Ranking The Top 15 Men Of The 2022 World Championships

2022 FINA WORLD AQUATICS CHAMPIONSHIPS

The swimming portion of the 2022 World Championships has come and gone, leaving us to reflect on the eight-day swimming showcase. World records, Championships records and dozens of national records fell throughout the meet, and there was no shortage of show-stopping performances. As we look back on the competition, we’ve ranked who we believe to be the top 15 men and top 15 women of the meet.

These rankings are based on the cumulative performance by athletes at the 2022 World Championships. They focus on multiple medal-winning performances, single mind-blowing swims, and clutch relay performances throughout the meet.

Honorable Mentions

It’s hard to leave individual world champions off this list, but considering the fact that we have taken the number of performances by a swimmer and relays swims into account, we had to do so. Here are a few men that didn’t make our top 15 list, but were nonetheless outstanding at the meet.

  • Ben Proud (GBR): Ben Proud picked up Great Britain’s only individual title at this meet when he won the 50 freestyle in 21.32. This was Proud’s first individual title in the event, having won bronze in 2017, and he showed his best form since setting a PB of 21.11 in 2018.
  • Zac Stubblety-Cook (AUS): Another world champion who fell slightly short of his lifetime best was Zac Stubblety-Cook of Australia. Stubblety-Cook recently set the world record in the 200 breaststroke at the Australian Trials in a time of 2:05.95. He won that event in Budapest in 2:07.07, which was a bit off his WR and his Olympic gold-winning time of 2:06.38 in 2016.
  • Josh Liendo (CAN): Josh Liendo didn’t win any events at the meet but picked up a total of three medals, taking bronze in the 100 freestyle and 100 butterfly, along with silver in the mixed free relay. This was a huge breakout for Liendo and has us wondering what he’ll do next.

#15 Caeleb Dressel (USA)

It’s indicative of just how dominant Caeleb Dressel is in the sport of swimming that he can be in the top 15 at this meet despite leaving just a few days in. Dressel didn’t race the 50 free, 100 free or 100 fly as planned, but he made the most of the two events he got a chance to race in.

Dressel picked up his sole individual medal at this meet in the men’s 50 butterfly, swimming a time of 22.57 to out-perform Nicholas Santos‘ 22.78. That time for Dressel wasn’t a personal best, having delivered a 22.35 at the 2019 World Championships to win gold, but the swim was still among the fastest in history and allowed him to defend his title.

Dressel also raced in only one relay in Budapest, as opposed to the four that he could have swum in. He contested the 4×100 freestyle relay for the American men, leading off with a 47.67 to help the team win gold in 3:09.34. That was the fastest split in the field and if he had swum it during the individual 100 free, it would have been good enough for bronze. It’s still not clear why Dressel pulled out of the meet, but if it was impacting him during the races he did swim, it makes Dressel’s double gold performance all the more impressive.

#14 Maxime Grousset (FRA)

Maxime Grousset (photo: Fabio Cetti)

The Frenchman of the meet was double gold medalist Leon Marchand, but Maxime Grousset had an impressive outing as well, collecting two medals in the sprint freestyle events. Grousset, the 2017 World Junior silver medalist in the 50 free, leveled up in Budapest to take the bronze medal in the 50 free with a 21.57. In the 100 freestyle, he posted a time of 47.64 for the silver medal, touching right behind champion David Popovici‘s 47.58.

This meet was a breakout for Grousset, who had previously not won any individual medals at a major international meet other than the European Championships. For many years, Florent Manaudou has been the king of sprinting in France, but Grousset demonstrated here that he’s also one to watch as we head towards a home Olympics in 2024.

#13 Hunter Armstrong (USA)

American backstroker Hunter Armstrong had the swim of the meet at U.S. Trials when he downed the men’s 50 backstroke world record in 23.71. Also racing the 100 back individually in Budapest, Armstrong managed to make the podium in both of his events, picking up silver in the 50 back and bronze in the 100.

The former OSU Buckeye was bumped up to gold momentarily in the 50 back when Justin Ress was disqualified, though he ultimately was crowned the runner-up after the DQ got overturned. Armstrong swam clocked 24.14 to trail his world record swim, touching 0.02 seconds behind teammate Ress. In the 100 backstroke, Armstrong placed third to Thomas Ceccon and Ryan Murphy. His swim was a barrier-breaking performance as he cracked the 52-second mark for the first time ever.

