Athletes, from middle schoolers to professionals, love comparing which sport is “toughest” or which sports’ athletes are in “the best shape.” While each sport’s requirements make it difficult to truly objectively measure these sort of categories, it doesn’t mean anyone stops trying, and every year Sports Illustrated puts out a “most fit” list of professional athletes, ranking 25 men and 25 women using the criteria below.
Sports Illustrated…ranked the best-conditioned male and female athletes in the world, consulting trainers, exercise physiologists and performance experts with experience across the college, pro and Olympic levels of sports to evaluate athletes on the following criteria: performances over the last 12 months; demands and risks of their respective sports; durability; training regimens and other physical benchmarks including power, speed, strength, agility, endurance, flexibility and more.
This year, four aquatics athletes — three swimmers and a water polo player — made the list, with three of those four athletes returning from last year’s list.
Coming it #21 on the women’s is Team USA water polo player Maggie Steffens, who was also ranked 21st last year. The article references her “full-body, underwater training moves” and “intense lifts in the gym.”
Olympic gold medalist Simone Manuel makes her debut on this list at #19, with her former Stanford teammate and freestyle legend Katie Ledecky taking 5th on the list. The article mentions both swimmers’ gold medal performances, as well as their dedication to the sport that requires up to 10 swim practices a week, plus drylands.
The only male on the list is 100 fly world record holder Caeleb Dressel, who SI put at #10 among men, describing his two-a-days in the pool, as well as “weightlifting sessions in the gym to add strength to his 6’3″, 190-pound frame and build on his explosive power off the blocks.” No mention of Dressel’s vertical, though, which at one point was rumored to be the best out of all of the University of Florida’s athletes.
SI’s top-rated female athlete is American gymnast Simone Biles, while it’s top-rated male athlete is NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.
It’s worth noting that while the article does claim to try to rank the most fit athletes in the world, it is weighted toward American athletes, and there’s no mention of international swimmers, although we’re quite sure our readers have plenty of their own ideas about which other swimmers could’ve been included on the list.