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In Malaga Matador Muñoz Mashes WR 50 'Fly: 22.43

Apr 5, 2009  - Craig Lord

Spain's France-based Rafael Munoz provided further evidence of the impact of flotation devices (here is what helped him along) when he shattered the world 50m butterfly record with a 22.43sec effort in the semi-finals at the Spanish championships in Malaga tonight. In the final, he won in 22.45, second-best ever by a clog.

Under normal circumstances this would be a moment to go "wow" but these are not normal circumstances: the sport belongs to suits right now - and the performance and achievement of Munoz, the work of his coaches, is diminished as a consequence because we cannot compare what Munoz did to what Munoz is capable of without a performance-enhancing suit, nor to what Schoeman did, nor Welsh, nor Crocker, nor any of those others on the top 10 list and beyond. That it not being unfair to Munoz - it is just where the sport is right now at this transitory moment in swimming history.

The 21-year-old's effort was more than half a second inside the previous world record, held at 22.96 by South African Roland Schoeman since he lifted the 2005 world title in a bygone age. The South African is the only other man ever to have broken 23sec. Await the flood if the March 31 deadline on suits does not deliver much at all.

Munoz's best ever before this year stems from Olympic year 2008: 23.60. His best pre fast suits: 23.80. And in 2009, he had dropped to 23.26. Year-on-year, that's a 1.17sec improvement in a 50m race. There is phase of training, taper etc etc to be taken into account - and even then what unfolded in Malaga is extraordinary. Munoz is now precisely a second faster over a 50 'fly than the time in which Matt Welsh became world champion for Australia in a world record an historic beat of a butterfly's wing back in Barcelona 2003. Berserk.

It is what FINA's suit tests aim to cut out. It remains to be seen whether they will do just that.

On Saturday, Munoz swam the 100 metres butterfly in 50.58 seconds equalling Michael Phelps's gold medal winning time from the Beijing Olympics, the second fastest time ever behind Ian Crocker's world record of 50.40.

Munoz was wearing a Jaked's wetsuit lookalike, a shiny new black number, not the goldfish suit he wore at the European s/c Championships last December. And for those who continue never to want to hear the truth told: yes, doubtless Munoz has worked hard and is  terrific swimmer etc etc but the impact of the suit is undeniable, even without knowing which particular brand he was wearing at the moment he swam. "That's progress," some say. I say: "But not as we've known it - ever".

And here is a glimpse of what I mean:

Munoz's best 10 efforts:

  • 22.43 April 2009 semi
  • 22.45 April 2009 final
  • 23.26 Feb 2009
  • 23.30 Feb 2009 
  • 23.60 March 2008
  • 23.62 March 2009
  • 23.76 March 2008
  • 23.79 April 2009
  • 23.80 December 2007
  • 24.02 June 2008

The all-time top 10:

  • 22.43 Munoz ESP
  • 22.96 Schoeman RSA
  • 23.11 Cavic SRB
  • 23.12 Crocker USA
  • 23.30 Lauterstein AUS
  • 23.31 Targett AUS
  • 23.38 Breus UKR
  • 23.43 Welsh AUS
  • 23.44 Huegill AUS
  • 23.46 Swanepoel NZL