The changes in swimming world record times over the past 100 years have been dramatic.
For instance, the record time for the female 100m breast stroke was 1:37 in 1921; In 2013, Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania set the record at 1:04.
There are a few theories as to why record times have decreased so dramatically. First, training has become much more rigorous. Human health has also improved, as well as body size and strength. The rules have also changed, and swimming pools are much more accessible than before.
The United States dominates swimming world records history by a long shot. The U.S. holds 27 records, with China in second place at 8 records.
And while Michael Phelps is usually the first champion to come to mind, and for good reason, there are other superstar swimmers as well.
Here we celebrate the top swimmers in the world based on record-setting swim times.
Cesar Cielo & Aaron Peirsol
2009 was a good year for these two swimmers.
Brazilian Cesar Cielo broke the world record for the 50m and 100m freestyle in 2009 with winning times of 20.91 and 46.91, respectively.
American Aaron Peirsol broke the 100m and 200m backstroke record in 2009 with records at 51.94 and 1:51.92.
Mireia Belmonte Garcia & Katinka Hosszu
Last year, Garcia of Spain broke the world record for the 800m freestyle during the World Cup with a time of 7:59.34.
The next day, she broke the record for the 400m freestyle at 3:54.52. Hungary’s Hosszu broke three records during last month’s World Cup.
Her winning times were 56.86 for the 100m individual medley, 2:02.13 for the 200m individual medley, and 4:20.83 for the 400m individual medley.
Katie Ledecky & Britta Steffen
American Katie Ledecky holds four titles from this summer in freestyle swimming.
Her winning titles are: 1:52.98 for the 200m freestyle, 3:58.37 for the 400m freestyle, 8:11.00 for the 800m freestyle, and 15:28.36 for the 1500m freestyle.
Germany’s Steffen holds two titles for the 50m and 100m freestyle from 2009. Her winning times were 23.73 and 52.07.
Paul Biedermann & Ryan Lochte
Germany’s Paul Biedermann holds the titles for the 200 and 400m freestyle from 2009.
His winning times were 1:42 and 3:40.07. Ryan Lochte holds the record for the 100 and 200m individual medley from 2012.
His winning times were 50.71 and 1:49.63.
Two years prior, he won the title for the 400m individual medley for his winning time of 3:55.50.
By all accounts, Michael Phelps is the best swimmer of all time so naturally he gets his own category. He is the most decorated Olympic champion of all time, with 18 gold medals and 22 medals total.
He holds world records for the 100 and 200m butterfly, 400m individual medley, and 4×100 and 4×200 freestyle and medley relays.
He completely changed the sport and has set the bar to a new high for all swimmers to work towards. He makes it look so easy it makes us wonder… is he even human? It seems a valid question.