2022 Swammy Awards: Top 10 Swims of the Year

To see all of our 2022 Swammy Awards, click here.

The 2022 calendar year has been full of incredible performances in the pool worldwide. Thanks to the many competitions that have taken place over the last 12 months, several records were broken and we were treated to a ton of swims that will live on in the sport’s history forever.

In this special ranking, SwimSwam retraces some of the most exciting battles against the clock from the past year.

Note that these performances aren’t solely looked at through an objective lens. We’ve taken into account the significance of each swim in terms of time and all-time ranking, but are also acknowledging the magnitude they had in the moment and the emotion elicited.

Honorable Mentions

  • Ruta Meilutyte‘s world record of 28.37 in the women’s 50 breast at the Short Course World Championships. (Video)
  • Hunter Armstrong‘s world record of 23.71 in the men’s 50 back at the U.S. International Team Trials. (Video)
  • Zac Stubblety-Cook‘s world record of 2:05.95 in the men’s 200 breast (LCM) at the Australian Championships. (Video)
  • The Australian women’s world record of 7:39.29 in the 800 freestyle relay at the Commonwealth Games. (Video)
  • Katie Ledecky‘s gold medal-winning effort in the women’s 800 free at the World Championships, clocking 8:08.04 to win her fifth straight title in the event, the first to ever do so, while also putting up her fastest swim since 2018.
  • 16-year-old Summer McIntosh swimming the fourth-fastest women’s 400 IM time in history at the U.S. Open in 4:28.61, one of many outstanding performances in 2022 from the Canadian sensation. (Video)
  • Luca Urlando‘s NCAA, American and U.S. Open record of 43.35 in the men’s 100 backstroke (SCY) at the NCAA Championships. (Video)

10. Kate Douglass (USA), Women’s 200 Breaststroke (SCY) – 2:01.87 – 2022 Tennessee Invite

It was one thing for Kate Douglass to take down Lilly King‘s NCAA, American and U.S. Open Record in the women’s 200 breaststroke (SCY) at the NCAA Championships in March, but the University of Virginia senior went one better by re-lowering the mark at the mid-season Tennessee Invitational in November. Douglass, who clocked 2:02.19 in March to break King’s previous record of 2:02.60 set in 2018, dropped a mind-boggling 2:01.87 in Knoxville, making her the fastest swimmer in history by seven-tenths and the first sub-2:02. In an event that’s typically reserved for breaststroke specialists, Douglass is a true all-arounder and stud sprinter, and has an otherworldly range that makes this performance truly hard to believe and one of the year’s best.

9. Maggie MacNeil (CAN), Women’s 100 Butterfly (SCM) – 54.05 – 2022 Short Course World Championships

Over the past three years, there isn’t much Maggie MacNeil hasn’t accomplished in the women’s 100 butterfly. At one point she simultaneously held the Olympic, LC World, SC World and NCAA titles in the event, remains the fastest swimmer ever in short course yards, and this year, she added the Commonwealth Games title to her resume. But the one thing that eluded her was the world record, either in LC or SC, but she ticked off that box with authority at the Short Course World Championships to close out the year. MacNeil swam to a time of 54.05 in the final, obliterating the world record of 54.59 set by Kelsi Dahlia last year by more than half a second while winning gold by seven-tenths over American Torri Huske (54.75). MacNeil made what initially looked to be a tight race a lopsided affair as she stormed home with a blazing back-half of 28.27, putting her incredible underwater work on full display.

8. Thomas Heilman (USA), Boys’ 100 Butterfly (SCY) – 44.67 – 2022 Winter Junior Championships – East

Courtesy: USA Swimming

It’s a rarity to see a swimmer on the younger side of an age group set a National Age Group (NAG) record. For example, it’s not often we’ll see a 15-year-old lower a NAG record in the 15-16 age group—that’s usually reserved for the 16-year-olds. What do we then make of Thomas Heilman, who at 15, broke not only the 15-16 NAG record in the boys’ 100 butterfly, but also went under the 17-18 record. Heilman blasted his way to a time of 44.67 in the 100 fly at the Winter Junior Championships – East in Greensboro, N.C., smashing the NAG record of 45.62 held by Luca Urlando while also dipping under the 17-18 mark of 44.75 set by Aiden Hayes earlier in the year. Heilman turned 15 in February, and he’s already faster than any swimmer in U.S. history aged 18 and under in the event. The absurdity of that makes this swim stand up with some of the best we’ve seen around the world this year.

