Comparison of Men’s LCM World Records from 1980 to Today

Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

By Jacob Riley, Swimming World College Intern.

Swimming has come a long way since the 1980s. Swimmers have gone from having full mustaches and not wearing goggles, to not having a single hair on the body and having fancy goggles that streamline the water. Everything has changed since the 1980s: strokes, rules, regulations, and just a general way of doing things.

Here is a quick look at the difference in the men’s LCM world record comparison from 1980 to today.

50 Free– 1980: 22.71 by USA’s Joe Bottom.

2017: 20.91 by Brazil’s César Cielo.

100 Free– 1980: 49.36 by USA’s Rowdy Gaines.

2017: 46.91 by Brazil’s César Cielo.

200 Free– 1980: 1:49.16 by USA’s Rowdy Gaines.

2017: 1:42.00 by Germany’s Paul Biedermann.

400 Free– 1980: 3:50.49 by Canada’s Peter Szmidt.

2017: 3:40.07 by Germany’s Paul Biedermann

800 Free– 1980: 7:56.49 by USSR’s Vladimir Salnikov.

2017: 7:32.12 by China’s Zhang Lin.

1500 Free– 1980: 14:58.27 by USSR’s Vladimir Salnikov.

2017: 14.31.02 by China’s Sun Yang.

100 Back– 1980: 55.49 by USA’s John Naber.

2017: 51.85 by USA’s Ryan Murphy.

200 Back– 1980: 1:59.19 by USA’s John Naber.

2017: 1:51.92 by USA’s Aaron Piersol.

100 Breast– 1980: 1:02.62 by Germany’s Gerald Mörken.

2017: 57.13 by UK’s Adam Peaty.

200 Breast– 1980: 2:15.11 by UK’s David Wilkie.

2017: 2:06.67 by Japan’s Ippei Watanabe.

100 Fly–  1980: 54.15 by Sweden’s Pär Arvidsson.

2017: 49.82 by USA’s Michael Phelps.

200 Fly– 1980: 1:58.21 by USA’s Craig Beardsley.

2017: 1:51.51 by USA’s Michael Phelps.

200 I.M.– 1980: 2:03.01 by South Africa’s Jeremy Reingold.

2017: 1:54.00 by USA’s Ryan Lochte.

400 I.M.– 4:20.05 by USA’s Jesse Vassallo.

2017: 4:03.84 by USA’s Michael Phelps.

Now let’s take a look at what has changed in the past 36 years:

The 50 free record has dropped significantly to under 21 seconds, and this second and a half drop shows how far the technology surrounding swimming has come.

The 100 free has dropped a whole two and a half seconds, and I believe the 46.9 will stand for the next ten years. The 200 free has dropped a whole seven seconds, which is quite insane when you think about it, compared to the 10 second drop for the 400.

The 800 free has been lowered a whole twenty-four seconds, which also shows that the 400 hasn’t dropped quite as far as the other swims. To finish out the freestyles, the 1500 has only gotten 27 seconds faster in the same time frame. This shows just how fast the 800 free record truly is.

The 100 back has gone down by three and a half seconds, compared to under seven and a half for the 200.

The 100 breast has gone down almost five seconds, a testament to just how much faster breaststroke is getting. The 200 breast has dropped over nine seconds, and was actually just broken again last weekend.

The 100 fly has dropped almost a whopping four and a half seconds, and the 200 has gotten almost seven seconds faster. Finally, the 200 IM has been swum a full full seconds faster, and the 400 IM has dropped close to seventeen seconds.

These remarkably improved world records are one testament to how much faster the sport of swimming has become in the last three decades. What else will change in the next 30 years?

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.


  1. Kristie Wisniewski

    They should do away with all the “magic suit” records though. The suit Cielo wore is illegal now. You know who will impress me….the kid who breaks those records with no “magic suit”

    • Nick Lucash

      That’s nuts

  2. Mike Per

    @RowdyGaines remarkable!!

  3. avatar
    Bill Bell

    I think,Kristi Wisnuewskimis on the right track although I wouldn’t like to see anyone Lise a record.

    But the suits Cielo, Niedermanand yes, even the GOAT Eire nearly a decade ago are no longer kosher and DID give their wears definite unfair advantage.
    However you can’t say only world records made in non-high tech suits should be recognized because if you do that then you have to zap all performances made in those suits and that’s impossible.
    Ryan Murphy broke Aaron Piersol’s 100 back wr and Lochte did it w/Phelps’ 200 IM standard. And Lececky and Hosszu have destroyed the global standards in the distance frees and IMs so little by little, the global standards are falling.
    Give Dressel a couple of years and he’ll have gone sub-20.0/46.0 and Weitzeil sub-23.0!and Manuel sub-51.0!

    • avatar

      Only six high-tech suit records left on the female side. And all of them but 200 fly look very approachable or are long due ( 4×200). We have completely opposite situation with male records. Why do you think it is so?

      • avatar

        The men’s records are harder to get because the suits gave people with bigger physiques more of an advantage due to the greater lift and propulsion that the suit gave as it covered more surface area in the water

  4. Clare Lobb

    Can we get a similar look at the women’s events?

  5. avatar

    Thw rule changes in back stroke have aided those time drops as well. You had to touch the wall with your had in 1980

  6. Nick Westaway

    “I believe the 46.9 will stand for the next ten years”
    That’s a big call when McEvoy went 47.04 last year

  7. avatar

    Rule changes in breaststroke also make a huge difference. In 1980 you couldn’t let the top of your head go beneath the surface and there were no dolphin kicks allowed. Those are Huge constraints.

  8. avatar
    Max Thorsten

    When I grew up and trained in South Africa I knew the 1980 200 IM World Record holder, Jeremy Reingold who used to yrain outdoors in winter as there were no indoor pools and used to rub petroleum jelly and plastic wrap over his body to keep warm. A super talent !