Best Swimming Nations: Men's Sprint Freestyles

If you’re a frequent reader of The Swimmers Circle, you’ll know that we frequently refer to certain national programs, as a country, excelling in certain disciplines. The Dutch women in sprint freestyles, the Polish men in the distance butterflies, for example, are two programs that have made their mark in certain disciplines.

Beginning today, we will examine the top 10 countries in each event (Olympic and World Championship), as well as each “discipline” overall. These rankings are going to be based on the current World Rankings, World Record histories, historical prowess, with a generous dash of subjectivity. Consider this a cheat sheet of where the best places are to look for the next great swimmers in each of the events/disciplines.

Today, we’ll kick things off with the men’s sprint freestyles – the 50 and 100.  This is a tough one to really nail down because of the fractions of seconds that separate the top sprinters, and how fickle-ly and quickly things can change.

50 free

Picking the winner in this one was tough. I went back-and-forth between France and Brazil. France obviously has more depth in the event, but Brazil has in Cesar Cielo the World Record holder, the last two World Championships, and the last Olympic championship. With the emergence of a second great Brazilian – Bruno Fratus, who finished the year ranked 2nd in the world – their case becomes even stronger, so I gave them the edge. The Americans have won more Olympic golds (4) in this event than anyone else, and still have one of the world’s best in Nathan Adrian, so they remain in the top 3.

The surprise on the list was Japan, who sneaks in at #10. For all of the abuse that Japan’s sprint group has received as of late, they have a great pair of young sprinters who are trying to change that perception.

Rank Country Top 3 Swimmers (2011 time)
1 Brazil Cesar Cielo (21.52) – WR
Bruno Fratus (21.76)
Nicholas Santos (22.28)
2 France Fred Bousquet (21.78) – TB, FWR
Alain Bernard (21.92) – FWR
Fabien Gilot (22.09)
3 USA Nathan Adrian (21.84)
Jimmy Feigen (22.03)
Garrett Weber-Gale (22.04)
4 Australia Matthew Abood (22.02)
Matt Targett (22.09)
Cameron Prosser (22.30)
5 Italy Luca Dotto (21.90)
Marco Orsi (22.13)
Lucio Spadaro (22.30)
6 Russia Sergey Fesikov (22.09)
Andrey Grechin (22.13)
Nikita Konovalov (22.36)
7 (Rising) Germany Marco di Carli (22.14
Steffen Deibler (22.21)
Cristoph Fildenbrandt (22.70)
8 South Africa Gideon Louw (22.02)
Roland Schoeman (22.31)
Graeme Moore (22.86)
9 United Kingdom Adam Brown (22.08)
Simon Burnett (22.24)
Richard Shafers (22.64)
10 (Rising) Japan Shinri Shioura (22.11)
Kenta Ito (22.28)
Kazuhisa Hotta (22.54)

Legend: WR – Current World Record Holder; FWR – Former World Record Holder; TB – Textile Best

Men’s 100 free

This was another tough call. The Australians are hot now, coming off of their win in the 400 free relay at the World Championships, but the French have been very good for a number of years and continue to churn out new swimmers to take over as the old guard moves on. I’ll give the nod to the French on the basis of their depth

Rank Country Top 4 Swimmers (2011 time)
1 France William Meynard (48.00)
Fabien Gilot (48.13)
Alain Bernard (48.37) – FWR
Yannick Agnel (48.59)
2 (rising) Australia James Magnussen (47.49) – TB
James Roberts (48.49)
Matthew Abood (48.66)
Matt Targett (48.66)
3 USA Nathan Adrian (48.05)
Michael Phelps (48.08)
Garrett Weber-Gale (48.49)
Jimmy Feigen (49.03)
4 Russia Andrey Grechin (48.59)
Nikita Lobintsev (48.62)
Danila Izotov (48.77)
Sergey Fesikov (48.88)
5 (rising) Italy Luca Dotta (48.24)
Filippo Magnini (48.36)
Marco Orsi (49.34)
Michele Santucci (49.38)
6 (rising) Germany Marco di Carli (48.24)
Paul Biedermann (48.66)
Markus Diebler (48.97)
Steffen Deibler (49.01)
7 Brazil Cesar Cielo (48.01) – WR
Bruno Fratus (48.72)
Marcelo Chierighini (49.24)
Vinicius Waked (49.25)
8 South Africa Graeme Moore (48.15)
Gideon Louw (48.74)
Darian Townsend (49.24)
Roland Schoeman (49.40)
9 United Kingdom Adam Brown (48.84)
Simon Burnett (49.09)
Grant Turner (49.30)
Robbie Renwick (49.53)
10 (rising) Japan Kenta Ito (48.78)
Shinri Shioura (48.85)
Takuro Fujii (48.88)
Kenji Kobase (49.31)

Legend: WR – Current World Record Holder; FWR – Former World Record Holder; TB – Textile Best

Overall Discipline Rankings – Men’s Sprint Freestyles

The old guard of French sprinting is aging, and the likes of Gilot, Bernard, and Bousquet will soon be moving on and have to be replaced, but with Yannick Agnel, Jeremy Stravius, and Florent Manaudou ready to hit their primes in London and beyond, the slide won’t be much, if anything. The Americans are consistent in the top 3 across both events, which gives them the 2nd-position overall, with the Australians, on the back of James Magnussen’s 100, in 3rd. Two years ago, Australia might have been in the top two, but with Eamon Sullivan’s injury problems and Ashley Callus’ retirement/non-retirement limbo, they slide to 3rd.

Rank Country
1 France
3 Australia
4 Brazil
5 Russia
6 Italy
7 Germany
8 South Africa
9 Great Britain
10 Japan

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9 years ago

I think your picks and lists are pretty much spot on.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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