Ranking The Top 15 Men from the 2019 FINA World Championships


The 2019 FINA World Championships have drawn to a close, and now that we’ve had a couple days to digest the unbelievable results of the meet, we are able to reflect on the accomplishments the competition’s top male swimmers.

Sarah Sjostrom and Caeleb Dressel repeat in 2019 as the women’s and men’s FINA Trophy winners, an award determined by top-4 placing in finals (points crescendo 1st-4th: 5-3-2-1) as well as individual World Records broken (2 points). We have included these points in our Top 15 list, for reference, though they did not dictate our rankings. While performance and final standings win out at the end of the day, we have also based our ranking on multiple and meaningful relay swims, legacies upheld, and challenges overcome–the struggles and emotionally-charged factors that make sports meaningful to fans.

1. Caeleb Dressel, United States

Caeleb Dressel became a World Record holder in an individual event: the 100 butterfly. Dressel cranked out a 49.50 to crush Michael Phelps‘ suited 2009 World Record of 49.82 in the semifinals of the 100 fly, and went below it again in finals, winning by over a second with a 49.66. Dressel also broke his own American Records in the 100 freestyle in 46.96, becoming just the third-man ever under 47-seconds in the race, edging Australian Kyle Chalmers (47.08) for the victory. Dressel also won the 50 freestyle in 21.04, shaving a tenth from his previous American Record and setting a new Championship Record. Dressel’s other gold medal–his first of the meet–came in the 50 fly, where Dressel also lowered his American Record with a 22.35, only .08 off Andrii Govorov’s World Record.

In addition to the 4 individual gold medals, Dressel helped the United States break the World Record and win gold in the mixed 4 x 100 freestyle relay, and helped the U.S. to gold in the men’s 4 x 100 freestyle relay. Dressel picked up two more silvers swimming butterfly on the men’s and the mixed 4 x 100 medley relays.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 1
  • Points: 20

2. Daiya Seto, Japan

Daiya Seto won gold in both the 200 and 400 IMs, as well as a silver in the 200 butterfly. Seto had been having a stellar 2019 up until the World Championships, though many still favored American Chase Kalisz in the IMs, where Kalisz was the defending champion from 2017. Seto’s performances made him the second-highest-scoring male swimmer in the FINA Trophy standings behind Dressel.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 2
  • Points: 13

3. Adam Peaty, Great Britain

Adam Peaty is a true specialist. Though sprint breaststroke is the only thing he swims, he is miles ahead of the rest of the world in his events. In the semifinals of the men’s 100 breaststroke, Peaty set a new World Record and completed his ‘Project 56,’ turning in a time of 56.88. Peaty was a little off the mark in finals, but still turned in the 4th-fastest performance ever with a 57.14. He claimed the 50 breaststroke title in 26.06, fully 6/10th ahead of silver medalist Felipe Lima of Brazil. With the double, Peaty has now won the 50 and 100 breaststroke at each of the previous three long course World Championships (2015, 2017, 2019).

Peaty also helped Great Britain to victory in the men’s 4 x 100 medley relay, which upset the American thanks to his 57.20 breaststroke split, and thanks to Duncan Scott‘s 46.14 freestyle anchor leg. Peaty also contributed a vital 57.73 to Great Britain’s mixed 4 x 100 medley relay, which won the bronze medal.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 3
  • Points: 10

4. Evgeny Rylov, Russia

Evgeny Rylov was perhaps the tentative favorite to win the 200 backstroke and defend his 2017 crown in that event, but he really got the World’s attention when he blasted a 51.97 on Russia’s lead-off leg of the mixed 4 x 100 medley relay. In addition to gold in the 200 back, Rylov captured silver in both the 50 (24.49) and 100 (52.67) backstrokes, and bronze as the lead-off (52.57) in the men’s 4 x 100 medley relay, which set a Russian National Record.

