Without Butterfly, The 400 IM Is Michael Phelps’ Last Individual World Record


When Caeleb Dressel broke Michael Phelps‘ World Record in the semifinals of the 100 butterfly at the 2019 FINA World Championships, the Phelps era of swimming turned towards its proverbial final lap.

Two days before Dressel broke the 100 butterfly record, Hungarian Kristof Milak broke Phelps’ seemingly untouchable 200 butterfly World Record from 2009, registering a 1:50.73 to win by over three seconds–a margin also consistent with Phelps when racing the 200 fly.

Without butterfly, Michael Phelps‘ last remaining World Record is the 400 IM, set at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in 4:03.84. Phelps’ protege and former training partner Chase Kalisz seemingly inherited the mantle as King of the IMs, though he was upset by Japan’s Daiya Seto in the final of the 200 IM in Gwangju. What each man is capable of in the 400 IM this year remains to be seen, but it’s unlikely either will get close to Phelps’ mark from 2008. In fact, the closest anyone has gotten to Phelps’ time since 2008 was Ryan Lochte at the 2012 London Olympic Games when he won gold in 4:05.18.

Though Lochte fell short of breaking the World Record in the 400 IM, he has twice lowered the mark in the 200 IM. First, at the 2009 World Championships in a field without Phelps, Lochte turned in a time of 1:54.10 to surpass Phelps’ 1:54.23 from Beijing. At the 2011 World Championship, Lochte put up a 1:54.00, beating Phelps head-to-head and lowering the record again.

In addition to being an incredible individual performer, Phelps was a prominent member of American relays throughout his career, without which he would never have achieved the incredible 8 gold medal haul of the Beijing Olympics. With the aid of dozens of teammates over the years, Phelps helped to lower the World Records in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay, 4 x 100 medley relay, and 4 x 200 freestyle relay.

At the height of his career in 2009, before the World Championships began in Rome, Phelps owned 5 Individual LCM World Records:

  • 200 Freestyle – 1:42.96 (2008 Beijing Olympics)
  • 100 Butterfly – 50.22 (2009 U.S. National Championships)
  • 200 Butterfly – 1:52.03 (2008 Beijing Olympics)
  • 200 IM – 1:54.23 (2008 Beijing Olympics)
  • 400 IM – 4:03.84 (2008 Beijing Olympics)

Four of the five World Records Phelps held prior the 2009 World Championships were broken in Rome, though two of them were broken by Phelps himself–the 100 and 200 butterflys. It is worth noting that Serbia’s Milorad Cavic owned the World Record in the 100 butterfly for one day, achieving a 50.01 in the semifinals, though Phelps took it back in the finals, winning in the 49.82 that was just bested by Caeleb Dressel. At this time Phelps was also member of three relay World Records, giving him a total of 8 World Records, each of which accompanied a medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, save the 100 butterfly.

The other two records Phelps lost in Rome he never got back. One of those, the 200 freestyle, which was set by Germany’s Paul Biedermann at 1:42.00 still stands to this day. The 200 IM, meanwhile, was broken by Ryan Lochte, and then lowered by Lochte again in 2011 to the record of today.

Phelps still owns the American Record in the 200 fly at 1:51.51, set at the 2009 World Championships, as well as the American Record in the 200 freestyle at 1:42.96, set at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Phelps also retains a handful of National Age Group (NAG) Records, though with the emergence of teen phenoms Luca Urlando and Carson Foster, who specialize in butterfly and IM, respectively, Phelps’ name shows up less and less on the record books.

Individual Records Remaining:

World Records:

  • 400 IM, 2008 Beijing Olympic Games – 4:03.84

American Records:

  • 200 Butterfly, 2009 World Championships – 1:51.51
  • 200 Freestyle, 2008 Beijing Olympics – 1:42.96

National Age Group (NAG) Records:


  • 200 LCM Butterfly – 1:59.02 (2000)
  • 400 LCM IM – 4:24.77 (2000)


  • 200 LCM Butterfly – 1:54.58 (2001)
  • 400 SCY IM – 3:42.08 (2002)


  • 200 LCM Freestyle, 2003 Summer National Championships – 1:45.99
  • 100 LCM Butterfly, 2003 World Championships – 51.10
  • 200 LCM IM, 2003 World Championships – 1:55.94
  • 400 LCM IM, 2003 World Championships – 4:09.09
  • 500 SCY Freestyle – 4:12.33 (2004)

