Analysis: Men's 200m medley
Craig Lord
Gold Number 6. There was blue sky on the day Phelps kept rivals at bay by 2.29sec, the biggest winning margin ever seen in the 200m medley


Beijing 2008


  • 1. Michael Phelps (USA) 1:54.23wr
  • 2. Laszlo Cseh (HUN) 1:56.52er
  • 3. Ryan Lochte (USA) 1:56.53
  • Phelps's splits: 24.59 (-0.57); 53.40 (-0.57); 1:26.90 (-0.67); 1:54.23 (-0.57). 
  • Former splits: 25.16; 53.97; 1:27.57; 1:54.80
  • Cseh ER splits: 24.95; 53.45;  1:28.01; 1:56.52



  • Fastest field: Beijing - 1:54.23 - 2:00.76


Comparison fields:


  • Melbourne 2007: 1:54.98 - 2:00.73
  • Athens 2004: 1:54.95 - 2:00.06


Facts going into the race:


  • World record: 1:54.80 - Michael Phelps (USA), Omaha, 4.7.08
  • 2004 Olympic champion: Phelps, 1:57.14or
  • 2007 World champion: Phelps, 1:54.98wr


Impact of morning finals - what it took to make semis:


  • Beijing 2008: 1:59.53 - 2:00.98
  • Melbourne 2007: 1:58.70 - 2:02.30
  • Athens 2004: 1:59.50 - 2:02.11


Notes from the race:

Gold Number 6. There was blue sky on the day Phelps kept rivals at bay by 2.29sec, the biggest winning margin ever seen in the 200m medley. It was as if the aquatic gods have now sent the storm packing and sent a signal to Phelps on his way to eight golds: plain sailing from here on. Phelps blasted off his blocks, cruised into his stroke ahead of the pack and floated on butterfly towards a first turn that took him 0.57sec inside world-record pace. Bowman's notes rang out with metronomic mastery: 0.57sec, a sum that Phelps would race inside the world record pace three times during the 200m medley final that brought a sixth gold medal and sixth global standard. Coach Bob Bowman once said: "I feel Michael's signature event is the 200m medley and he deserves to swim that to the best of his ability, not just to swim to win." Mission accomplished. On song. Laszlo Cseh (HUN) collected his third silver medal behind Phelps, in 1:56.52, a European record and just 0.01sec ahead of Ryan Lochte (USA), who some 20mins before had claimed the 200m backstroke crown in a world record. Amazing - a perspective to all those many swimmers at these Games who pull out of the heats of race A in order to stay fresh for race B only to find themselves unable to make the grade. Cseh, who raced knowing that gold would rely on the chance of lightning striking a pinhead, would have been an aquatic god had he lived in a world without Phelps but the American swims the way Mozart composed - with beautiful precision: what are the odds on Phelps swimming precisely 0.57sec inside his previous best throughout the entire race, deviating from that path by just 0.1sec after breaststroke? And speaking of breaststroke - what a split: 33.50, the fastest in the final and faster than the third-length split of three men in the 200m breaststroke final. Half a second from the speed of Kitajima, faster than Kitajima's homecoming split. The decibels gushing from Phelps here at the Water Cube are in danger of bursting the 3,000 breathable bubbles above and around us. Within five minutes of the race, Lochte was receiving his gold medal for the 200m bacsktroke; within 25mins Phelps was back on his blocks for the 100m butterfly semis, via a tour of the podium, another teary eyed salute to the Star Spangled Banner and pool parade. A slight delay was announced to allow Phelps his statutory rest period of 20 minutes. In 50.97, Phelps did just enough to take him into the final.

Cseh said:  "I always try, always go for the win, of course, but the reality is that at the moment he is unbeatable. I'm not going to lack motivation. It's always been the case that I wanted to beat him. I always aim for his times as my target. That is going to continue to motivate me. I think he can be beaten and I want to beat him. I'm satisfied with those three silvers. I don't feel like I missed out on something. I felt like I could have got a better time in this one [200m medley] but that's what I could manage this time, maybe next time I can do better, I feel I have more inside me."

Impact on the all-time top 10:


  • 1:54.23 Phelps, Michael USA BEIJING F
  • 1:55.22 Lochte, Ryan USA
  • 1:56.52 Cseh, Laszlo HUN BEIJING F
  • 1:57.72 Goddard, James GBR
  • 1:57.79 Tancock, Liam GBR
  • 1:57.79 Pereira, Thiago BRA
  • 1:58.05 Shanteau, Eric USA
  • 1:58.16 Sievinen, Jani FIN
  • 1:58.22 Takakuwa, Ken JPN BEIJING F
  • 1:58.57 Ally, Bradley BAR BEIJING H


All-time top 10, end 2007:


  • 1:54.98 Phelps, Michael USA 2007
  • 1:56.11 Lochte, Ryan USA 2006
  • 1:56.92 Cseh, Laszlo HUN 2007
  • 1:57.79 Pereira, Thiago BRA 2007
  • 1:58.05 Shanteau, Eric USA 2006
  • 1:58.16 Sievinen, Jani FIN 1994
  • 1:58.80 Bovell, George TRI 2004
  • 1:58.98 Rosolino, Massi ITA 2000
  • 1:59.19 Tancock, Liam GBR 2007
  • 1:59.36 Darnyi, Tamas HUN 1991



There has been only one clean sweep in medley history: the USA, led by Charles Hickcox, claiming all places on the podium in the 200m in 1968. That same year, Hickcox became the first to win both medley crowns – at the first opportunity, the 200m introduced at the Games in Mexico City. Since Hickcox, four men have claimed the double: Gunnar Larsson (SWE), 1972; Baumann, 1984; Darnyi, who did it twice, in 1988 and 1992; and Phelps, 2004 and 2008. In doing the double double, Phelps joined an exclusive club with Darnyi. World-record victories have been witnessed in nine of the 21 finals held over 200m and 400m since 1964, while it has taken an Olympic record to win 18 of the 21 titles. 


  • Fastest: 1:54.23: Michael Phelps (USA), 2008. 
  • World Record wins: Larsson, 1972; Baumann, 1984; Darnyi, 1988; Phelps, 2008.
  • Biggest margin: Phelps’s 2.29sec over Cseh in 2008.
  • Closest shave: Darnyi retained the crown in 1992 by 0.21sec over Greg Burgess (USA), who in turn was just 0.03sec ahead of Czene, who was 0.28sec ahead of Jani Sievinen (FIN) – the tightest top-four finish in history.