The 100 m freestyle has been a part of competitive swimming for more than a century. In fact, it was one of the premiere events to debut during the sport’s introduction to the Olympics in 1896. Each year, the event gets even faster as swimmers continue to raise the bar by setting world records.
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Long vs. Short Course
Depending on the size of the pool used for competition, a swimming event is categorized as long or short. For the 100 m swim, the long course takes place in a 50 m pool, and the short course takes place in a 25 m pool. Although the final distance is 100 m in both races, a 25 m pool requires three flip turns, whereas a 50 m pool only requires one. Because swimmers push off the wall during each turn, each flip can take seconds off the final time.
Current World Records
The International Swimming Federation has been tracking world records for the long course since 1905, and in 1991, they began keeping separate records for the short course. As of March 2011, César Cielo from Brazil holds the long-course record with a time of 46.91 seconds, and Britta Steffen from Germany holds the woman’s world record at 52.07 seconds. In the short course, Amaury Leveaux from France secured the fastest time at 44.94 seconds, and Lisbeth Trickett from Australia claimed the women’s title with a time of 51.01 seconds.
Fastest Relay Split
Competitive relay swims frequently inspire swimmers to move even faster, and as a result, individual times often smash existing records. However, only the first leg of a relay split is eligible for an official world record. During the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Jason Lezak swam for the United States in the 400 m relay. His split during the race was 46.06 seconds, and although it doesn’t count as an official record, as of March 2011, it is the fastest time ever captured for a long-course 100 m swim.
Previous World Records
Frenchman Alain Bernard was a long-standing 100 m swim record holder. In 2000, he established a record by securing a time of 47.60 seconds. He then broke that record during the 2008 European swimming championships by finishing at 47.60 seconds. Later that year, during the Beijing Olympics, Australian Eaman Sullivan stomped Bernard’s world record with a time of 47.05 seconds. However, Bernard’s personal best of 47.21 seconds was enough to take home the gold during finals.