2016 Swammy Awards: Top 10 Swims of the Year

To see all of our 2016 Swammy Awards presented by TYR, click here


The swimming world saw several World Records, NCAA Records, and National Records fall throughout 2016. Read on to relive the top 10 swims of the year as we get ready for more fast swimming in 2017.

Katinka Hosszu (Photo: Simone Castrovillari)


Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu wasted no time redeeming herself after missing the 400 IM podium by one place in 2012. The 4 years she spent forging herself into the iron lady put her above and beyond the competition at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Hosszu blasted her way into the lead and never looked back in the 400 IM final, securing the gold as her first ever Olympic medal. Her winning time of 4:26.36 obliterated the previous World Record set by Ye Shiwen in 2012. Although Hosszu’s freestyle leg was 4 second shy of Shiwen’s infamous freestyle split, she still cleared the record by an extraordinary margin of 2 full seconds.


Distance phenom Katie Ledecky has been unstoppable in the distance races over the last few years. That became even more apparent in the 800 free final at the Rio Olympics, where she won her 2nd straight Olympic gold in the event. In a field full of the best swimmers in the world, no one was a match for Ledecky. She led the race from start to finish, touching the wall with a winning margin of 11 seconds. She also shattered her own World Record by 2 seconds, lowering the mark to an incredible 8:04.79.


Great Britain’s Adam Peaty absolutely blew away the field in the men’s 100 breast at the Rio Olympics. It’s not that often you see a swimmer win a 100 meter event by over a second, but Peaty’s margin of victory over 2012 Olympic champ Cameron Van Der Burgh (RSA) was an astonishing 1.5 seconds. He shattered his own World Record in the event, lowering the mark to a 57.13. Peaty is the only swimmer in history to clock a sub-58 in the 100 breast, and he’s now accomplished the feat 4 times, 3 of which were done in Rio.

Men’s 100 fly medalists (Photo: Simone Castrovillari)


The men’s 100 fly final in Rio was historic for a handful of reasons, but it was especially significant for Singapore. The nation got its first-ever Olympic gold medal in any sport this summer courtesy of Joseph Schooling in that race. In the first Olympic final of his career, Schooling was a man on a mission, taking on a stacked field that included Olympic medalists and World Champions. All eyes in Singapore watched as Schooling blew away the field, winning in 50.39 to clock the fastest time ever done in textile.

Behind him, we saw a 3-way tie for silver between Olympic veterans Michael Phelps (USA), Chad Le Clos (RSA), and Laszlo Cseh (HUN), who have been rivals in the butterfly races for several years. All 3 swimmers touched in 51.14, marking the first 3-way tie in Olympic swimming history.


Swimming legend Michael Phelps came home from the Rio Olympics with several medals, but his 200 IM gold marked yet another historic career milestone. When he touched the wall first in that race, Phelps won a record-setting 4th straight Olympic title in the event. Although breaststroke isn’t known as his strong suit, Phelps really pulled away from the field on the breast leg before sealing the deal on the freestyle. His winning time of 1:54.66 was within tenths of his personal best time and Olympic Record, and not too far off Ryan Lochte‘s 1:54.00 World Record from 2011.


Manuel & Oleksiak (photo: Simone Castrovillari)

Heaing into Rio, Australia’s Cate Campbell, who set the World Record in the leadup to the Games, was the favorite to win Olympic gold. When the time came for the Olympic final, however, 2 swimmers pulled off a major upset. Team USA’s Simone Manuel and Canada’s Penny Oleksiak were part of a historic tie for gold, as both touched in 52.70 after tearing through the 2nd 50 to outswim Campbell and bronze medalist Sarah Sjostrom (SWE).

Manuel broke the American Record, clearing Amanda Weir‘s previous record of 53.02 from the supersuit era and ending the medal drought in the women’s sprints for Team USA. With that, she became the first American woman to swim sub-53 seconds and the first black woman to win Olympic gold individually in swimming. Co-champion Oleksiak set a new Junior World Record and Canadian National Record. With the gold medal, she became the most decorated Canadian swimmer at any summer Olympics at just 16 years of age, winning her 4th medal of the Games. It also marked the first swimming Olympic gold medal for Canada since Mark Tewksbury took gold in 1992.


