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How Fast Can Humans Swim??

Posted by on January 11, 2016

The TV broadcasts of the 2015 World Championships sparked me to do some analysis of the swimmers’ speeds in the various events. The goal was to eliminate the advantages of the racing start and push-off from the wall. By using the on-screen race-time or adding a timer frame with my video editor, I could determine how fast the swimmers were going from the 15 m. to 35 m. marks in the 50 m. lane.

That is, the time it takes between these two marks, to swim 20 meters, would be an honest reflection of their true speed. Here is a sample using the men’s 100 m. freestyle.

Here are some speeds (meters per second) for other races.

Race Speed
50 m. Butterfly 1.87
100 m. Butterfly 2.02
50 m. Free 1.94 2.22
100 m. Free, 0-50 2.20 starting block advantage?
100 m. Free, 51-100 1.98
800 m. Free 1.60-1.63 mid-race
800 m. Free 1.74 fastestĀ  (exclude 1st 50)
1500 m. Free 1.72* fastest, final sprint
1500 m. Free 1.61 slowest, around 1100 m.
* the winner, Paltrinieri (Italy) had a race time of 14:39.67.
This works out to an overall average speed of 1.71 meters / sec.

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