Adam Peaty of Britain reacts. (Photo: REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji)
TOKYO: : Michael Phelps' 23 Olympic swimming gold medals is a record that may never be beaten but the Tokyo pool could still see the world's best push the boundaries of human performance to new heights.
The number of records from 2008-09, when now-banned bodysuits ruled the pool, has dwindled but some look likely to remain out of reach for years to come. Others, however, are vulnerable.
Phelps, now retired, told Reuters last December that disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic meant records were unlikely in Tokyo but the great American may have spoken too soon.
Three have been set already this year, albeit only one in an Olympic distance, and some of the times at national trials have added to the excitement.
The 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games saw eight world records from seven events, Britain's Adam Peaty breaking the 100m breaststroke mark in both the heats and final.
Men's 100m breaststroke - 56.88 seconds
Peaty reckons he can shave more off the time he set at the 2019 world championships.
"We've done the sums and I think if it went absolutely perfectly, and I’m talking the fastest parts that I’ve done in a physical race and you put them all together, it’s 56.2 or 56.3 which is absolutely ridiculous," said the Briton.
Arno Kamminga set a Dutch record of 57.90 in April, becoming only the second man to swim the distance under 58 seconds.
Women's 400m freestyle - 3:56.46
Olympic champion Katie Ledecky of the United States set this record in Rio but faces her biggest challenge in Australian Ariarne Titmus, the world champion. Titmus swam the second fastest time in history at the national trials in June, a 3:56.90 which is the best this year. This pair can push each other to something special.
Women's 100m backstroke - 57.45 seconds
Twenty-year-old Kaylee McKeown set the record at the Australian Olympic swimming trials on June 13. American Regan Smith held the previous best of 57.57. This is the only Olympic distance world record so far this year.
At the Canadian trials, world champion and former record holder Kylie Masse touched the wall in 57.70 so the three are in the ballpark.
Women's 100m butterfly - 55.48
Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom set the mark in Rio but is coming back from elbow surgery. Rivals have been getting close, notably American Torri Huske in the U.S. trials with a best of 55.66. Australia's Emma McKeon has also been under 56 seconds while China's Zhang Yufei did 55.62 last September. Canadian Maggie MacNeil swam 55.83 for world championship gold in 2019.
Men's 200m butterfly - 1:50.73
Hungary's world record holder Kristof Milak set the record in 2019 and posted a 1:51.10 at the European championships in May, the second fastest men's 200m butterfly of all time. All eyes will be on him to slash it further.
Men's 50 and 100 freestyle - 20.91 and 46.91
Both records date back to the bodysuit era and are held by Brazilian Cesar Cielo, but American Caeleb Dressel has them in his sights and has been getting closer and closer. He swam a 46.96 in the 100m in 2019 and a 21.04 in the US trials.
Women's 200m freestyle - 1:52.98
Titmus swam 1:53.09 in June, the second fastest of all-time, but Italian Federica Pellegrini’s 2009 body-suit world record of 1:52.98 may still be out of reach. One of just two women's records from the super-suit era.
Women's 200m butterfly - 2:01.81
This one also dates from 2009, also in a body-suit, since when nobody has got near the time set by China's Liu Zige. The best textile time was Jiao Liuyang's 2:04.06 in London 2012.
Men's 200 and 400 freestyle
These two records belong to Germany's Paul Biedermann and are bodysuit benchmarks.
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