With his mixed medley lead-off, Rylov became only the 4th-man-ever under 52-seconds in the race.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 4
  • Points: 11

5. Kristof Milak, Hungary

Kristof Milak may have been the favorite to win the 200 butterfly, but to do so in a new World Record time of 1:50.73 was largely unexpected. With his swim, Milak became the first-man-ever under 1:51 in the 200 fly, and only the second-person-ever sub 1:52. The record time Milak destroyed had stood at 1:51.51, set by Michael Phelps in 2009. Milak’s split over the first 100 matched Phelps’ record split exactly: 52.88. Then, Milak surged. Over the third 50 he passed Chad le Clos, the early leader, and then on the final 50 buried the field to win by over 3 seconds, ahead of Japan’s Seto. Milak was unable to replicate his silver-medal performance in the 100 fly from the 2017 World Championships, but his new World Record speaks volumes to his abilities.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 6
  • Points: 8

6. Florian Wellbrock, Germany

Germany’s Florian Wellbrock won two gold medals at the 2019 FINA World Championships: 1 in the pool and 1 in the open water. Wellbrock’s feat makes him the first man ever to win the 1500 and the 10k open water event at a FINA World Championships. Wellbrock’s feat in the open water also punched his ticket to the Tokyo Olympics.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 9 (tie)
  • Points: 5

7. Sun Yang, China

Sun Yang had a roller coaster World Championships, to say the least. Sun defended his title in the 400 freestyle to win gold ahead of rival Mack Horton from Australia, but was then the subject of much attention when Horton refused to share the podium with him due to Sun’s doping controversies and ongoing investigation. Later, Sun won the gold in the 200 freestyle following the disqualification of Lithuania’s Danas Rapsys, who touched the wall first. During that ceremony, co-bronze medalist Duncan Scott refused to shake Sun’s hand or pose for pictures with him, prompting Sun to speak tauntingly to him as they left the podium.

Though one of the greatest distance swimmers all-time, Sun placed a mere 6th in the 800, and chose not to race the 1500, despite being the World Record holder. China banked a lot on its 4 x 200 freestyle relay, to which Sun contributed a 1:44.96 anchor leg, but ultimately placed 6th.

Though the 2019 World Championships were quite volatile for Sun, he still left Gwangju with two gold medals.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 5
  • Points: 10

8. Anton Chupkov, Russia

One of three World Record breakers on the men’s side, Russia’s Anton Chupkov took a huge chunk of time off Ippei Watanabe‘s World Record and his own personal best time. In the finals of the 200 breast, Chupkov blasted a 2:06.12 to win by half-a-second. Runner-up Matthew Wilson of Australia tied Watanabe’s World Record in the prelims, and swam only .01 over that time in finals. Watanabe, meanwhile, took the bronze in 2:06.73, making for the fastest podium ever in the men’s 200 breaststroke.

Chupkov also swam in the heats of the men’s 4 x 100 medley relay, splitting a 58.90. In the individual 100, Chupkoved placed 8th in 59.19, though posted a 59.15 in semifinals.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 7 (tie)
  • Points: 7

9. Gregorio Paltrinieri, Italy

Like Wellbrock, Gregorio Paltrinieri competed in both pool and open water events in Gwangju. Paltrinieri finished 6th in the 10k open water, but picked up a silver as part of the mixed 5k open water relay. In the pool, Paltrinieri set a new European Record in the 800 freestyle in 7:39.27 to win gold. Paltrinieri was unable to defend his crown in the 1500 after winning in both 2015 and 2017, but still managed to win the bronze medal.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 7 (tie)
  • Points: 7

10. Kyle Chalmers, Australia

King Kyle entered the 2019 World Championships as the top seed in the 100 freestyle, but was largely considered the favorite for silver, seeing as how he was going up against Caeleb Dressel. As usual, Dressel took the race out fast and Chalmers closed fast. Chalmers almost caught Dressel but couldn’t quite get past the American, hitting the wall in an astounding 47.08. Chalmers did win a gold medal by way of Australia’s 4 x 200 freestyle relay, where he split a 1:45.37 en route to the team establishing a new Oceanic Record in 7:00.85. Chalmers also helped the Australians to bronze in the men’s 4 x 100 freestyle relay and silver in the mixed 4 x 100 freestyle relay, which also set an Oceanic Record.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 15 (tie)
  • Points: 3