Armstrong swam 51.98 for bronze, just 0.01 seconds behind Murphy. The swim made Armstrong a sound choice to swim backstroke on the mixed 4×100 medley relay for the Americans, and he posted a 52.14 to open that relay, helping the team to win gold in the event in 3:38.79. Armstrong also swam the prelims of the men’s 4×100 free and 4×100 medley relays for the American men, which they went on to win gold and silver in, respectively.

#12 Nic Fink (USA)

Nic Fink (photo: Fabio Cetti)

Another American who collected multiple medals at the World Championships was breaststroker Nic Fink. Fink swam at his first-ever Olympics in 2021 but walked away without medals. At his fourth career World Championships, however, he found his way onto the podium.

Fink won gold in the 50 breaststroke in Budapest, hitting a 26.45 American record to out-touch Italy’s Nicolo Martinenghi by just 0.03 seconds. That swim made him the fifth-fastest man in history and allowed him to take out Michael Andrew‘s national record of 26.52 from 2022 Trials. In the 100 breaststroke, Fink couldn’t quite reach gold medal status, but still did well for himself by finishing in 58.65 for bronze. It was a bit slower than his best time of 58.37 from earlier this year but was a solid performance nonetheless.

Fink took home another two relay medals after putting up a pair of 57-point breaststroke splits on the mixed and men’s 4×100 medley relays. In both relays, Fink split 57.86, helping the team to gold in the mixed race and silver in the men’s event.

#11 Elijah Winnington (AUS)

Elijah Winnington, 2022 FINA Swimming Championship, Budapest, 2022 courtesy of Delly Carr, Swimming Australia

Elijah Winnington (photo: Delly Carr, Swimming Australia)

Elijah Winnington was the first world champion of the meet when he took gold in the men’s 400 freestyle on the opening night of the competition. He clocked 3:41.22 in the 400 free to defeat Germany’s Lukas Märtens by over a second and a half. That swim from Winnington was quicker than the Olympic gold medal-winning time of 3:43.36 that Ahmed Hafnaoui put up in 2021. In Tokyo, Winnington was the top seed and pre-race favorite before falling to seventh in a time of 3:45.20.

This swim by Winnington was the 10th-fastest 400 freestyle performance in history and the fastest time in the world since Sun Yang‘s 3:40.14 in 2012. Winnington got as close to Ian Thorpe‘s 3:40.08 Australian Record that anyone from his nation ever has. Winnington’s performance may have suffered from primacy bias as it took place a week before the World Championships ended, but we remember it as one of the most impressive swims of the eight-day meet.

Winnington also swam his way into the 200 freestyle final for Australia, touching in eighth place in 1:45.82. He also helped the Australian men win the silver medal in the 4×200 freestyle relay, opening in 1:45.83 en route to the team’s 7:03.50.

#10 Michael Andrew (USA)

Michael Andrew‘s performance at this meet was one of versatility. By winning a medal in the 50 freestyle, 50 butterfly, and 50 breaststroke, he was the first man to medal in three different 50s at the World Championships. Despite not winning any individual golds, Andrew walked away with five medals in total.

In the 50 freestyle, Andrew finished second in 21.41 behind Ben Proud‘s winning swim of 21.32. In the 50 fly, Andrew swam a 22.79 for bronze and in the breaststroke sprint he put up a 26.72, also for bronze. Those freestyle and butterfly times were new best times for the sprint star, while the 50 breaststroke was slightly slower than the 26.52 he set earlier this year. Andrew nearly managed to pull off a fourth medal-winning swim in the 100 butterfly, claiming fourth in 51.11 to fall just 14 one-hundredths shy of bronze.

Andrew swam on the prelims for the American mixed 4×100 medley, which went on to win gold in the final. But his more impressive relay performance was in the men’s 4×100 medley relay, stepping up in a big way in the absence of Caeleb Dressel. Andrew threw down a 50.06 butterfly split on that relay, which was the fastest in the field by roughly half a second.

