Swimming

Will 200 Freestylers Finally Produce Sub-1:45 Swims On A Regular Basis?

In 2009, Paul Biedermann set the men’s 200 freestyle world record during the World Aquatics Championships in Rome. At the height of the super suits, he set a monstrous mark of 1:42.00, which is still the world record in the event as of today, 13 years later.

It was not until 2022 that we saw another swimmer crack the 1:43 barrier, as David Popovici clocked 1:42.97 at the European Aquatics Championships, curiously also in Rome, in the same pool Biederman set the world record back in 2009.

Obviously, Biederman’s global standard is an outlier, as are some other world records set in 2009 — the men’s 800 freestyle and women’s 200 butterfly, for example.

But not only did the men’s 200 freestyle world record remain unthreatened for many years, up until three years ago, but it was also rare to see a swimmer crack the 1:45 barrier.

The first man who swam in the 1:44 territory was Ian Thorpe in 2001. In 2002, his rival Pieter van den Hoogenband also produced a sub-1:45 swim. In 2007, Michael Phelps broke Thorpe’s world record and became the first man sub-1:44. In 2008, Park Tae Hwan became the first Asian swimmer to crack 1:45, placing second to Phelps at the Beijing Olympics.

Until 2009, no more than two swimmers per year managed to produce sub-1:45 swims. In 2009, five swimmers did it. Sure, they were using super suits, but the swimmers kept cracking the 1:45 in the following years: in 2011, after the suits were banned, there were six swimmers in 1:44 territory. In 2012, Yannick Agnel won Olympic gold in 1:43.14, the fastest performance ever in a textile suit at the time. It seemed that 1:44 was going to become a regular occurrence and that 1:43s would be the new top-end norm.

But that was not the case. Between 2014 and 2018, there was only one swimmer who managed to produce sub-1:45 swims: Sun Yang, the Olympic champion in the event in 2016.

In 2019, there were four swimmers in 1:44 territory, none in 2020 (because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of international meets), and eight in 2021, the highest in history.

In 2022, three swimmers have cracked the 1:45 barrier, including Popovici. He has registered four sub-1:45 swims this year, the highest in history in a textile suit – Biedermann set six sub-1:45 swims in 2009.

Popovici has been very fast and consistent, and he is getting closer to the world record, although it might take some time for him to set a new global standard. After all, he is still almost a full second back of Biedermann’s vaunted 2009 record.

Popovici broke the men’s 100 freestyle world record this year after a number of swimmers had gotten very close in the last few years, such as Caeleb Dressel, Kyle Chalmers, Kliment Kolesnikov and Cameron McEvoy. Unfortunately, we have not been seeing the same competition in the 200 freestyle.

The number of swimmers under 1:45 has been increasing, but only Popovici has been able to crack 1:44 — and also 1:43. It would be nice to see other swimmers offering Popovici fierce competition. That would improve the odds of seeing this record finally go down.

Sub-1:45 Performers Per Year Since 2001

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