Speed of the Fastest Human, Swimming

The Physics Factbook
Edited by Glenn Elert -- Written by his students
An educational, Fair Use website

Bibliographic Entry Result
(w/surrounding text)
Speer, Glenn. Guinness Book of World Records 1998. Connecticut: Guinness, 1997: 265. "Event: Freestyle, 50 meters
Time: 0:21.81 Name: Tom Jager (US)
Place: Nashville TN, March 24, 1990"
2.29 m/s
Men's Long Course Records (50m). USA Swimming, 29 May 2000. "50 Freestyle
World: 21.81s, Tom Jager (USA)
Nashville Tenn. 03-24-90"
2.29 m/s
Guinness Book of World Records 1975. New York: Sterling, 1974: 620. "… The highest speed reached by a swimmer is 5.05 mph by David Holmes Edgar (US). Mark Spitz (US) in setting the 100 meter record of 51.22 secs. in 1972, required an average of 4.367 mph." 2.26 m/s
1.95 m/s
Bechtel, Mark. Sports Illustrated 2000 Sports Almanac. New York: Bishop, 1999: 693. "50 meters: 21.81 s, Tom Jager (US) 3-24-90, Nashville" 2.29 m/s

In finding the fastest human swimming speed, the actual speeds were rarely stated in any sources. The record times for all the different styles (freestyle, breaststroke, etc.) and race lengths were easy to find so the speed for each of these had to be calculated to find the highest speed.

The fastest speed reached by a human in swimming is 2.29 m/s. This record was set by Tom Jager in a 50 meter race, in a 50 meter swimming pool in Nashville, Tennessee on March 24, 1990, with a time of 21.81 seconds. The record time for the 100 meter in a 50 meter pool was 48.21 seconds, which means that the average speed was only 2.07 m/s. The record times for the 50 meter and 100 meter races in 25 meter pools were both longer, respectively. A previous speed record set in 1971 by David Holmes Edgar was 5.05 mph (2.26 m/s), slightly less than the speed of Jager in his record setting race. Mark Spitz had an average of 4.367 mph (1.95 m/s) in setting the 100m record in 1972.

The average speed is what is calculated form 50 meter races, but the speed over a shorter distance may be greater. This information, however, is probably not documented and if so, is not readily available.

Noah Kalkstein -- 2000

Bibliographic Entry Result
(w/surrounding text)
Swimming Men's 50m Freestyle Results, The official website of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
Record Name NOC Location Date
WR 21.28 SULLIVAN Eamon AUS Sydney (AUS) Mar 28 2008
OR 21.34 CIELO FILHO Cesar BRA Beijing (CHN) Aug 15 2008
OR - Olympic Record, WR - World Record
2.35 m/s

Editor's Supplement -- 2008

eglobe logo Glenn Elert
Author, Illustrator, Webmaster
Chaos, E-World, Facts, Get Bent, Physics

No condition is permanent.