Most eyes were on Australia’s Cameron McEvoy as a title contender in the Olympic 100 free final after McEvoy ripped an outstanding 47.04 earlier in the year. It was his young teammate Kyle Chalmers, however, who earned the spotlight in Rio. Despite flipping 7th at the 50, 18-year-old Chalmers shocked the world when he thundered home in a 24.44 to win gold for Australia. In doing so, he took down not only McEvoy, but also 2012 Olympic champion Nathan Adrian (USA), who would up with bronze.


USA medley relay (Photo: Simone Castrovillari)

Since 2012, a handful of men had come close to clearing the 52 second barrier and breaking backstroke legend Aaron Peirsol‘s World Record. In the men’s 100 back final, Team USA’s Ryan Murphy became the first man to post a 51 second swim in textile, but the World Record still eluded him. As he stepped up to the plate for the 400 medley relay, he had one final shot at that record in Rio. Murphy certainly took advantage of that opportunity, blasting a 51.85 to secure the World Record and give Team USA an early lead en route to relay gold.


A month ahead of the Rio Olympics, Australian sprint star Cate Campbell downed the World Record in the 100 free at the 2016 Australia Grand Prix. After blazing to a 24.89 on the opening 50, she brought it home with a 27.17 to hit the wall in 52.06. That overtook the previous World Record by a hundredth, as it formerly stood at a 52.07 done by Britta Steffen in the 2009 “supersuit” era.


Caeleb Dressel(Photo: Tim Binning)

Florida sophomore Caeleb Dressel was a monster in the sprints at the 2016 NCAA Championships. In a single day, he rewrote the record books with 4 of the top 5 fastest 50 freestyles ever after leading off the Gators’ 200 free relay and swimming the individual 50 free. The 50 free final was the most significant, however, as he broke the NCAA, American, and U.S. Open Records with an incredible 18.20. He opened with an 8.70 to the feet on the first 25, and brought it back with a 9.50 on the 2nd 25. That clipped his previous record of 18.23 done at the 2016 SEC Championships. It’s not often you see someone truly dominate in the 50 free, but Dressel’s winning margin in that race was over 6 tenths of a second ahead of anyone else.

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4 years ago

A good list of 2016 swim! For me, even though thr time wasn’t close to world record, I thought Maya DiRado’s 200 backstroke win over Hosszu, the overwhelming favorite, was one of my top 10. It was exciting until the last touch. Huge upset!

bobo gigi
Reply to  ADSF
4 years ago

Yes, unforgettable Maya DiRado’s win. But I disagree about Hosszu being the overwhelming favorite in the 200 back. Not for everybody. For once a risky pick paid off…. 🙂 I knew that Maya would swim that race much smarter than Hosszu. Add that Hosszu started to feel the fatigue, yes she’s human, so that was not a crazy surprise for me.

Sane Swim Parent
Reply to  ADSF
4 years ago

I would have put DiRado’s 200 back there as well. Such a beautiful swim!

Reply to  ADSF
4 years ago

Huge upset? Really? Coming into the Olympics, Katinka was only seeded a few hundredths faster than Maya. Katinka just cranks on prelims and semis where Maya smartly gets faster. Great swim by Maya no doubt but still a couple seconds from the world record

Captain Awesome
4 years ago

Any list without Peaty at the top can’t be taken seriously in my opinion. Also how have you gotten swims that’s have broken WRs that stood for years above swims that while still very good weren’t?

Jim C
Reply to  Captain Awesome
4 years ago

I would put Peaty on top too–but I think a reasonable case my be made for any of the top 3.

bobo gigi
4 years ago

I agree about Hosszu’s 400 IM.
But I would have put in second the Katie Ledecky’s 400 free instead of her 800 free. Both are crazy impressive but she broke her own 400 free world record by 1.91s which is better than “only” 1.89s over the double distance.
Peaty’s 100 breast crazy insane too.
Cate Campbell’s 100 free world record is huge too but it was made 1 month too early. She would have done it in the Rio final, she would be ranked much higher than that.
Overall a crazy year of crazy performances.

About Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona (2013-2015) and the University of Florida (2011-2013). While her college swimming career left a bit to be desired, her Snapchat chin selfies and hot takes on Twitter do not disappoint. She's also a high school graduate of The …

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