Honda shatters 200 Fly World Record by historic margin

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Disclaimer: Swim of the Week is not intended as a definitive selection of the best swim of the week, but rather as a Featured Swim to be explored in more detail. The Swim of the Week is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of this week’s many high-speed swims, perhaps a swim that slipped through the canyons while others grabbed the headlines, or a race we couldn’t explore so close in the flow of weekly meetings.

We’ve seen not one, but two world records fall in the past week, and both came by significant margins.

At the Japanese Short Course Championships in Tokyo, Tomoru Honda set the all-time record in the men’s 200 butterfly with a time of 1:46.85. Five days later, at the Chinese Championships in Beijing, Li Bingjie broke the world record for women’s 400 freestyle in 3:51.30.

On the basis of 50 meters, Honda and Li lowered their respective world records by similar margins.

Event (SCM) Old WR New WR Margin (per 50m) Men’s 200 Butterfly 1:48.24, Daiya Seto 1:46.85, Tomoru Honda 1.39 (0.3475) Women’s 400 Freestyle 3:53.92, Ariarne Titmus 3:51.30, Li Bingjie 2.62 (0.3275)

By just two hundredths of a second, Honda broke his record by a wider relative margin, earning arena Swim of the Week. (There’s also a chance Li’s record will be challenged on Friday night, as Katie Ledecky races the 400 for free at the FINA World Cup in Toronto.)

Looking at recent broken world records, there are a few examples that were cut by a similar margin per 50.

At the 2021 World Short Course Championships, Maggie MacNeil broke the women’s 50 breaststroke record by 33 hundredths, and a few weeks later, at the Turkish Championships in late December, Emre Sakci took the men’s 50 breaststroke by 0.30 points.

If we look strictly at world records set in 200-meter events, there aren’t many examples of records falling by more than a second in the last ten years.

In the past 10 years, the only world records in the 200 meters to drop by more than a second were the women’s 200 fly (SCM) and women’s 200 IM (SCM). Mireia Belmonte broke the 200 flight record by 1.17 seconds (1:59.61) in 2014 and Katinka Hosszu improved the 200 IM mark by 1.19 seconds (2:03.20) in 2013.

If we go back a little further, there are more examples from the past 15 years of records falling more than a second in the 200 meters distance. As you would expect, the majority come in short course meters, with the 200 fly being by far the most common.

World records 200 meters drop by more than 1 second (since 2007)

Event Old WR New Women’s WR Margin 200 back SCM 2:03.24, Reiko Nakamura (2008) 2:00.91, Kirsty Coventry (2008) 2.33 Women’s 200 fly SCM 2:02.50, Liu Zige (2009) 2:00.78, Liu Zige (2009 ) 1.72 Women’s 200 IM SCM 2:07.79, Allison Wagner (1993) 2:06.13, Kristy Coventry (2008) 1.66 Men’s 200 fly LCM 1:53.71, Michael Phelps (2007) 1: 52.09, Michael Phelps (2007) 1.62 Women’s 200 fly LCM 2:03.41, Jessicah Schipper (2009) 2:01.81, Liu Zige (2009) 1.60 Men’s 200 IM SCM 1:51.55, Darian Townsend (2009) 1:50.08, Ryan Lochte (2010) 1.47 Men’s 200 Free SCM 1:40.83, Paul Biedermann (2008) 1:39.37, Paul Biedermann (2009) 1.46 Men’s 200 IM SCM 1:52.99, Laszlo Cseh (2007) 1:51.56, Ryan Lochte (2008) 1.43 Men’s 200 Fly SCM 1:50.53, Nikolay Skvortsov (2009) 1:49.11, Kaio Almeida (2009) 1.42 Women’s 200 IM LCM 2:08.45, Stephanie Rice ( 2008) 2:07.03, Arianna Kukors (2009) 1.42 Women’s 200 Chest SCM 2:16.83, Annamay Pierse (2009) 2:15.42, Leisel Jones (2009) 1.41 Men’s 200 Fly SCM 1:48.24, Daiya Seto (2018) 1:46.85, Tomoru Honda (2022) 1.39 Women’s 200 IM SCM 2:06.01, Evelyn Verraszto (2009) 2:04.64, Evelyn Verraszto (2009) 1.37 Women’s 200 Free SCM 1:53.18, Coralie Balmy (2008) 1 :51.85, Federica Pellegrini (2008) 1.33 Men’s 200 chest SCM 2:01.98, Christian Sprenger (2009) 2:00.67, Daniel Gyurta (2009) 1.31 Women’s 200 fly LCM 2:05.40, Jessicah Schipper (2006) 2:04.18, Liu Zige (2008 ) 1.22 Men’s 200 back SCM 1:49.05, Ryan Lochte (2006) 1:47.84, Markus Rogan (2008) 1.21 Women’s 200 IM SCM 2:04.39, Katinka Hosszu (2013) 2:03.20, Katinka Hosszu (2013) 1.19 Women’s 200 fly SCM 2:00.78, Liu Zige (2009) 1:59.61, Mireia Belmonte (2014) 1.17 Men’s 200 back LCM 1:53.08, Aaron Peirsol (2009) 1:51.92, Aaron Peirsol (2009) 1.16

Honda’s 1.39 second margin on the previous world record is the largest we’ve seen since 2010 in a 200m race. only the fourth time it’s happened since early 2010.

In particular, the men’s SCM 200 fly world record highlights the barrier-breaking timeline of how stunning Honda’s record-breaking swim was:

First Sub-1:51 – Franck Esposito, 1:50.73 (December 2002) First Sub-1:50 – Kaio Almeida, 1:49.11 (November 2009) First Sub-1:49 – Chad le Clos, 1:48.56 (November 2013) First Sub 1:48 – Tomoru Honda, 1:46.85 (October 2022) First Sub 1:47 – Tomoru Honda, 1:46.85 (October 2022)

It took nearly seven years for the record to go from sub-1:51 to sub-1:50, and then another four years before it fell below 1:49. And then suddenly, nine years later, Honda goes below 1:47.

It was an incredibly unexpected dive from a swimmer who has largely flown under the radar despite his international success, thanks largely to Kristof Milak becoming a dominant force in the long course pool.

Long course and short course are two different games, but Honda’s swim raises the question: Can he bridge the gap to Milak in the main pool?

Time will tell, but either way, his short course swimming was one to remember.

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