11. Xu Jiayu, China

Xu Jiayu successfully defended his 100 backstroke crown in Gwangju, delivering almost exactly the same time he did in Budapest two years ago. This, however, turned out to be Xu’s only medal of the meet. Though he stood a high likelihood of making the podium in the 200 backstroke, he withdrew to swim on China’s 4 x 200 freestyle relay, a move that didn’t quite go as planned as Xu only split a 1:48.13 in the finals and China finished 6th. Even so, defending his crown in the 100 backstroke against the likes of Evgeny Rylov and the World Record holder Ryan Murphy, who finished 4th, is a feat worthy of recognition.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 9 (tie)
  • Points: 5

12. Chad le Clos, South Africa

Though battling a groin injury, Chad le Clos, the defending champion in the 200 fly, still came away with two bronze medals in his premier events, the 100 and 200 butterflys. Though le Clos took the race out very fast over the first 100 meters of the 200 fly, he could not hold the pace and faded to 3rd in 1:54.15 behind World Record setter Kristof Milak of Hungary and Daiya Seto of Japan. In the 100, le Clos finished 3rd in 51.16 behind Dressel and Russia’s Andrey Minakov.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 14
  • Points: 4

13. Duncan Scott, Great Britain

Duncan Scott became Great Britain’s relay hero in the finals of the men’s 4 x 100 medley relay when he split a 46.14 to get the British to the wall first, upsetting the Americans for gold. Despite the insanely fast split, Scott did not swim the 100 free individually, and instead focused on the 200 IM, where he placed 5th. Scott tied for bronze in the 200 freestyle–his only individual medal of the meet–and also led off Great Britain’s 4 x 200 freestyle relay in a 1:44.91, a new National Record.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 29 (tie)
  • Points: 2

14. Yan Zibei, China

China’s Yan Zibei broke the Asian Record twice in the 100 breaststroke and twice in the 50 breaststroke. Yan finished 3rd in the 100 breast behind British duo Adam Peaty and James Wilby with a new Asian Record of 58.63, after already lowering it in the semifinals. Yan was off the podium in 6th in the 50 breast, but still tied the Asian Record he set in the semifinals, which was just hours-old having been established earlier that day in the prelims. China may have only finished 7th in the finals of the men’s 4 x 100 medley relay, but Zibei’s 58.26 split on the breaststroke stood out.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 29 (tie)
  • Points: 2

15. Jay Litherland, United States

He had to wait until the final day of racing, but Jay Litherland made his single-event focus pay off with a silver medal in the men’s 400 IM. As the only American in the final after 2017 champion Chase Kalisz failed to advance after prelims, all eyes were on him to see if he could rise to the occasion in the absence of Kalisz. For the first 300 meters, Japan’s Daiya Seto held a commanding lead over the other 7 men in the pool, turning into the final 100 freestyle in 3:08.89. Litherland, meanwhile, turned 2nd, way behind Seto in 3:12.23, but then charged over the final 100, splitting a 56.99 to Seto’s 1:00.06. Seto did touch the wall first, but by a much smaller margin than seemed possible judging by the first 300 meters of the race. In the end, Litherland registered a 4:09.22 to Seto’s 4:08.95.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 15 (tie)
  • Points: 3

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Matt Wilson???

Miss M

Not American enough! Equaled the WR in semis, second to someone who broke the WR and only 0.01 slower than the night before. Seriously has to be ranked higher than Jay Litherland.


I’m sorry what? Jay Litherland? With his silver in the 4im? Where’s Matt Wilson for tying the world record? Where’s Zane Waddell for earning the only gold medal for his continent?

McGill Rocks

It’s an American site, so the news must revolve around Americans. Just because you get your continents only gold medal does not make you better than an American silver!


Litherland is great. But to give it to him over someone who tied a WR (Wilson) or won a gold despite no one even picking him to make the final (Waddell) is crazy


Well the 50 back is a non-Olympic event and basically just a cat fight in a puddle. I would have put Wilson on the list above Litherland though.


The by your logic I guess Dressel only has 3 individual gold medals because the 50 free is also a cat fight in the puddle…….

Jim C

The 50 free is an Olympic event. It is the 50 fly that is not. Looking forward to next year we recognize that Dressel is not going to be able to do the 50 fly–but even without the 50 fly Dressel was clearly number one.

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six.  At age 14 he began swimming club year-round and later with his high school team, making state all four years.  He was fortunate enough to draw the attention of Kalamazoo College where he went on to …

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