arena Swim of the Week: Lukas Märtens Drops Fastest 400 Free Time In Five Years

Swim of the Week is brought to you by arena, a SwimSwam partner.

Disclaimer: Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The Swim of the Week is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.

Lukas Märtens has been absolutely over the last three weeks.

The German native, who only made his major international long course debut last summer at the Tokyo Olympic Games, has quickly asserted himself as a legitimate multi-gold medal contender at the upcoming World Championships in Budapest, having previously appeared to simply be one of many male distance freestylers in the mix to make a final.

Märtens, 20, first dropped a blistering time of 14:40.28 in the 1500 freestyle at a German meet in late March, immediately putting himself in the conversation with names such as Bobby FinkeMykhailo RomanchukGregorio Paltrinieri and countryman Florian Wellbrock to medal in the mile at Worlds.

But what he did at the recently-concluded Stockholm Open took his World Championships prospects to a different level.

Already ranking as the fastest swimmer in the world this year in the 1500, Märtens reeled off personal best times en route to the #1 position globally in the 200 free (1:45.44), 400 free (3:41.60) and 800 free (7:41.43), setting a new German Record in the latter.

But despite the fact that it wasn’t a National Record, his swim in the 400 free stands above the rest.

Märtens’ time of 3:41.60 hits a level that we haven’t seen for quite some time, since the days of Sun Yang dominating the men’s distance scene on the international stage.

It ranks as the 17th-fastest swim ever, and moves him to #8 on the all-time performers’ list. It’s also the fastest time in five years, with Sun having been 3:41.38 at the 2017 World Championships.

Previously, Märtens held a best time of 3:44.86, set in April 2021 at the German Olympic Trials.

All-Time Performers, Men’s 400 Freestyle (LCM)

Paul Biedermann (GER), 3:40.07 – 2009
Ian Thorpe (AUS), 3:40.08 – 2002
Sun Yang (CHN), 3:40.14 – 2012
Ous Mellouli (TUN), 3:41.11 – 2009
Zhang Lin (CHN), 3:41.35 – 2009
Park Tae Hwan (KOR), 3:41.53 – 2010
Mack Horton (AUS), 3:41.55 – 2016
Lukas Märtens (GER), 3:41.60 – 2022
Grant Hackett (AUS), 3:42.51 – 2001
Elijah Winnington (AUS), 3:42.65 – 2021

Behind that Sun swim and Mack Horton‘s 2016 Olympic gold medal-winning 3:41.55, Märtens’ performance ranks as the third-fastest we’ve seen in nearly a decade.

All-Time Performances, Men’s 400 Freestyle (LCM)

Paul Biedermann (GER), 3:40.07 – 2009
Ian Thorpe (AUS), 3:40.08 – 2002
Sun Yang (CHN), 3:40.14 – 2012
Ian Thorpe (AUS), 3:40.17 – 2001
Sun Yang (CHN), 3:40.29 – 2011
Ian Thorpe (AUS), 3:40.54 – 2002
Ian Thorpe (AUS), 3:40.59 – 2000
Ian Thorpe (AUS), 3:40.76 – 2001
Ous Mellouli (TUN), 3:41.11 – 2009
Ian Thorpe (AUS), 3:41.33 – 2000
Zhang Lin (CHN), 3:41.35 – 2009
Sun Yang (CHN), 3:41.38 – 2017
Sun Yang (CHN), 3:41.48 – 2011
Park Tae Hwan (KOR), 3:41.53 – 2010
Mack Horton (AUS), 3:41.55 – 2016
Sun Yang (CHN), 3:41.59 – 2013
Lukas Märtens (GER), 3:41.60 – 2022
Mack Horton (AUS), 3:41.65 – 2016
Sun Yang (CHN), 3:41.68 – 2016
Ian Thorpe (AUS), 3:41.71 – 2001

We also need to acknowledge that Märtens was 1.76 seconds faster than the time produced by Tunisian Ahmed Hafnaoui (3:43.36) to win the Olympic gold medal in the event last summer. Märtens was 12th in that race, clocking 3:46.30 in the prelims.

Digging into Märtens’ splits also gives the indication he might have even more in the tank.

He was out in 1:50.52 at the 200 and back in a blistering 1:51.08, holding 28-lows over the first half before splitting sub-28s on all four 50s of the back-end.

Märtens’ 400 free splits

We saw him deliver similar splits in the 800, negative-splitting his way to a 7:41.43, and given that he’s shown that he’s got a bit of speed behind him with that 200 performance, taking out the 400 with a bit more aggression could push him towards the 3:40 area, something only done by Paul Biedermann (super-suit), Ian Thorpe and Sun.

Given his rapid rate of improvement and incredible range from the 200 to 1500, there’s no question that Märtens is now one of the most intriguing swimmers to watch this summer. And he may just be scratching the surface.

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