7. Leon Marchand (FRA), Men’s 400 IM (LCM) – 4:04.28 – 2022 World Championships

At the Duna Arena in Budapest, a lion made its world stage debut in style. Leon Marchand, 20, shocked everyone during the first night of finals at the World Aquatics Championships. With a time of 4:04.28, Marchand swam to a new European Record and the second-fastest performance in the history of the men’s 400 IM, behind only Michael Phelps (4:03.84), who perhaps from his sofa watched the last 50 meters of the French phenomenon with his fingers crossed. Although he did not break the world record, this performance marked the first time someone broke 4:05 in a decade. The most impressive leg of his race was the breaststroke where he swam 1:07.28.

6. Thomas Ceccon (ITA), Men’s 100 Backstroke (LCM) – 51.60 – 2022 World Championships

The 100 backstroke has changed world record holder in both short course and long course this season. Another performance that stunned everyone was that of a backstroker with a mustache but was not Coleman Stewart. Continuing the tradition of the winning mustache Thomas Ceccon won the final of the 100 backstroke at the World Championships in Budapest 2022 showing all his talent by improving the WR by swimming 2 lanes away from the previous record holder, Ryan Murphy.

5. David Popovici (ROU), Men’s 200 Freestyle (LCM) – 1:42.97 –  2022 European Championships

No, David Popovici didn’t swim to a new world record in 200 freestyle. But for the first time in a very long time, he proved to everyone that sooner or later that this vaunted record will be broken. Popovici joined the sub-1:43 club, a very exclusive group that only includes three names: Paul Biedermann, Michael Phelps, and, since mid-August, David Popovici. Popovici’s time of 1:42.97 at the European Championships marked the first swim under 1:43 in 13 years and the first-ever in a textile suit.

4. Ariarne Titmus (AUS), Women’s 400 Freestyle (LCM) – 3:56.40 – 2022 Australian Championships

In long course we had  only one individual WR from the women’s field  in 2022. Australian superstar Ariarne Titmus swam to a time of 3:56.40 in the 400 freestyle at the Australian Swimming Championships in June, becoming the first swimmer to break one of Katie Ledecky’s world records. The time of the Australian Olympic champion was 0.06 seconds faster than Ledecky’s previous mark of 3:56.46. Ledecky set her former world record six years ago at the 2016 Olympic Games, with Titmus having come close to that standard en route to beating the American head-to-head at the Tokyo Games last year (3:56.69).

3. USA/Australia/Italy, Men’s 4×100 Medley Relay (SCM) – 2022 SC World Championships

The last race of the 2022 Short Course Worlds Championships was one for the books. The United States, Australia and Italy were locked in an enthralling battle that ultimately saw the three nations separated by just eight one-hundredths of a second when all was said and done. The U.S. and Australia tied for gold in a time of 3:18.98, breaking the world record set by Russia in 2009, and the Italians also went under the previous mark of 3:19.16 in 3:19.06, but had to settle for bronze. The race included the fastest freestyle split in history from Kyle Chalmers (44.63) for Australia and the second-fastest ever for U.S. breaststroker Nic Fink (54.88).

2. Kristof Milak (HUN), Men’s 200 Butterfly (LCM) – 1:50.34 – 2022 World Championships

We love clubs. The 1:50 club in the men’s 200 butterfly only has one season-ticket holder: Kristof Milak. Milak did not miss the opportunity to remind the world that he stands above the rest in the final of the 200 fly at the World Championships in his hometown of Budapest. With a time of 1:50.34, he improved his own world record of 1:50.73, further distancing himself from the rest of the world. Michael Phelps (1:51.51) is the only swimmer in history who has been within two seconds of Milak in the event.

1. David Popovici (ROU), Men’s 100 Freestyle (LCM) – 46.86 – 2022 European Championships

Not all races are equal. And no event is quite like 100 freestyle in long course meters, period. It’s often referred to as the blue ribbon event of the swimming competition at major international events. 17-year-old David Popovici deserves to be nominated twice in this ranking and earns first place thanks to the most incredible performance of the year (to many, maybe of the last 10 years). The new world record in the men’s 100 freestyle, which is now 46.86 is incredible in many ways, the room for improvement that David seems to have, the age of those who set it, and the fluidity to which he glides through the water. It seems to be only the beginning. The previous world record of 46.91, held by Brazilian Cesar Cielo, had been on the books for 13 years, and was incredibly set in the same pool, Rome’s Foro Italico, that Popovici swam to the new standard.

