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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57 Comments on "2016 Swammy Awards: Top 10 Swims of the Year"

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How do you leave off Townley Haas’ 200 Free at nc’s. 1:30.6. Come on…he beat a ten year old record by a second.

After Townley Haas won the trials he described his 1:45.66 200 LCM as the best race in his life. He was 0.08s faster finishing 5th in the Olympics. Then he swam a 1:44.14 relay split, 0.51s less than Sun”s winning time in the individual race so roughly the same quality as the individual gold. At thos point I thin it is obvious that his Rio relay split is best race, not his yards record.

Aussie crawl

Swimming imperial measurements.
Its the LCM that counts.
Just ask MP
Or Thorpey.

Swimming is all about LCM, wake up

To be fair, Dressel got in the 10th spot with a yards swim from the same meet.

Captain Awesome

And didn’t qualify for the event at the olympics. Shouldn’t be on the list either.

True, I was very surprised to see that swim on the list, to me his 50 wasn’t even better than his 100. I think his consistency for the 50 over the course of the entire meet was insane, but that doesn’t qualify as a single great swim.
I would’ve put Ledecky’s 400 somewhere on the list, Dirado’s 200 back possibly, or McEvoy’s 47.04 (the least likely since it came too early).

Steve Nolan

EXCUSE ME, YOU LEFT OFF ANTHONY ERVIN’S 50 THIS LIST IS INVALID. (I bleev I’ve made this exact comment before.)

Not saying it deserves to be first or anything, but it’s definitely better than Chalmer’s 100 IMO.

Captain Awesome

This article is best swims of 2016, not best races, best comebacks etc, it’s all about times. And in the scheme of things a 21.4 is no where near as impressive as a 47.5 being done by an 18 year old.

Steve Nolan

McEvoy’s swim would rank ahead of Chalmers’s if we’re just evaluating times.

If it’s just about the times, both are basically equal to the one that won golds in 2012. (With both being similar slower as compared to the fastest overall times of the year leading up the the Olympics.) Like “Whatever” just said, can’t give Chalmers bonus points for being 18 but not giving Ervin a bump for being 35.

And now that I read his whole post I see that he actually did the math to support what I just wrote. Go me! Go reading! Go Whatever!

Yes, it is as impressive as what you wrote. Since you brought up age, it is going to be easy to explain why. 21.4 was done by a 35-year-old who had taken almost 10 years of a break from competitive swimming. Anthony’s 50 freestyle win will go down as one of the greatest swims in history. In fact, he is the oldest individual Olympic gold medal winner in swimming. If we purely look at the times, Anthony was 2.34% off of the world record, Chalmers was 1.43% off of the world record. Anthony was 0.06 seconds slower than the 2012 winning time, and 0.10 seconds slower than the 2008 (suit aided) winning time. Chalmers was 0.06 slower than the 2012… Read more »
Attila the Hunt

You take into account Earvin’s age when winning 50 free Olympics gold (Torres was just off gold in 50 free Beijing at much older age), but failed to take into account Chalmers’s age, who had just turned 18 when winning 100 free gold, the youngest ever, and still a junior, in the history to win men’s 100 free.
Additionally, 50 free is a much younger event (in fact, the youngest individual event) in the Olympics, compared to 100 free, which is the oldest event in olympics swimming.

I would not put Ervin ahead of Chalmers, but I would put him ahead of Dressel. I consider an Olympic Gold medal to be more impressive than finishing off the podium in the Trials.

I’m surprised that during this swimswam’s “awards” cycle never was mentioned Buglarka Kapas. Her improvements since Olympic Games in London are much stronger and are more impressive than such done by another Hungarian female swimmer.

Boglarka Kapas: ( London:2012 – Rio : 2016)
800 free: 8:23.79 — 8.16.37
400 free: 4:10.01. — 4:02.37
200 free: 2:02.31 — 1:57.61
She is only 23 years old and I expect her to be the leading force in Hungarian team in Budapest this July.

About Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona and the University of Florida. She got her M.S. in Criminology from Florida State and seems exceptionally confused about which team she should cheer for during the college football season. Lauren is currently working on her M.A. in …

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