Freestyle swimming: record by record
Freestyle events will be the most awaited ones at the 17th FINA World Championships as well. Here is a brief summary on the evolving of world records in freestyle by men.
Men’s 50m freestyle
The first world record of one of the shortest and youngest event dates back to 1976. A South-African swimmer, Jonty Skinner swam 23.86 in Philadelphia, while the current record of 20.91 was set by Brazilian swimmer, Cesar Cielo on 18 December 2009 at the Brazilian nationals. This is a remarkable date since FINA banned the use of shark suits the following January, yet the South American swimmer made this incredible performance wearing one.
Men’s 100 m freestyle
The first official world record in the category was set in 1905 related to Hungarian swimmer Zoltán Halmay. The two-time Olympic champion swimmer achieved the leading time of 1:05.80 in a 33m pool in Vienna. Two swimmers breached the highest number of records (4 each). American swimmer Matt Biondi set the new record from 49.24 to 48.42 between 1985 and 1988 while French swimmer Alain Bernard excelled the previous record of 47.60 by achieving 46.94 between 2008 and 2009. It shall be noted that the French swimmer achieved this time wearing a shark suit and so did César Cielo from Brazil when setting the current record of 46.91 on 30 July, 2009 at the World Championships in Rome famous for the abundance of records. Prior to that, the last „normal” record (47.84) was set by Pieter van den Hoogenband in Sydney. Although many anticipated that the special record achieved in shark suit would be broken in Rio in fact it did not happen so. The 47.58 time of Australian winner Kyle Chalmers was in between the first and second records of Alain Bernard. It may happen in Tokyo or Budapest, we shall see.
Men’s 200m freestyle
The earliest world record –set in 200m freestyle- was registered in 1902 at the English Weston-Super-Mare. Australian Freddy Lane won a heat by 2:28.60 but it is no longer renowned. The next record was achieved by Zoltán Halmay from 1908, he set the new world record of 2:26.80 in Budapest. During the years American swimmer Don Schollander breached records multiple times – in fact 11 times- in this course between 1962 and 1968. The sensational 1:42.00 record by German swimmer Biedermann at the World Champs in Rome –wearing a shark suit of course- is still by far the best time. Gold medallist of Rio, Sun Yang from China swam more than 2 seconds slower (1:44.65) than his German peer before.
Men’s 400m freestyle
This course saw the first officially noted record at the 1908 London Olympics related to Henry Taylor (5:36.80). Differently from the previous practise of natural waters at this Olympics swimmers swam in pools. Soviet swimmer Vladimir Salnikov reached the highest number of records (6) between 1979 and 1983. The swimmer nicknamed „Leningrad Express” or „Tsar of the Pool” dominated other freestyle events, as well, since he was the first to swim 1500m within 15 mins and 800m within 8 mins. By his record time (3:40.07) achieved in a shark suit at the Rome World Championships Paul Biedermann is the current record holder.
Men’s 800m freestyle
Although the first record acknowledged officially by FINA dates back to 1908 there is another result noted a bit earlier. In 1906 Henry Taylor did 11:25,40 in Runcorn, England. In the 70s records in 800m were breached by Australian Stephen Holland as many as seven times. Chinese Sun Yang (7:39.96) gold medallist at the previous World Championships in Kazan did not manage to come close to the record (7:32.12) achieved by Chinese Zhang Lin at the 2009 World Championships in Rome.
Men’s 1500m freestyle
The first world record (22:48.40) in the longest course is linked to Henry Taylor achieved at the 1908 London Olympics where this legendary swimmer clinched three gold medals. In the 20s Swedish swimmer Arne Borg beat records one after the other while in the 60s it was American swimmer Michael Burton to set new records multiple times. Both of them set 5 world records each. This is the only men’s swimming event in which the current world record was not set in the shark suit period. The record was achieved by Chinese Sun Yang (14:31.02) at the 2012 London Olympics.