Katie Ledecky, David Popovici Named 2022 World Aquatics Swimmers of the Year

While most of the world has begun to look ahead toward the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, World Aquatics took the opportunity of the 2023 World Aquatics Championships to look backward and awards its awards for the best of 2022.

Winners were awarded prize money of $10,000 each for their Athlete of the Year honors.

World Aquatics Award Winners:

  • Female Swimmer of the Year – Katie Ledecky, USA
  • Male Swimmer of the Year – David Popovici, Romania
  • Female Open Water Swimmer of the Year – Ana Marcela Cunha, Brazil
  • Male Open Water Swimmer of the Year – Gregorio Paltrinieri, Italy
  • Female Diver of the Year – Chen Yuxi, China
  • Male Diver of the Year – Wang Zongyuan, China
  • Male High Diver of the Year – Rhiannan Iffland, Australia
  • Female High Diver of the Year – Aidan Heslop, Great Britain
  • Female Water Polo Player of the Year – Maddie Musselman, USA
  • Male Water Polo Player of the Year – Felipe Perrone, Spain
  • Artistic Swimmer of the Year – Yukiko Inui, Japan
  • Male Artistic Swimmer of the Year – Giorgio Minsini, Italy

In a year dominated by the ad hoc Budapest World Aquatics Championships, all of the winners were World Champions last year.

That included swimmers Katie Ledecky and David Popovici.

Ledecky won four World Championships in 2022, taking titles in the 400 free, 800 free, 1500 free, and 800 free relay. That was before two more wins in 2023 that gave her the most individual World Championships in history, surpassing Michael Phelps.

For Ledecky, for many the dominant face of her generation in women’s swimming, that is surprisingly just her 2nd Female Swimmer of the Year award, winning previously in 2013.

On the other end of the spectrum was the teenage breakout star David Popovici, who at the 2022 European Aquatics Championships broke a legendary World Record in the 100 free. He also won individual World Championships in the 100 and 200 freestyles, making him the first male swimmer to do that double at Worlds since American Jim Mongtomery in 1973.

In open waterMarcela Cunha won the 5km and 25km races at the World Championships in 2022, earning bronze in the premier 10km event.

The 2022 award is a record-setting 8th award for Cunha in 12 all-time awards given.

The Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri, meanwhile, won the 2022 World Championship in the 10km race and added a bronze in team open water. While not considered for an open water award, he also pulled a double by winning the 10km event in the pool in 2022.

He was a first-time winner for 2022.

In water polo, Felipe Perrone of Italy and Maddie Musselman each won the award after leading their teams to gold medals.

Perrone was named the Most Valuable Player in the Final match as the captain of the winning Spanish team.

Musselman, meanwhile, scored 5 of the 9 American goals in the final, and her 20 goals was 3rd-most in the tournament.

So far, World Aquatics has only announced the female winner for Artistic Swimming, won by Japan’s Yukiko Inui. In absence of the dominant Russians, in both 2022 and 2023, she won the 2022 solo technical and solo free routine events.

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4 months ago

So how does Leon not get swimmer of the year? Taking down a 20 year WR, 3 golds and is just an overall consistent swimmer.

4 months ago

Molly will be untouchable in Paris they that she has learnt to deal with her nerves

4 months ago

Mark Spitz Shane Gould 1972

4 months ago

Daddy Popovici’s linsanity run is over and he’ll never break 143.5 or 47 again

Reply to  Andrew
4 months ago

As an Eastern European, this may be the case…

Philip Johnson
Reply to  Andrew
4 months ago

I disagree, but I do find it weird there’s been virtually no coverage on his performance. He was so hyped and when he didn’t deliver, silence.

Reply to  Philip Johnson
4 months ago

Not that relevant to this, although somewhat similar: what happened to Lasco in the 200 back semis? I thought he was going to easily make the final, but he had a terrible swim and got 8th.

Reply to  Philip Johnson
4 months ago

Carson Foster swims ok: perennial choker

Pop misses podium in 2 events where he’s the fastest textile performer of all time: clutch and scared Dressel off

All the Popovicitis frauds been silent lately

Reply to  Andrew
4 months ago

People in the comments are always super inconsistent with how they treat swimmers. Any Australian who has an off swim is labelled a choker. MOC was labelled a choker last year because of her 200 free relay split (despite breaking 5 world records last year) and people were still talking about it leading up to worlds. Guess she proved them wrong.

Reply to  Philip Johnson
4 months ago

I mean it’s kinda like the NBA where if certain players like Kawhi and Giannis don’t deliver they still get a pass because the media likes them but if KD and Embiid have the same results they never hear the end of it since the media dislikes them. It’s a good thing the media isn’t too harsh on Popovici just yet, he’s still a teenager and has potential to do great things in Paris despite the down year

Mr Piano
Reply to  Andrew
4 months ago

2002: Phelps’ run is over and he’ll never beat Tom Malchow or break 1:55 in the 200 fly again

4 months ago

If Ledecky only previously won it in 2013, who got it in 2016? Hosszu?

Reply to  Braden Keith
4 months ago

No because they used her to promote the World Cup where Hosszu competed agains local children only but visited all stops and swam practically at all events up to 4 finals per session. She was a golden girl of FINA then with the millions of prize money. The love ended when World Cup realized that quality of the win matters. Then Hosszu wrote an angry letter threatening FINA with the Court. There were no best swimmer of the year rewards since.

Reply to  Braden Keith
4 months ago

Aaand because she was a phenomenal, versatile swimmer (who won more individual medals in Rio than Ledecky did…)

Reply to  iLikePsych
4 months ago

Actually 2013 award has an interesting story about decision of best swimmer of world championships.There was a choice between 3 gold medals of Ledecky and 6 gold medals of Franklin. 16 years old having this WC as her only second international meet won the contest for reward.
In this regard if to return to previous discussion of ranking swimmers’ performances at recent World Championships I am surprised that nobody suggested as ranking criteria prize money earned. That is universal measure of quality and quantity used almost perfectly at many professional sports. And if ranking by such criterion goes against your understanding of value of results shown at this WC then this FINA prize money system must be changed.

4 months ago

They just announced the female swimmer of 1964. For her third olympic title in the row DAWN FRASER. 😊🇦🇺

Yannick Angel Martino Moravcova
4 months ago

Also to be announced later today:

4 months ago

Me: This was so long ago, it’s hardly even relevant anymore!

Also me: I’m gonna go watch that video of 1987 NCAAs again.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. 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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