(Last Saturday, June 17, Tom Malchow broke the world record in the 200 meter butterfly at the Charlotte UltraSwim meet in Charlotte, NC, clocking 1:55.18. His time broke the record of 1:55.22 set five years ago by Russia’s Denis Pankratov. Swiminfo chatted with Tom recently about his record-breaking performance.) -Phil Whitten
SWIMINFO: Tom, Congratulations on your spectacular swim.
TOM MALCHOW: Thanks, Phil. It was a very emotional experience for me.
SWIMINFO: Were you expecting to challenge the world record in Charlotte?
MALCHOW: I don’t really know what I was expecting. A few weeks ago I went a 1:55.68 in Ann Arbor and there were several things I knew I could improve on. So, yeah, I knew I’d be in the ballpark, but breaking a world record takes a lot of focus and I didn’t know if I would be that focused in Charlotte.
SWIMINFO: So what happened?
MALCHOW: I don’t really know. I just had a great swim where everything fell into place at the right time. Was I fixin’ to break the record? No, not specifically. But in the back of my mind I knew it was a possibility.
SWIMINFO: As you were swimming, were you aware you were on record pace?
MALCHOW: Yes, from the crowd’s reaction—they were great! That was definitely a big factor. I could hear them at the 100 and when I turned at the 150 they were going crazy. So I figured I must be on pace and I told myself I just had to hold on for one more 50 (meters).
Later I found out I was on pace for a 1:54-high at the 150, so I died a little the last 30 meters. I started to shorten up.
SWIMINFO: Were you rested or tapered for Charlotte?
MALCHOW: No, not at all. The only thing we did differently is that we only worked out for 75 minutes on Thursday morning before we left for Charlotte, rather than the two hours we usually do.
SWIMINFO: Were you wearing a body suit?
MALCHOW: Yes, the Speedo Fastskin.
SWIMINFO: How much difference do you feel it made?
MALCHOW: It’s hard to give you an exact percentage, but I think it probably helped me.
SWIMINFO: More than shaving?
MALCHOW: That’s hard to say. I like the way it feels; it helps me ride higher in the water. Every swim I’ve done in the suit has been a good one, so I feel confident and comfortable. That might be a big part of it: I think it’ll work, so it works.
SWIMINFO: Do you wear the full body suit or the sleeveless version?
MALCHOW: Sleeveless. I think you need some flesh in contact with the water. I like to feel my hands and arms touching the water. Also, I don’t like the constriction around my shoulders in the full-body version.
SWIMINFO: After swimming your 1:55.18, have you reset your goals?
MALCHOW: Yes. Jon (coach Jon Urbanchek) thinks I can go a 1:53. I hope he means a 1:53-high…1:53.8 or 9…or a 1:54-low. I think those are realistic times. After I taper and shave I think it’s reasonable to pick up a second or a bit more. Normally when I shave and taper that’s good for three or four seconds. But if I can go a 1:54-low to 1:53-high I’ll be very satisfied.
SWIMINFO: Switching gears for a moment here, have you thought about swimming the 200 free at Trials?
MALCHOW: That’s a little tempting, with six spots available as opposed to two in the 200 fly. But with the overlap in the two events, it’s a lot to concentrate on. If I made the relay, I’d have to swim three 200 flys plus two swims in the 200 free—that’s five high-intensity 200s in two days. I think a better strategy for me is to focus just on the 200 fly.
SWIMINFO: What about the 100 fly? You’ve never been known as a sprinter, but you swam a 54.0 unrested at Charlotte.
MALCHOW: Yeah, I’m going to swim it. I’m definitely not the favorite, but I think I’m in the ballpark. I’d have to say Dod (Wales), (Bryan) Jones, (Bill) Hargis, (Brock) Newman and (Nate) Dusing would all have to be picked ahead of me. They’re all drop-dead sprinters, so they have to be favored.
I haven’t swum a 100 fly rested, so we’ll have to see what happens when I taper and shave. I think I’m capable of a 53-low and maybe a 52-high if all goes well.
SWIMINFO: Why do you think you’re getting faster in your "old age"?
MALCHOW: I don’t really know. It could be experience and the fact that I’ve had the opportunity to focus on swimming and not be distracted by school. That’s meant more sleep and I’m eating better. I’ve also toned down some of the aspects of college life.
This is my opportunity—my moment. I’ve made every sacrifice possible for the Olympics, and I hope it will all pay off. I probably won’t be competing in 2004, so this is it for me. If I don’t succeed, it’ll be my own fault.
SWIMINFO: So you plan to retire before 2004?
MALCHOW: Probably. If I swim well in Sydney, I’d like to continue at least through the World Championships in 2001. After that, we’ll see.
SWIMINFO: How do you size up your competition for Sydney?
MALCHOW: It’s a little scary right now. If you compare where we are today with 1996, we’re miles ahead. There probably are six or seven people now who can swim faster than Pankratov when he won in Atlanta.
A few days after I did my 1:55.68 in Ann Arbor, (France’s Franck) Esposito did a 1:55.61 in Rome, and he commented through SWIMINFO that I had my work cut out for me and not to expect a cakewalk, not to picture myself with a medal around my neck.
If I’m fortunate enough to swim the 200 fly in Sydney, aside from Esposito, there is (Denis) Silantiev from Ukraine, Yamamoto from Japan, the two British guys (Steve Parry and James Hickman) and the two Russians. Even though Pankratov isn’t swimming all that well, you can’t dismiss a guy who went 1:55.22. Then there are some Americans who are no slouches either.
SWIMINFO: Finally, Tom, how do you feel about the decision by USA Swimming yesterday to ban the body suits from U.S. Olympic Trials?
MALCHOW: I was a little ticked at first—I like the suit and find it comfortable. But they talked about fairness, and I guess they have a point. Right now, some people can’t get the suit and lots of people have a problem of getting one that firs perfectly. So I guess the decision is a good one.
From a personal standpoint, I’m thinking that if I can put in a good swim at Trials without the suit, having it at the Olympics will be a bonus. I’ll go to Sydney knowing I can swim faster.
SWIMINFO: Tom, thanks a lot for spending this time with us. And good luck at Trials.
MALCHOW: Thanks, Phil. It was my pleasure.