Olympic hangover? Not quite. 2013 was a year of a metric ton of fast swimming, with swimmers from across the planet smashing world records, a couple swimmers atoning for that little meet in London last year, and others firing shots across the bow to signify that they would be the ones to contend with on the path to Rio in ’16.
Here are the top 10 swims from the year that was 2013–
10) Katie Ledecky’s 400m Free Win (& Near WR) to Set the Stage for Her Crushing Performance in Barcelona.
Becoming the first American to crack the 4 minute barrier, Katie Ledecky put down a 3:59.82 in Barcelona on the first night of Worlds, setting the tone for the rest of her meet, where she would become the first American and only the second woman ever to successfully sweep the distance events at Worlds.
She very nearly bested the world mark set by Federica Pelligrini (ITA) that was set during the drunken record-frenzy of the 2008/2009 supersuit era. With Ledecky’s progression one can only imagine that the days remaining on Pelligrini’s 3:59.15 are very numbered.
To make the swim even more impressive is that this meet was only Ledecky’s second major international meet, and in the span of those two meets she is undefeated in her events.
9) Sarah Sjostrom Repeats as 100m fly World Champion in Barcelona.
Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom, who won the 100m butterfly at Worlds in 2009 in a then world-record time, came in as an after-thought, with much of the focus on American Dana Vollmer who won this event in London last year.
Sjostrom’s time of 56.53 ranks as the 11th fastest time in history, and also makes her only the third swimmer to win the event at World Championships twice. (Kornelia Ender and Jenny Thompson are the others.)
Her swim gets bonus Swammy points for her post-race celebration, double fist pump and all, with the elation clear across her face as she bounced back from a disappointing 4th place finish in London last year.
8) James Magnussen Redeems Disappointing London Performance, Winning the 100m free at the FINA World Championships.
While Magnussen’s swim wasn’t a World Record swim, a WC record, or even a best time, for Magnussen this victory was much more personal. It was about coming back from a disappointing performance at the Olympics in both the individual event and the 4×100 free relay, and it was about bouncing back from the drama that dogged him over the past year from outside of the pool, ranging from the Stilnox saga to reports of teammates rooting against him in London.
A humbled Magnussen bounced back in a big way to take back his spot as the top 100m freestyler in the world. Even though the time he posted in Barcelona is off his textile-best of 47.10, it was enough to hold off Americans Nathan Adrian – coming in as defending Olympic champ – and Jimmy Feigen, while also providing a healthy dose of redemption.
7) Russia’s Yulia Efimova Takes Down Soni’s World Record in the 200 SCM breast at European Short Course Champs.
At the 2013 European short course championships in December, Russia’s Yulia Efimova put away with former Trojan teammate Rebecca Soni’s 200m breast world mark by about two tenths of a second, finishing in 2:14.39, completing what was a full rewrite of the women’s breaststroke records this year.
6) Ruta Meilutyte’s Explosive First 50 Powers Her to a New World Record in the SCM 100 breaststroke at the Russian FINA World Cup Meet.
At the third stop of this year’s FINA World Cup Series Lithuanian phenom Ruta Meilutyte destroyed another one of Rebecca Soni’s world records, this time in the 100 breast SC.
What is most notable about this swim was the speed with which she took out the race. The 16 year old knocked out the first 50m in a blistering 29.56, which in no doubt was assisted by her phenomenal start. Soni’s first 50 was a full half a second slower (30.08) when it was originally set in 2009.
5) Denmark’s Rikke Moeller-Pederson Betters World Record of the 200m breast at Worlds.
Previous to the European Short Course Champs, where Efimova took Soni’s SCM world record apart, Denmark’s Rikke Moeller-Pederson bettered Soni’s long course WR of the same event.
Moeller-Pederson, who dropped nearly half a second off of American Soni’s former world record (and also taking down Canadian Annamay Pierse’s CR of 2:20.12 set in ’09) showed a greatly improved front end (she swam under 1:06 for the first time earlier in the meet), which had her 0.69 seconds under world record pace at the 50.
Moeller-Pederson’s time was also a second and a half drop from her European record set earlier in 2013, and makes her the first swimmer from Denmark to hold a long course world record in over half a century. N.B.D.
4) Chad Le Clos Takes Down the 200 SCM Fly World Record in Eindhoven, and then again in Singapore, Continuing a Year of Fly Domination.
Le Clos has been on fire over the past year in the fly events, winning the 100 and 200 at Worlds while also splitting an overlooked 47.97 on South Africa’s 4×100 free relay.
After initially beating Brazil’s Kaio Almeida’s mark of 1:49.11 at the Eindhoven stop of the FINA World Cup series in the days after Barcelona (in a time of 1:49.04) Le Clos would lower it further to 1:48.56 in Singapore
It’s not so much that the baton has been passed on from Phelps, it is more like Le Clos has taken it and continued running at full speed.
3) Katinka Hosszu’s Ridiculous 200 IM at the FINA World Cup in Eindhoven, NED.
While most swimmers were still drying off from that little meet in Barcelona, the FINA World Cup was being held in Eindhoven, NED, where Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu twice lowered Julia Smith’s world record in the 200 IM of 2:04.60. In prelims Hosszu set it up with a 2:04.39 and than absolutely demolished it in the finals to a staggering 2:03.20.
Perhaps what was most surprising about this performance was how soon it went down after World Championships. While most swimmers on the World Cup circuit were taking a lighter race load, preferring to pick their spots in where they wanted to race, Hosszu charged right through without skipping a beat.
Out of the ten swims on this list, it easily ranks as the highest in terms of FINA points (1073).
2) Katie Ledecky’s Distance Domination Continues, this time with a World Record in the 800m Freestyle at the FINA World Championships in Barcelona.
To cap off a mildly successful World Championships (sarcasm implied) Ledecky finished with a fourth gold medal, adding another individual World Record on top of the 1500 earlier in the competition (we’ll get to that one in a second) by cruising to an 8:13.86, and solidyfying herself as the premier female distance swimmer on the planet.
To give some perspective to how fast this swim was, consider the following—Her 800m time was faster than the 15-16 American NAG record for the 800 freestyle relay. (She beat it by over 3 seconds. And obviously didn’t get to get out and dive in every 200m.) Ledecky’s time bested the former World Record that was held by Great Britain’s Rebecca Adlington
Her final 50 was the fastest split of the race, cruising into the finish in 29.79. This should be worriesome for other distance swimmers, as this signifies that she still has more to drop in this race.
1) Katie Ledecky Demolishes 1500m Freestyle World Record at the FINA World Championships in Barcelona.
Nation’s Capital Swimming Katie Ledecky cemented herself as the new queen of distance swimming when she 1-2 punched the world record for the 1500m freestyle in the face by over 6 seconds.
The former mark, held by fellow American Kate Ziegler (15:42.54 – set in ’07), was also beat by silver medalist Lotte Friis of Denmark, who swam stroke-for-stroke with Ledecky until the 1300m mark, when the American took off in a flurry, churning her way to World Championship gold and a world record, and also earning her Hardcore Swim of the Year.
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