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2017 SWAMMY AWARDS: Top 10 Races of 2017
Counting down the top 10 swims of the year is always an exercise in priorities. While we could simply count off each world record set this year, we always elect for a less boring option. Every swim comes in its own set of circumstances, and some objectively slower swims are more memorable. Of course this list is completely subjective, but we think it’s a good sampling of the significant swims from the year that was.
#10: Zane Grothe‘s Monster Mile
Maybe there’s some recency bias on this one. And sure, maybe it’s in a course where times are hard to understand for a large portion of the world. But it’s the fastest swim in history (14:18.25) in the sport’s longest event, coming from an ascending swimmer who is actually going up in training volume as he gets older. For any swimmer who has stayed in the sport long enough to feel “old,” that’s awfully inspiring.
#9: Sarah Sjostrom‘s World Record Foray Into Freestyle
In a year of anticipation for the August World Championships, with so many predictions made, scrapped and rewritten, the first hypothetical world-record swim to be realized holds extra meaning. That came on day 1 of the meet, courtesy of the world’s leading butterflyer branching out into freestyle. Sjostrom has always been a great freestyler, but she clearly put a major emphasis on the stroke in 2017, breaking two world records. Sjostrom’s 51.71 leadoff on the Swedish 4×100 free relay was an exciting way to kick off Worlds.
#8: Adam Peaty‘s Barrier-Breaking 25.9
The race wasn’t close, and that’s what makes it so impressive. Not only is Peaty one of just a handful of men to ever break 27 seconds, he’s the first ever under 26. He leads the rest of history by half a second and won World Champs gold by a similar margin. The sheer weight of breaking the 26-second barrier adds a lot of notoriety to Peaty’s mind-bending swim.
#7: Masse Makes Canadian & World History In 100 Back
Kylie Masse‘s 100 back is historic in two major arenas. Not only did her 58.10 take down the longest-standing world record on the women’s side (a relic from the super-suit era), it also stood up as the first-ever World Championships gold medal for a Canadian woman in swimming. The swim represents the huge leap forward taken by Canada over the past few years as well as evidence of Masse’s own massive personal development into a world-leading backstroker.
#6: Dressel’s Round 40.00
Jumping back into the yards pool for a bit, we check off Caeleb Dressel‘s most iconic swim, at least in terms of the finish time. A year of wondering whether Dressel could break 18.0 or 40.0 wound up with Dressel hitting the latter on the nose in the final individual swim of his banner NCAA Championship meet. That time is the fastest in history by .76 seconds and makes him one of only four men ever to break 41 seconds. It also foreshadowed Dressel’s massive breakout summer (which may make an appearance later in this list).
#5: Manuel Does It Again In 100 Free
For the second summer in a row, Simone Manuel took down a world record-holder to win the year’s biggest gold medal in the 100 freestyle. In 2016 it was Cate Campbell, and in 2017 it was Sarah Sjostrom. Though her lifetime-best is still well slower than both of those two, Manuel has proven two summers straight that she’s the most clutch at getting her hand on the wall in the biggest moment. Can it still be called an upset when it’s the defending Olympic champ winning Worlds? Hard to say. But Manuel keeps proving there’s no reason to count her out, no matter how long the odds appear.
#4: Comerford Ties Ledecky In 200 Free
Probably the race of women’s NCAAs, the 200 freestyle signaled the rise of Team USA’s feel-good breakout swimmer, Mallory Comerford. This entry on the list truly epitomizes the “race” of the year – it was one of the most exciting, unpredictable swims of the year, with the hotshot upstart Comerford taking on the clutch Manuel and the legendary Ledecky, and ended in a dead tie between Comerford and Ledecky at 1:40.36.
#3: Caeleb Dressel‘s Textile Best 100 Fly
Caeleb Dressel put up a whole bunch of swims at the World Championships that could be on this list, but his 49.86 in the 100 fly has to be the best. The swim gets a boost for breaking a seldom-traversed barrier, as well as for winning a World title in an event where he didn’t even qualify for the Olympics one year earlier. Dressel’s time is the fastest textile swim in history (discounting the super-suit times from the 2009 era) and is just .04 off the best swim in history, done by a super-suited Michael Phelps.
#2: Federica Pellegrini‘s Walk-Off In World Champs 200 Free
Not only was Federica Pellegrini‘s win in the 200 free a big upset over a swimmer widely-considered the best female swimmer in the world (if not in history), Pellegrini’s touchout of Katie Ledecky also capped off a historic 200 freestyle career that will go down in history as one of the most successful. Pellegrini has now won a medal at the past 7 World Championships in the 200 free, including gold in 2009, 2011 and 2017. If we are to take Pellegrini at her word, it’ll be her last one, too. Pellegrini retired from the event at the World level on the spot, making her upset win a true walk-off.
#1: 1650 Free, Men’s NCAA Championships
Our #1 swim is the truest representation of the word “race.” For the second year in a row, the mile at men’s NCAA was the biggest showstopper of the meet. With a field made up of Olympians, international sensations and young challengers, the lead was in flux much of the way, and when the dust settled, four men had swum the fastest 1650 freestyles in history, headed by Clark Smith‘s 14:22.41. Sure, his record was later demolished by Grothe (see #10), but a distance race like this, where 4 guys battle to the last 5 yards, comes around once in a generation. Savor it.
There isn’t much to say that the race itself can’t tell even better, so do yourself a favor and watch it below. It won’t be 15 minutes you regret spending: