2016 Swammy Awards: Viral Video of the Year

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


In 2016, as with most Olympic years, elevated media exposure for the heroes of our sport brought higher and higher potential for viral video swimsations.

Our Viral Video of the Year came out of Chinese media sensation Fu Yuanhui‘s reaction to her Olympic bronze medal-winning and Asian record-setting 58.76 100 backstroke.

The catch? Fu didn’t know her time or placement.

On camera, we see Fu move from disappointed to happy to elated as the reporter keys her into the results. (The original video was taken down, but the Daily Mirror one embedded above still showcases her priceless reaction.)

Just a few days before her Olympic bronze, Fu made her mark on the worldwide internet landscape when the below “best of” compilation of her best over-the-top expressions on camera went viral. Days later, she also broke a cultural barrier by freely discussing her period after her relay missed a medal in the 4×100 medley relay.

Videos via Shanghai Expat.


(In no particular order)

  • #PhelpsFace

The rivalry between Michael Phelps and Chad le Clos is certainly one of the more dramatic swimming rivalries of our time, and it was never more apparent than in the lead-up to the Olympic semifinals of the men’s 200 fly. After this absolute social media gold, we can surely look forward to years and years of footage from NBC’s “ready room cam.”

Speaking of the ready room, who could forget the drama that went down between breaststroke superstars Yuliya Efimova of Russia and American Lilly King? After Efimova won the the first Olympic semi-final of the 100 breast, she wagged her finger signalling “number one.” Not impressed by this gesture, King, watching while preparing for the second semi, mockingly waved her finger, as if to say ‘not so fast’.

King ended up winning her own semifinal in an even faster 1:05.70 (eventually taking the gold medal in the final). When an NBC reporter asked her about the gesture, King responded “you wave your finger number one and you’ve been caught drug cheating…I’m not a fan”. 

Efimova has had two different doping infractions in her career, and was cleared to compete in Rio just the day before the semi.

NC State standout Ryan Held became a household name after this video of his reaction to his relay’s 4×100 free gold lit up the internet. In the time since, he has even gotten marriage proposals based on the podium video. (This video has also been taken down, but these pictures below from CNN’s Nathan McDermott capture the moment.)

  • #SnowChallenge

At the end of January, Winter Storm Jonas swept the northeast U.S., resulting in practice and school cancellations across the region. However, even a blizzard can’t keep swimmers from attempting to swim, and their efforts quickly became a viral video sensation. The below clip was one of the first to catch on.

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Was the man who touched her head Sun Yang?



Qi Li


About Hannah Hecht

Hannah Hecht

Hannah Hecht grew up in Kansas and spent most of her childhood trying to convince coaches to let her swim backstroke in freestyle sets. She took her passion to Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa and swam at NAIA Nationals all four years. After graduating in 2015, she moved to …

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