Previous Top 10 Swims of the Year Lists

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dscott
1 month ago

Understand the frustration out there over leaving out Stubblety-Cook and Paltrinieri, but another worthy swim was never even mentioned anywhere in either the article or the massive list of comments.

Melbourne Worlds; Men’s 200 Free defending champion, Sunwoo Hwang swam 1:39.72. Outside lane. Next to Popovici, whom he CRUSHED (even though Popovicl swam well enough to move into #8 all-time performer despite his cries that he can’t handle Short Course), with an injured hand. Third swim ever under 1:40 SCM, with one of those a discountable Biederman 2009 matter. Just 0.02 back from 2012 Yannick Angel swim when he was hugely dominant in world 200 Free, whether SCM or LCM.

Sunwoo Hwang. Worthy.

commonwombat
Reply to  dscott
1 month ago

Cannot disagree with anything you said.

NC Starbound
1 month ago

Lol who knew that the Commonwealth had such a little brother syndrome, until this comment thread?

Heilman’s swim was one of the greatest age group swims ever. Deal with it.

Meathead
1 month ago

Leaving out santos winning a world championship at 42 discredits the entire list

swimapologist
Reply to  Meathead
1 month ago

BuT iT wAsNt A wOrLd ReCoRd

CaliSurf
1 month ago

…………..am I the only one who thinks Heilman should be higher?

*ducks in Australian*

Mclovin
Reply to  CaliSurf
1 month ago

Yes you are

dscott
Reply to  Mclovin
1 month ago

No you are not.

swimapologist
1 month ago

All I see is a bunch of Europeans and Australians screaming that they don’t understand yards.

If you don’t get the significance of Heilman’s swims, that’s on you.

If you just want a list of World Records, then go check Wikipedia. There were 20 World Records broken this year, by the way. It’s such a neanderthal take that “World Records over everything” without any context to the significance of the swim.

DUMB.

Jess
Reply to  swimapologist
1 month ago

As an evolutionary biologist and archaeologist I can confirm whatever point you tried to make with the neanderthal comment doesn’t work but it also contradicts yourself. Going into the 2:05 barrier for 200 breaststroke as an examples is light and day more significant than a NAG record. You are blinded by your love for the swim to understand the context respective to other achievements. It cannot be compared to the fastest swim of all time in an event in which the whole world competes in.

swimapologist
Reply to  Jess
1 month ago

As a tedious person I can confirm that whatever point you tried to make with your neanderthal comment is, in fact, wrong.

While I know “neanderthal apologetics” is a hot topic the last few years among scientists, the last Neanderthal existed 40,000 years ago. While a comparison to his peers might warrant some interesting advantages and disadvantages, because he died 40,000 years ago, he was significantly less sophisticated than a modern human.

Much in the same way, because these people didn’t swim yards when they were 7 years old, and refuse to acknowledge the importance of anything that is not directly in their sphere of understanding from “long ago,” they are very similar to Neanderthals of 40,000 years ago.

You… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by swimapologist
Davide
Reply to  swimapologist
1 month ago

In your view –>“it’s probably the best swim, in context, that we’ve gotten from a 15-year-old American male since Michael Phelps.” > the best swim in that race from anyone of any country and any age (ZSC) or the second best ever, behind a cheater, so my official WR (Greg).

If you can’t see why being the best ever at something, without requiring additional context, is more pressive than being the best 15 years old American since Phelps, it’s on you.

If he wasn’t American you’d have a different opinion, at least be honest and admit your nationalist bias.

swimapologist
Reply to  Davide
1 month ago

What you described doesn’t exist in swimming. With so many events, there’s ALWAYS context.

1) you just described the context of what makes GP’s swim your #2. The fact that you don’t recognize Sun Yang’s swims is context.
2) By saying “in an event” you’re adding context. There’s no ultimate “best at everything ever” absolutism in swimming.

Again, 20 World Records broken. I guess we have a 20-way tie for 1st place then? No sorry, 21, because GP.

It’s like you don’t even understand how bad your argument is.

Davide
Reply to  swimapologist
1 month ago

Not recognizing Sun’s swim isn’t context, since it shouldn’t exist, it’s like saying that not counting a guy who won with a false start is giving context to the actual winner lol.

As for the event thing you’re right, it’s context, but it’s a lot less stringent than having 3 different criteria: age, nationality, and a less practiced form of swimming (yards).

Every single WR is overall more impressive than Heilman swim yes, but as even you should know, they’re not all made equal or you’re implying I’m trying to say that an hypothetical 200 or 800 free WR would hold the same meaning as ZSC WR?

