World Record Alert: Which Standards Could Fall in Fukuoka?
Expect to see history made in Fukuoka, Japan, at the World Championships, with numerous world records under serious threat. At last year’s Worlds in Budapest, Thomas Ceccon smashed Ryan Murphy’s world record in the men’s 100 backstroke while Kristof Milak beat his own mark in a crowd-thrilling performance the 200 butterfly. Who will be up to the task this time?
We will consider five world records in jeopardy beginning next Sunday, but this analysis will not include records already broken since the start of 2022. Both Ariarne Titmus and Summer McIntosh have set the women’s 400 freestyle world record during that time, and it’s no secret both will be gunning for the first-ever 3:55 performance in Fukuoka. Other recent record setters expected to compete include Ceccon in the 100 back, McIntosh in the 400 IM, Zac Stubblety-Cook in the men’s 200 breaststroke, David Popovici in the men’s 100 free and Kaylee McKeown in the women’s 200 back.
Instead, we are considering some longer-standing marks that could be in their final days, including the longest-lasting record in swimming today.
Men’s 400 IM
On day one of the World Championships, Leon Marchand will try to knock off Michael Phelps’ world record in the 400 IM, the 4:03.84 he set at the start of his legendary eight-gold-medal performance at the 2008 Olympics. Marchand was superb in the event at last year’s Worlds, becoming the second-fastest man in history and swimmingc a time of 4:04.28 after going under record pace at the last two turns. His freestyle doesn’t quite match up to Phelps, but he has an elite breaststroke that surpasses any 400 IMer in history.
And Marchand’s performances over the last year, including his monster effort at the NCAA Championships, have all obliterated his times from similar meets in 2022. So it’s a good bet he surpasses the mark Phelps set 15 years ago.
Women’s 100 Butterfly
The second, third, fourth and fifth-fastest women ever will race in Fukuoka after less than two tenths separated all four in the Olympic final. Canadiam Olympic gold medalist Maggie Mac Neil ranks second all-time in the 100 fly at 55.59, just ahead of China’s Zhang Yufei (55.62), American world champ Torri Huske (55.64) and Australia’s Emma McKeon (55.72). The world record of 55.48 that Sarah Sjostrom set at the 2016 Olympics is not far off for these women, so this mark is certainly achievable when they face off in an anticipated showdown.
Men’s 200 Freestyle
The suit-aided world record of 1:42.00 set by Germany’s Paul Biedermann at the 2009 World Championships was far out of reach for years, with no one breaking 1:44 for almost a decade. Not anymore, not after Popovici dominated the event at the World Championships, winning with a time of 1:43.21, before following up his 100 free world record at the European Championships with a 1:42.97. He became only the third man after Biedermann and Phelps to break 1:43 in the event and the the fastest ever in a textile suit. Popovici is already an established star, but he’s only 18, which suggests continued improvement. So if he can’t quite close the gap on Biedermann’s record in Fukuoka, he will have another opportunity next year in Paris.
Women’s 100 Backstroke
McKeown and Regan Smith have been nipping at this record ever since McKeown broke Smith’s previous record at the 2021 Australian Trials. So far this year, McKeown has a season-best time of 57.50, and Smith is just behind at 57.71. Their forthcoming showdowns in Fukuoka are some of the meet’s most hotly-anticipated, with McKeown’s new 200 back record and her older mark in the two-lap race both under serious pressure.
Men’s 1500 Freestyle
Sun Yang’s mile world record of 14:31.02 has lasted since 2012, and it has not come under threat often during that span. But at last year’s World Championships, Gregorio Paltrinieri rebounded from barely qualifying for the final to win the race in dominant fashion while swimming under world-record pace until the final lap. That brought the record back into play, and then both Florian Wellbrock and Dan Wiffen swam 14:34s earlier this year to move to fourth and fifth all-time, respectively. The men ranked No. 6 and No. 7 in history, Mykhailo Romanchuk and Bobby Finke, will also be in the field, and Finke in particular has excelled at swimming up to the level of the field. So amid one of the most anticipated 1500 races in years, we must keep an eye on the world record.
Women’s 800 Freestyle
Yes, Katie Ledecky could come close to one of her distance records that has not been touched in seven years. She swam the time of 8:04.79 in her final race of the 2016 Olympics, and her mark of 8:07.07 from U.S. Nationals last month was her fastest time since. That leaves still almost two-and-a-half seconds to make up, and Ledecky will not be seriously pushed in the event, but her recent form and continued pursuit of her excellence makes the world record a slight possibility.
Men’s 800 Freestyle Relay
Both men’s freestyle relay world records have survived since the supersuit era, and the 400 free relay mark might last a bit longer, but full-strength British and American rosters facing off in Fukuoka could beat the 800 free record set by the U.S. in 2009, a team that included both Phelps and Ryan Lochte. For the Americans, the projected lineup includes Luke Hobson joining with Kieran Smith, Drew Kibler and Carson Foster off last year’s World Championships team, and Britain returns its entire Olympic roster of Matt Richards, Tom Dean, James Guy and Duncan Scott after the group finished only three hundredths off the record in winning gold in Tokyo.