Ian Thorpe Believes His 400 Freestyle World Record Could Have Been Faster

Jul 26, 2012; London, United Kingdom; Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe smiles during a press conference one day before the London 2012 Olympic Games at Westfield Shopping Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
Photo Courtesy: USA TODAY Sports/USA TODAY Sports

Ian Thorpe Believes His 400 Freestyle World Record Could Have Been Faster

Ian Thorpe once revealed his biggest regret in swimming, and it is not what you would expect. Thorpe has admitted that the biggest regret in his swimming career was not swimming all out in the 400 freestyle final at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. Thorpe broke the World Record in that event at 3:40.08, a time that stood until 2009 when Germany’s Paul Biedermann broke the record at the World Championships in Rome. Biedermann’s record, of course, was aided by supersuit.


Ian Thorpe – Photo Courtesy: Adidas

Thorpe raced a total of seven events at the Commonwealth Games and cruised in the 400 final to save himself for other events. He said if he had realized at the time that he was going so fast, he would have gone a little harder in the final.

“I did a 400 swim where I broke the world record in Manchester and I just didn’t realize that I was going as fast as I was,” Thorpe said. “And I knew that I was swimming seven events at that competition and had I known I was going as well as I was I would have tried harder. I had no idea until I was looking up at the board.”

If he had given a little more effort in that race in 2002, Thorpe may still have the world record some 19 years later. This was also not the first time someone “accidentally” broke a world record. Simon Burnett revealed in a 2010 interview that he backed off in the 200-yard freestyle final at the 2006 NCAAs to save himself for later races. Burnett posted the fastest time in the event (1:31.20), a mark which stood for 10 years. Katie Ledecky also revealed she “accidentally” broke the 1500 world record in the prelims at the 2015 World Championships.

To watch Thorpe’s world record, click here.


  1. avatar
    Jim Smith

    He visibly slowed down to conserve energy. Full effort would have been 3:39 easily.

  2. avatar
    Jim G

    Hmmm, announcer said he broke the world record in every 400 race prior to this one. Seems he knew he would break the record, why not conserve the whole race? Hackett wasn’t going to beat him anyway.

  3. avatar
    Big Al

    Always easy to claim in retrospect i.e. slowing down isnt always a conscious decision 😉 P.S. Was Thorpe not also wearing a super-suit (?)

    • avatar

      No, Thorpe was wearing a non-buoyant long suit available to everyone- nearly all chose not to wear it as they didnt feel it gave any benefit.