#9 Ryan Murphy (USA)

Ryan Murphy won his first-ever LC World Championships title when he delivered a 1:54.52 in the final of the men’s 200 backstroke. That was more than half a second faster than Luke Greenbank’s 1:55.16 for silver. Murphy has won Olympic gold and silver in this event but prior to this year, he hadn’t topped a World podium individually.

That 200 back victory for Murphy was a bit slower than his fastest swim ever, 1:53.57 from back in 2018, but it was a nice return to the top of the backstroke game. He also had a solid 100 performance at this meet when he dipped under 52 seconds for the first time in four years.

Murphy swam 51.97 here to earn the silver medal, following Thomas Ceccon‘s 51.60 world record (breaking Murphy’s mark of 51.85). While it wasn’t a best time or a gold medal, that was the third-fastest swim of Murphy’s career and was quicker than what he swam at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. Murphy also contributed to a medal-winning relay for the USA by splitting a 52.51 to open the men’s 4×100 medley relay.

#8 Carson Foster (USA)

Carson Foster was the second-best men’s IMer at this meet behind French champion Leon Marchand. Foster’s story before this year was one of slight disappointment, having missed the Olympic team in 2021 before swimming the world’s fastest time in the world (400 IM) at a meet in Austin. But he changed things up this year by qualifying for the World Championships and earning two silver medals and one gold.

Foster started his meet with a huge 400 IM best time, hitting a 4:06.56 to improve upon his 2021 summer swim of 4:08.46. This was a huge breakthrough for Foster and made him the eighth-fastest man in history as well as the fourth-fastest American.

After his silver medal swim in the 400 IM, Foster returned for another battle with Marchand and got even closer to topping the podium. In the 200 IM, Foster hit a 1:55.71 to claim silver while Marchand took gold by half a second with a 1:55.22. The swim was a new best time for Foster, who had previously gone 1:56.44 during the semi-finals. Foster picked up relay gold as well in Budapest, contributing a 1:45.04 split to the U.S. men’s gold-medal-winning 4×200 freestyle team.

#7 Nicolo Martinenghi (ITA)

Nicolo Martinenghi (photo: Fabio Cetti)

One of the main questions heading into this meet was who would capitalize most on Adam Peaty‘s absence. The missing world record holder opened the door for another man to claim gold in the 50 and 100 breaststrokes. Nicolo Martinenghi decided that it would be his time to shine and claimed gold in the 100 and silver in the 50.

Martinenghi improved upon his bronze medal finish in Tokyo 2020 by delivering an event-winning swim of 58.26 in the 100 breaststroke, hitting a new Italian record in the process. The 22-year-old downed his previous PB of 58.28 set at the Tokyo Games, and also defeated the #2 man in history, Arno Kamminga, who swam 58.62 for silver.

In addition to his victory in the 100, Martinenghi landed on the podium in the 50 breaststroke, falling just shy of champion Nic Fink. Fink won the event in 26.45 and was followed by Martinenghi at 26.48. Martinenghi closed the meet by earning his third medal, splitting 57.47 on the Italian men’s 4×100 medley relay. He and his teammates swam a 3:27.51 to tie the European Record in that event, defeat the American men (3:27.79) and win the country’s first-ever title in the event. He also split 57.93 en route to Italy’s fifth-place showing in the mixed medley relay.

#6 Gregorio Paltrinieri (ITA)

Gregorio Paltrinieri (photo: Fabio Cetti)

It didn’t look like Gregorio Paltrinieri was going to make this list prior to the final day of the meet. He raced his way to a fourth-place finish in the 800 freestyle with a 7:41.19 to miss his PB and European record of 7:39.27. But things changed on the final day when Paltrinieri took to blocks for the final of the men’s 1500 freestyle.

Now that we’d seen him execute it flawlessly three straight times, Bobby Finke‘s closing 50 strategy was well-known within the field, meaning that Paltrinieri knew the only way to defeat him would be to establish a significant gap over the first 1450 meters of the race. That’s exactly what the Italian did, taking it out with impressive speed. Swimming in Lane 1, Paltrinieri quickly got under world record pace and at one point was  more than two seconds under the world record pace established by Sun Yang in 2012.

Paltrinieri ran away with this race and it seemed like he might crack 14:30 for the majority of the swim. He was ultimately surpassed by the world record line, but he was not surpassed by Finke or any other men in the field. Paltrinieri held his lead until the end and finished in 14:32.80 to improve his status as the second-fastest man in the history of the event. His time is a new European, Italian and Championship Record, and got him within two seconds of Sun’s all-time mark of 14:31.02.