Relay Records Remaining:

World & American Records:

  • Men’s 4 x 100 LCM Freestyle Relay, 2008 Beijing Olympics – 3:08.24
    • Michael Phelps (47.51), Garrett Weber-Gale (47.02), Cullen Jones (47.65), Jason Lezak (46.06)
  • Men’s 4 x 200 LCM Freestyle Relay, 2009 World Championships – 6:58.55
  • Men’s 4 x 100 LCM Medley Relay, 2009 World Championships – 3:27.28
    • Aaron Piersol (52.19), Eric Shanteau (58.57), Michael Phelps (49.72), David Walters (46.80)

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Lil Prometheus Fluff
3 years ago

I hope Seto breaks it. There’s enough time for phelps to make the Olympics

3 years ago

It might be nice if you would tell us what IM is.

Reply to  Tom
3 years ago

Lol what

Reply to  Tom
3 years ago

IM is short for International Meters

Daniel Carr
3 years ago

Whether his records stand or not, nobody in our lifetimes will achieve what Phelps did in Beijing, 8 golds and all the World records, people in the sport will still be talking about him in 50 years time, like Spitz the legend will live on, times are there to be beaten, personally I think Phelps could have gone quicker in individual races had he concentrated on fewer event but he wanted to do better and win them all, he didn’t just want to be a temporary record holder he wanted to be remembered for being the greatest swimmer of all time…

3 years ago

Aaron Piersol (52.19), Eric Shanteau (58.57), Michael Phelps (49.72), David Walters (46.80)

Murphy for the 52.19 (been 51.84 at Rio and 52.1 last year)
Wilson close to the 58.57 split (or perhaps Cody next year)
Dressel has gone 49.3 split this week
ZApple went 46.8 at World University Games….

Wheel Snipe Seli
Reply to  Really
3 years ago

Totally. Imagine too a Dressel 46.9, Apple 46.8, Farris 47.0, Adrian 47.0 free relay for a 3:07. These relay WR’s are in theory so doable, but require all four people to be completely on at the perfect moment.

3 years ago

Records are made to be broken, though shame Thorpe’s 400 free should still be standing. However, Michael Phelps as the GOAT is disputable, despite his WRs going. He was Cate Campbell & Simone Manual all in one, he was a great at setting best times, but even in his ‘weaker’ events he was the best clutch swimmer, able to swim among the fastest 100 frees (splits or otherwise) in the world in relays, while still competitive in the more grueling events like the 400IM & 200 fly, sorry, not competitive, winning in the same meet.
His range was enormous, you think Dressel in the 100 fly (just all out speed) to to the more endurance base swims of the… Read more »

Reply to  Robbos
3 years ago

Sorry, that was meant to say Michael Phelps as the GOAT is Undisputable.

3 years ago

The one thing that will always remain is his legacy. He left a last impression to the world that will be passed down for generations. One day phelps will be completely erased from the books, but that doesn’t mean his feats of accomplishment will ever be lessened. I don’t think we will ever see someone hold the world record in both IMs, both flys, and the 2 free in my lifetime again

Oh my
3 years ago

One more thing and this is no disrespect to any swimmer. Being able to be a player in the 400 IM and 200 fly is the pure mark of a champion. Toughest events in swimming. Period. 50 and 100 freestylers come and go even 100 flyers. But those two events are the hallmarks I’d a tough champion.

Rick Henderson
Reply to  Oh my
3 years ago

In the 1960’s and early 1970’s, there was no 50 free internationally. Mark Spitz was the mega talent of swimming. There were lots of conversations about him being capable of winning any Olympic events other than the breaststroke events.

Reply to  Oh my
3 years ago

Honestly it’s 400IM and any 200 stroke or 400free. Those five events are insanely grueling

Ol' Longhorn
3 years ago

Dressel swam a 400 SCY IM this year, so apparently, it’s only a matter of time until he gets this record, too. Or so I’ve heard.

Ol’ Longhorn 2
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
3 years ago

I’ve heard the same thing. Fanboys would claim he’s going to get the record even if he went a 4:20 in yards.

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six.  At age 14 he began swimming club year-round and later with his high school team, making state all four years.  He was fortunate enough to draw the attention of Kalamazoo College where he went on to …

Read More »