If Heilman was Aussie or European would you say the same? Be… Read more »

swimapologist
Reply to  Davide
1 month ago

What’s the Australian equivalent? A 15-year-old going 50.99 in the 100 LCM fly?

I would 100% support that being on this list.

Davide
Reply to  swimapologist
1 month ago

Considering Heilman went 51.98 in August, I highly doubt he would have been sub 51 3 months later, it’s realistically closer to a 51.4-51.5, and if you want a non American comparison I’d say that Galossi going 3.45 in the 400 at 15 is just as impressive, 7.43 in the 800 at 16 and 2 months too, but no, he shouldn’t be on this list, nor should Heilman, anyway it’s cool youd have him in here as well

Last edited 1 month ago by Davide
Troyy
Reply to  Davide
1 month ago

Galossi’s 7:43 is his most impressive swim.

Davide
Reply to  Troyy
1 month ago

Overall yea, I placed both his 400 and 800 at the same level because of his age at the time of the swim, anyway both are probably above whatever Heilman did so far in terms of impressiveness

Corn Wallis
Reply to  Davide
1 month ago

the best swim in that race from anyone of any country and any age

Sounds like you agree with Kate being on the list then?

Davide
Reply to  Corn Wallis
1 month ago

Since there are only 10 spots, I’d rather include Greg and ZSC swims over the yards swims mentioned, I’d probably take both McIntosh (400IM) and Ledecky (800 free) over Macneil WR, but I’m not sure which of the two I’d place on the 10th spot, anyway if ledecky made the list I wouldn’t have said anything

Troyy
Reply to  swimapologist
1 month ago

Popovici’s 47.30 at 16 from last year is more impressive than anything Heilman has done and it wasn’t even an honourable mention last year.

SAMUEL HUNTINGTON
Reply to  swimapologist
1 month ago

People aren’t demanding a list of WRs. In fact the swim most people want included, Greg’s 1500, wasn’t a WR.

swimapologist
Reply to  SAMUEL HUNTINGTON
1 month ago

Look at the replies. “…Which I consider a WR…”

SAMUEL HUNTINGTON
Reply to  swimapologist
1 month ago

Yes. I looked at the replies. People want Greg on this list over Heilman. That seems to be the consensus.

Jess
Reply to  swimapologist
1 month ago

All of this also neglects the fact that, although it may be the fastest 15 year olds swim of all time, if everyone in the world swam yards it might not have been. If say Milak swam the same time at 15 it wouldn’t be discussed because yards are only for Americans. The same cannot be said for Long course and Short Course world records. The world swims them so they are the best ever in the world. Its an impressive time but the lad is essentially the fastest of those who swims yards, NOT the world, so comparatively it as not as good a swim to G or ZSC.

m d e
Reply to  swimapologist
1 month ago

There were 5 individual LCM WRs this year. All 5 should be on this list.

Laps
Reply to  m d e
1 month ago

Surely this is a no brainer.

LCM > SCM > SCY
Olympic event > Non-Olympic event

A NAG record is quite the achievement but it is not at the same level as a WR, especially when we’ve seen teenage phenom WRs.

Andy
1 month ago

SCY – where 70% of the swim is jumping in the water + underwater kicks + turns, 30% is actual breaststroke or fly.

Last edited 1 month ago by Andy
Jess
1 month ago

You cannot rank a NAG record or anything SCY over actual world records. If everyone in the world swam Yards and Douglass was still the fastest then its fair but no one swim yards outside America so its in no way at all comparable or as impressive to a real world record.

Troyy
Reply to  Jess
1 month ago

Douglass (2:15.77) wasn’t even the fastest in short course 200 breast this year because Chikunova (2:14.70) was a second faster in SCM so probably more impressive than Douglass’ yards swim as well.

Dexxi
1 month ago

Why is Kolesnikov’s world record not even in honorable mention? He broke a record that had been held for 8 years and had not even been approached before, 22.22 seemed unshakable. Why is this swim not on the list? Just because Kolesnikov is a Russian?

Last edited 1 month ago by Dexxi

About Aglaia Pezzato

Aglaia Pezzato

Cresce a Padova e dintorni dove inizialmente porta avanti le sue due passioni, la danza classica e il nuoto, preferendo poi quest’ultimo. Azzurrina dal 2007 al 2010 rappresenta l’Italia con la nazionale giovanile in diverse manifestazioni internazionali fino allo stop forzato per due delicati interventi chirurgici. 2014 Nel 2014 fa il suo esordio …

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