#5 Bobby Finke (USA)

While Bobby Finke didn’t out-perform his Tokyo performance medal-wise, there’s a case to be made that he did better here than he did in his Olympic debut. Finke won gold in the 800 and 1500 freestyles in 2021. In 2022, he took gold in the 800 while settling for silver in the 1500. But both of Finke’s swims at Worlds were new best times and American Records.

Finke hit 7:39.36 to become the first American under 7:40 in the 800 freestyle. He used his signature strategy of closing fast to overtake the field on the last 50, out-touching silver medalist Florian Wellbrock thanks to a blistering 25.93 final 50.

In the 1500 free, Finke didn’t clinch the gold medal as Gregorio Paltrinieri posted the top time with a 14:32.80 (see above). But Finke still had a solid swim and wound up in second in the heat, delivering a 14:36.70 for silver. The American again defeated Germany’s Wellbrock by a narrow margin, getting in ahead of the defending champion by just over two-tenths. Finke’s 1500 was his second American record of the meet, improving upon the 14:39.48 that Connor Jaeger established in 2016. That’s two medals and two American records for USA’s leading distance freestyler.

#4 Thomas Ceccon (ITA)

Thomas Ceccon (photo: Gian Mattia D’Alberto – LaPresse)

As opposed to our top three men, Thomas Ceccon got onto this list with a single swim. Ceccon’s performance of the competition came in the men’s 100 backstroke final, where he shattered the world record in a time of 51.60. The previous mark, which had stood since 2016, was a full quarter-second slower (51.85).

Ceccon quietly worked his way to this point and has been improving steadily over the past few seasons. He finished fourth at the Olympics in this event to Evgeny Rylov, Kliment Kolesnikov, and Ryan Murphy. Ceccon’s PB entering 2021 was 52.84 from December 2020. He got down to 52.30 at the Olympics and then hit 52.12 during the 2022 World Championships semi-finals.

His 51.60 world record was the culmination of a meteoric rise. Ceccon had a whirlwind of a last day of this meet when he took fourth in the 50 backstroke in 24.51. When it was announced that champion Justin Ress had been disqualified, Ceccon was awarded the bronze medal. But the Ress DQ got overturned and Ceccon was pushed back down to fourth. But all that action didn’t stop Ceccon from closing out the meet with another sub-52 100 backstroke as he hit 51.93 to help his fellow Italians win gold in the 4×100 medley.

#3 David Popovici (ROU)

David Popovici (photo: Fabio Cetti)

David Popovici delivered one of the performances of the meet when he won the men’s 200 freestyle in 1:43.21. Popovici has been on swim fans’ radars for the past few years as he has worked his way up the junior ranks. But now Popovici has made a name for himself on the senior stage. His time in the 200 freestyle was enough to win the world title by more than a second and made him the fourth-fastest man in history (and second-fastest in a textile suit).

The 17-year-old broke the world junior record with this swim and became the youngest man to crack 1:44 as well as the youngest man to win a world title in the 200 free. The Romanian is now going to be on the hunt for his first sub-1:43 swim and has us wondering if he’ll be the answer to Paul Biedermann’s seemingly unbreakable 1:42.00 world record.

In addition to his incredible 200 freestyle, Popovici collected a gold medal in the men’s 100 freestyle at this meet. He swam a 47.13 world junior record during the semi-finals, which had many fans anticipating a rare 46-point during finals. Popovici came up a bit short in the final with a 47.58, but he still ended with another gold medal and got into the top 10 performers list.

#2 Kristof Milak (HUN)

Kristof Milak (photo: Fabio Cetti)

Kristof Milak had an exceptional showing in front of his home fans in Budapest, highlighted by breaking the world record in the men’s 200 butterfly and winning the event by more than three seconds in a time of 1:50.34.

Milak won the event at the last edition of the World Championships in 2019, clocking 1:50.73 to break Michael Phelps‘ long-standing world record of 1:51.51 from 10 years prior. That swim in Gwangju shook the world, and although Milak was slightly slower at the Olympics last summer (1:51.25), the Hungarian returned to the apex of 200 butterfly swimming here and reminded us just how far ahead of the field he is in this event.

