2018 World Female Swimmer of the Year: Katie Ledecky, USA
Often a victim of sky-high expectations set by her historic track record, Ledecky had arguably her quietest year since bursting onto the international scene in 2012, and she’s still the world’s top female swimmer.
Ledecky finished the year with three world-best times in long course meters – more than any other woman – as well as the second-best time worldwide in the 200 free. She bagged three golds, a silver and a bronze at the Pan Pacific Championships, sweeping the 400-though-1500s freestyle and only fading to bronze in what was a brutal 200 freestyle field with Ledecky coming off the 800 free earlier in the session. And while Ledecky did only go 1:55.15 in the individual 200, her field-best 1:53.84 split on the next day’s 4×200 free relay showed that a fresh Ledecky is still a match for anyone in the world in any freestyle distance 200 meters or more.
Ledecky was also one of just three women to set individual long course world record in 2018, doing so with a smashing 1500 free way back in April. Ledecky’s 15:20 sits more than 18 seconds ahead of the #2 performer in history, and she now owns 9 of the 10 fastest swims in history in the newly-minted Olympic event.
In no particular order
- Cate Campbell, Australia: Campbell was a relay hero in 2018, coming up with massive splits and powering no less than six major relay wins across the year. The Australian sensation won six golds and two silvers at the Commonwealth Games, including a meet record 23.78 in the 50 free. Campbell also won the 50 fly, what has never been considered a primary event for her, and her 25.59 time stands up as the #3 swim worldwide this year in that event. At Pan Pacs, Campbell went a perfect 5-for-5 on gold medals, almost singlehandedly beating the stacked American roster in all three 4×100 relays (medley, free, mixed medley). But maybe the most impressive were Campbell’s 100 free relay splits across the two meets: 50.93, 51.00, 51.19, 51.36 and 51.57.
- Rikako Ikee, Japan: the first female athlete ever to be named MVP of the entire Asian Games, Ikee had a medal windfall in 2018. Expanding her event range while also improving in her best events, Ikee finished with six golds and eight total medals at the Asian Games, along with one gold and four total medals at the Pan Pacific Championships. She finishes with the world’s best 100 fly time in long course for the year 2018, moving to #4 all-time in the event. The 18-year-old Ikee accomplished the rare feat of beating Ledecky head-to-head, taking silver ahead of Ledecky’s bronze in the 200 free at Pan Pacs. She also set Asian records in the 100 free, 200 free and 50 fly, missing the super-suited 100 fly mark by just .01 seconds.
- Ariarne Titmus, Australia: holding just one major international medal in her career as of Jan. 1, 2018 (a relay bronze at 2017 Worlds), Titmus filled an entire trophy case of medals in 2018. Four medals (three of them gold) at Commonwealths, three more medals (one gold) at Pan Pacs and four (two gold) at Short Course Worlds highlighted a stellar year for the 18-year-old Titmus in what is perhaps the deepest class of female juniors we’ve seen around the world in years. Titmus set a world record in the short course 400 free at Short Course Worlds while winning both the 200 and 400 frees. And though Ledecky has set the bar incredibly high in the distance freestyles, Titmus now ranks in the top 10 in history in the 200, 400 and 800 frees, long course.