Remaining highly successful on the long run is not easy in this sport, not even for the greatest ones. We’ve seen a lot of exceptionally talented swimmers, however, making winning streaks in the same event was even challenging for those belonging to the elite circles.
There are only two who managed to win a given event five times: Michael Phelps (200m fly – 2001-03, 2007-11) and Katinka Hosszu (400m IM – 2009, 2013-19).
Five swimmers clinched four victories in a row: Grant Hackett (AUS), 1500m free (1998-2005), Sun Yang (CHN), 400m free (2013-2019), Ryan Lochte (USA), 200m IM (2009-2015), Katie Ledecky (USA), 800m free (2013-2019), Katinka Hosszu (HUN), 200m IM (2013-2019), 400m IM (2013-2019). Hosszu did something no other swimmers could achieve so far: making a double at four editions in a row (Adam Peaty would have a great chance to catch her up as he had three doubles in a row, but the British king of the breaststroke will not come to Budapest due to his foot injury).
Three more have four wins in the same event, though not at straight editions: Aaron Peirsol USA), 200m back (2001-05, 2009), Federica Pellegrini (ITA), 200m free (2009-11, 2017-19), Sarah Sjostrom (SWE), 100m fly (2009, 2013-17) – Peirsol was runner-up in 2007, missing the magnificent five by 0.48sec (Ryan Lochte bettered him).
We have way more swimmers who have made a treble among the men: Cesar Cielo (BRA), 50m free (2009-2013), Ian Thorpe (AUS), 400m free (1998-2003), Sun Yang (CHN), 800m free (2011-2015), Camille Lacourt (FRA), 50m back (2013-2017), Aaron Peirsol (USA), 100m back (2003-2007), 200m back (2001-2005), Adam Peaty (GBR), 50m breast (2015-2019), 100m breast (2015-2019), Daniel Gyurta (HUN), 200m breast (2009-2013), Michael Phelps (USA), 100m fly (2007-2011), 200m fly (2007-2011), 200m IM (2003-2007).
It’s quite interesting, that among the women, apart from the feats mentioned above, only two swimmers were able to win three in a row, though both Ledecky and Sjostrom did that twice: Katie Ledecky (USA), 400m free (2013-17), 1500m free (2013-17), Sarah Sjostrom (SWE), 50m fly (2015-19), 100m fly (2013-17).
There are longer streaks in the relays, all done by the US:
8: USA, men’s 4x100m free (1973-1998) – 7: USA, men’s 4x100m medley (1973-1994) – 5: USA, men’s 4x200m free (2005-2013) – 4: USA, women’s 4x200m free (2011-2017).
Beating the records
World records add an extra flavour to the World Championships – and setting one has been a good way of earning some extra cash since a couple of years as FINA offers a bonus of $50,000 for each global mark bettered.
Since 1973, a new WR was set 195 times at the World Championships. Right at the first edition 17 marks fell in Belgrade, then it dropped to 5 in 1975 and jumped to 14 in 1978. Perth 1998 was the only edition which did not see a single WR-breaking swim while in Rome 2009 there was a flood of 43, thanks to the shiny-suit craziness. That had an impact on the following editions, only two were brought down in 2011 (two male WRs) and six in 2013 (women only). Then, in the last three it was more or less the same – indeed in Kazan 2015 and in Budapest it was identical, 11 new WRs, 2 men, 6 women, 3 mixed – the males stepped up in Gwangju 2019 and bettered 5 – including that out-of-Earth 1:50.73 blast by Hungary’s poster-boy Kristof Milak in the 200m fly) , 4 fell in the women’s races and 1 mixed relay record gone.
Dressel, Sjostrom – again?
Caeleb Dressel and Sarah Sjostrom claimed the male and female swimmer of the meet awards respectively, both in 2017 and 2019. Dressel took part at only those two editions so far and he is already third on the all-time ranks with 15 medals, 13 of them gold – he was the first athlete in history to grab eight at a single edition (he achieved that in Gwangju with 6 golds and 2 silvers). Sarah Sjostrom clinched four medals in Budapest five years ago (3G, 1S) and five in Gwangju (1G, 2S, 2B) – all in individual events which makes her tally really amazing. They are coming to Budapest again, eying something similar, for sure!