The 200 fly was certainly his strongest swim of the meet but he also won the 100 fly in 50.14, though he was disappointed he didn’t crack 50 or near his PB of 49.68. Additionally, Milak threw down an impressive 46.89 anchor split of the Hungarian men’s 4×100 freestyle relay to help the nation pull off a fifth-place finish.

#1 Leon Marchand (FRA)

Leon Marchand (photo: Fabio Cetti)

French swimmer Leon Marchand was the only man other than Michael Andrew at the meet to win three individual medals. And he did so with mind-bending speed. The 400 IM was Marchand’s first win of the meet and it came in European record fashion in a time of 4:04.28, the second-fastest of all-time. That swim by Marchand exceeded all expectations and got him as close as anyone’s ever been to Michael Phelps‘ 4:03.84 world record in the event. Marchand’s 400 IM was an improvement upon the 4:06.16 European record held by Laszlo Cseh and also took down the former World Championship Record, which Chase Kalisz held at a 4:05.90.

This swim alone likely would have gotten Marchand on this list considering how much of a breakthrough it was for the event. But Marchand followed up his 400 IM prowess with another pair of medals. He won the 200 IM in 1:55.22 and then took silver in the 200 fly in 1:53.37, resetting the French National Record in both.

While he didn’t set any world records at this meet as opposed to two other men on this list, Marchand showed that he has the potential to do so in the future and is certainly going to be one to watch going forward.

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NOT the frontman of Metallica
1 month ago

I think Martinenghi should rank above Finke and Paltrinieri. Don’t get me wrong I’m a distance swimmer myself and I hold the 1500 as race of the week. But gold and silver in the breaststroke plus his relay leg to lay foundation for that win ranks higher to me.

Frog29
1 month ago

Why is Grousset in front of Dressel? Proud is more deserving of a place in the top 15.

Swimmka
1 month ago

Milak is definitely over Marchand especially if we count the relay split. (Marchand was far less performing than Milak in 200 free) Marchand didn’t break the word record, while Milak did. That speaks itself.

Meathead
1 month ago

Surprised the press has not covered the Dressel story. The biggest name in male swimming leaves the meet and it’s not talked about

We have a long way to go to become a mainstream sport

Emily Se-Bom Lee
Reply to  Meathead
1 month ago

yeah the only mainstream swimming story from last week was a political decision

Mr Piano
Reply to  Meathead
1 month ago

I really don’t think we’re going to surpass what Phelps brought to the sport in 2008-2012. Swimming will never become much bigger than it is now.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Mr Piano
1 month ago

Right, it’s pretty tapped out as being in the top tier of Olympic sports – track, gymnastics, swimming.

Mclovin
1 month ago

WTF is Dressel doing in this list. Liendo and Proud out. Ridiculous

swimfast
1 month ago

The Italians really shown bright this meet. Including the open water girl today. Side note: they are all exceptionally beautiful this year. goddamn.

Last edited 1 month ago by swimfast
Luigi
Reply to  swimfast
1 month ago

It went under the radar, but Paltrinieri got a silver medal in the 5k

Gio
Reply to  swimfast
1 month ago

We’ve kind of been waiting for the 99-01 kids for so long, but with junior swimmers you never know how it’s actually going to go so it’s super nice to see them do well now.

Jamesabc
1 month ago

Funny that the people favouring Dressel over ZSC/Liendo because he ‘has more medals’ despite mediocre swims are the same people who say Huske should be above MOC despite MOC having a better medal haul.

And not “funny haha”, “funny weird”.

Last edited 1 month ago by Jamesabc
Dressel 46.8
Reply to  Jamesabc
1 month ago

Mediocre swims? Lmfao.

Yeah, ZSC and Liendo were throwing down some incredible times…

Jamesabc
Reply to  Dressel 46.8
1 month ago

Liendo literally swam a faster 100 free than Dressel twice.

Fobby Binke
Reply to  Jamesabc
1 month ago

Huske and Dressel are Americans.

The others are not.

free dressel
Reply to  Jamesabc
1 month ago

dressels times were more impressive than Liendo and ZSC. also unlike your boy joshy Dressel actually won a gold. how many did josh win?

Julian
1 month ago

Murphy should be higher