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arena Swim of the Week: Mollie O’Callaghan Rips Fastest 100 Free Back-Half Ever

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.

If you’ve been following the first few days of action at the 2022 Australian Swimming Championships in Oaklands Park, you’re well aware the competition has been a standout one for up-and-coming phenom Mollie O’Callaghan.

The 18-year-old rising star has qualified to swim three individual events at the World Championships in as many days at the meet, which serves as a qualifier for next month’s Worlds in Budapest, but thus far the performance that stands out above the rest came in the women’s 100 freestyle.

Australia had the gold and bronze medalists in the event at last summer’s Olympic Games, but both Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell aren’t competing at this year’s trials, nor is veteran Bronte Campbell. Those absences meant that three out of the four members of the Australia’s gold medal-winning and world record-setting 400 free relay from the Tokyo Games wouldn’t be in the field in Oaklands Park, leaving an opening for the next generation to fill the void.

O’Callaghan did just that and then some, as she started out by becoming the first woman sub-53 in the 100 free this year in the prelims, clocking 52.83 for a new best time.  She had previously been 53.08, done leading off Australia’s 400 free relay in the prelims at the Olympics last summer.

What stood out about that 52.83, beyond the impressive overall time, was O’Callaghan’s closing 50, as she came back in a scorching 26.73 (nearly even-splitting after opening in 26.10).

That briefly stood as the fastest textile back-half of all-time in the women’s 100 free, overtaking Bronte Campbell‘s 26.80 from the 2018 Commonwealth Games. It also ranked third overall, trailing two from Germany’s Britta Steffen at the 2009 World Championships.

In the final, O’Callaghan was faster on both 50s, getting out in 25.92 before coming home in a scorching 26.57, culminating in the victory and a final time of 52.49.

That swim further improved O’Callaghan’s world-leading time, and made her the eighth-fastest performer in history. Runner-up Shayna Jack (52.60) also moved to #2 in the world for the season, and Australia now occupies four of the top-five times globally this season.

2Shayna
JackAUS52.6003/183Meg
HarrisAUS53.0905/183Sarah
SjostromSWE53.0904/125Madi
WilsonAUS53.1605/18View Top 24»

But about that back half.

O’Callaghan’s 26.57 closing split ranks as the fastest in history, overtaking Steffen’s 26.61, which was done when she set the world record at 52.07 in Rome.

All-Time Closing 50s, Women’s 100 Freestyle (LCM)

Data courtesy of Daniel Takata. Follow his Swimming Stats page on Instagram here. 

Athlete
Back-half split
Final time
Event

Mollie O’Callaghan
26.57
52.49
2022 AUS Nationals

Britta Steffen
26.61
52.07
2009 World Championships

Britta Steffen
26.62
52.22
2009 World Championships

Mollie O’Callaghan
26.73
52.83
2022 AUS Nationals

Amanda Weir
26.76
53.02
2009 World Championships

Bronte Campbell
26.80
52.27
2018 Commonwealth Games

Ranomi Kromowidjojo
26.83
52.75
2012 Eindhoven Swim Cup

Sarah Sjostrom
26.84
52.78
2015 World Championships

Sarah Sjostrom
26.86
52.73
2014 Stockholm Open

Sarah Sjostrom
26.88
51.71
2017 World Championships

Emma McKeon
26.88
51.96
2021 Olympics

Sarah Sjostrom
26.92
53.05
2011 NED Open

Simone Manuel
26.92
52.54
2018 USA Nationals

Sarah Sjostrom
26.93
52.93
2014 Stockholm Swim Cup

Penny Oleksiak
26.93
52.72
2016 Olympics

Here’s a look at the top 10 performers in history and how they split their race:

Rank
Swimmer
Final Time
Opening 50
Closing 50
Meet

1
Sarah Sjostrom (SWE)
51.71
24.83
26.88

2
Emma McKeon (AUS)
51.96
25.08
26.88

3
Cate Campbell (AUS)
52.03
25.09
26.94

2018 Pan Pacific Championships

4
Simone Manuel (USA)
52.04
24.81
27.23

5
Britta Steffen (GER)
52.07
25.46
26.61

T-6
Bronte Campbell (AUS)
52.27
25.47
26.80

T-6
Siobhan Haughey (HKG)
52.27
25.1
27.17

8
Mollie O’Callaghan (AUS)
52.49
25.92
26.57

2022 Australian Championships

T-9
Mallory Comerford (USA)
52.59
25.51
27.08

T-9
Penny Oleksiak (CAN)
52.59
25.42
27.17

O’Callaghan’s closing ability was on full display once again on Friday in the final of the women’s 200 free, as she came home faster than winner Ariarne Titmus to place second in a personal best time of 1:54.94.

Titmus swam the third-fastest time in history in 1:53.31, closing in 28.79, while O’Callaghan’s final 50 split was 28.54. This resulted in O’Callaghan placing second by over nine-tenths of a second after turning sixth at the 100m wall and fourth at the final turn.

Less than an hour later, O’Callaghan was back in the water taking on another Olympic champion, Kaylee McKeown, as she split 29.14/29.98 to place second to McKeown (58.49) in the 100 back (59.12).

Next month in Budapest it’s no secret that O’Callaghan will be a force to be reckoned with. And if we’ve learned anything from the way she swims her races, no one lead is safe.

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