at the Tokyo Olympics.
While relay teams have come close, it would take all four members to be firing on all cylinders to surpass this record, especially seeing as Lezak anchored in 46.06. Only Great Britain’s Duncan Scott and Australia’s Kyle Chalmers have been within half a second. Scott swam 46.14 in 2019, and Chalmers swam 46.44 in 2021.
Looking at individual events, the oldest on the books currently is the men’s 400 freestyle, a record that dates back to the 2009 World Championships. It is one of five still on the books from that meet but was set the earliest in the program (the other records are the 200 free, 800 free, 200 back, and 4×200 free relay).
Germany’s Paul Biedermann swam 3:40.07 to take the record away from Ian Thorpe, who had held it from 2002 on. While the record has been thought of as nearly unassailable, this year’s Worlds saw two swimmers get within a second of that time. Sam Short and Ahmed Hafnaoui swam 3:40.68 and 3:40.70, the two closest times since Sun Yang swam 3:40.14 over a decade ago at the 2012 London Olympics.
Men’s Oldest LCM Records
|August 11th, 2008||4×100 Free Relay||Phelps, Weber-Gale, Jones, Lezak (USA)||3:08.24|
|July 26th, 2009||400 Free||Paul Biedermann (GER)||3:40.07|
|July 28th, 2009||200 Free||Paul Biedermann (GER)||1:42.00|
A few days after Titmus broke one of the newest world records on the book in the 400 free, her compatriot, Mollie O’Callaghan, took out the oldest women’s record on the books: Federica Pellegrini’s 200 free. Like Biederman’s, Pellegrini’s 1:52.98 was set at the 2009 World Championships in a supersuit.
Before 2023, only four swimmers had been within a second of Pellegrini’s time: Titmus in 2021 (1:53.09), Allison Schmitt in 2012 (1:53.61), Katie Ledecky in 2016 (1:53.73), Siobhan Haughey in 2021 (1:53.92).
However, this year saw O’Callaghan and McIntosh join the party, with the Aussie taking the gold and world record in a time of 1:52.85, making her only the second female to swim under the 1:53 barrier.
With the 200 free record gone, the women’s record board only contains one record left from the super-suit era, a testament to the depth and talent that has emerged in women’s swimming led by the aforementioned Titmus, O’Callaghan, Ledecky, McIntosh, as well as Sarah Sjostrom, Kaylee McKeown, Katinka Hosszu (by no means an exclusive list).
That one record is the 200 fly record held by China’s Liu Zige. Unlike the 200 free, this record was set at the Chinese National Games held in October of 2009. The record had been set by Mary Descenza in the heats of the 2009 World Champs and then broken a day later by Jessicah Schipper to rest at 2:03.41. Liu placed 2nd in the final with a time of 2:03.90 but took the event to a whole new level when she swam 2:01.81.
Since 2009 no swimmer has been within a second of that time; in fact, no swimmer has been within two seconds. The closest was Zhang Yufei, who swam 2:03.86 to win the gold at the Tokyo Olympics. Regan Smith is the only other swimmer to have swum sub 2:04 when she set the American record of 2:03.87 in June of this year.
Women’s Oldest LCM Records
|October 21st, 2009||200 Fly||Liu Zige (CHN)||2:01.81|
|July 5th, 2014||50 Fly||Sarah Sjostrom (SWE)||24.43|
|August 3rd, 2015||200 IM||Katinka Hosszu (HUN)||2:06.12|