FLASH! Gretchen Walsh Shatters World Record in Women’s 100 Butterfly With 55.18

Gretchen Walsh -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

FLASH! Gretchen Walsh Shatters World Record in Women’s 100 Butterfly With 55.18

In the first event of the opening finals session at the U.S. Olympic Trials, a record-breaking crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium has witnessed its first world record. In the first semifinal heat of the 100 butterfly, Torri Huske made a run at the record, going out under world-record pace by four hundredths before falling just back of the pace at the end.

One heat later, Gretchen Walsh would seal the deal, with the dominant college performer making the jump to long course star in dramatic fashion.

The University of Virginia swimmer has been one of the most dominant short course yards swimmers in the country for the first three years of her college career, capturing six individual NCAA titles and contributing to 12 relay wins while becoming the fastest swimmer ever in four individual events.

But her long course swimming took longer to catch up to her success in the small pool. Walsh had disappointing performances at consecutive selection meets in 2021 and 2022, leaving doubt as to whether she could fully match that level in the big pool. Walsh finally broke through in 2023, qualifying for the World Championships team in four individual events. She left Fukuoka with an individual bronze medal in the 50 fly plus two relay medals, but the level of dominance she showed in short course was still missing.

Not anymore. In the second semifinal heat of the 100 fly, Walsh established the first long course world record of her career with a time of 55.18, taking down an eight-year-old record of 55.48 established by Sarah Sjostrom at the 2016 Olympics. “It’s insane,” Walsh said of breaking a record belonging to one of history’s all-time greats. “She’s an amazing athlete and swimmer and role model for me. To even be in the same sentence with her is insane already. It’s truly a dream-come-true.”

When she saw the time on the giant scoreboard above the temporary pool inside Lucas Oil Stadium, Walsh covered her mouth in shock and amazement, the emotion of the moment taking hold.

“Going into tonight, I knew that it would just take a half-second drop, but I didn’t think I was going to do it tonight,” Walsh said. “I just knew that I wanted to go a best time, and now, here I am, world-record holder. It’s actually insane. I was probably the most shocked out of the people I know. I think that they have all had confidence in me to do it. I think my reaction showed it all. I was in awe, totally surprised.”

Walsh touched at the 50-meter mark in 25.45, more than a half-second under world-record pace, and she came home in 29.73, the second-quickest split in the field, to take down a mark that had survived so many championship-meet scares from Maggie Mac NeilZhang YufeiEmma McKeon and Huske.

Not this time. Walsh had never broken 56 until she clocked 55.94 in Saturday morning’s prelims, but now, she is not far away from 54-second territory after this historic performance after blasting through this world record.

Huske qualified second in 55.79, which was just off her existing American record of 55.64, putting the 2022 world champion in lane four for Sunday’s final. Huske will still be favored to qualify for the Olympics in the event, but Walsh has certainly taken over the mantle of favorite.

Meanwhile, Regan Smith swam a lifetime-best time by three tenths while racing next to Walsh in the second semifinal heat. She clocked 55.92 to qualify third for the final, buoyed by a sizzling 29.11 homecoming split that was six tenths quicker than anyone else. The mark makes her the third-fastest swimmer in the world this year, although the only two faster swimmers are the favorites to qualify for the Olympics in the event.

Alex Shackell finished fourth in the semifinals in 56.78, knocking another three tenths off her best time after dropping a sliver earlier in the day in prelims. Shackell raced just minutes before watching older brother Aaron Shackell qualify for the Olympic team in the men’s 400 freestyle.

Claire Curzan, who joined Huske on the Olympic team in this event in Tokyo, qualified fifth in 57.24. It took a sub-58 effort to make the final, with University of Texas swimmers Emma Sticklen (57.77) and Kelly Pash (57.97) finishing sixth and eighth, respectively, with Wisconsin’s Beata Nelson (57.80) splitting the difference.

For Walsh, one critical task remains, securing her spot on her first Olympic team, achieving the honor her older sister Alex Walsh managed three years ago. Walsh must finish among the top-two swimmers in the final, but any lingering doubt about her long course abilities should be long gone.

“I’m just so happy that all of my hard work has really paid off,” Walsh said of moving her success into the big pool. “I’ve spent a lot of training focusing on the 100 fly specifically. It’s just become an event that I’ve grown to love short course to long course, so to have it translate into the ‘real pool,’ some would say, just really goes to show that it is paying off and that I’m confident in it, and it makes me really happy.”

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1 month ago

Certainly the 100m Butterfly was the one I thought most likely for a US swimmer to break thr WR. Fantastic start to your meet!

Big G
Big G
1 month ago

“Huske qualified second in 55.79, which was just off her existing American record of 55.64, putting the 2022 world champion in lane four for Sunday’s final.”

Wouldn’t Huske be in Lane 5, not Lane 4, for the Final?

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