Ranking The Top 15 Women From the 2019 FINA World Championships

2019 FINA WORLD AQUATICS 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 female 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. Simone Manuel, United States

Simone Manuel came to Gwangju to swim two individual events and handful of relays. Manuel was the defending champion in the 100 freestyle, but not favored to repeat as champion. She did anyways. Manuel placed 3rd in the 50 freestyle at the 2017 World Championships and 2016 Olympic Games, but was not expected to top the podium in Korea. Once again, she did anyways. Manuel also swam strong legs on five relays, including the 4 x 200, a race she had never done at a major international meet.

All in all, Manuel left Gwangju with 7 medals: 4 golds (50 free, 100 free, 4 x 100 medley relay, mixed 4 x 100 free relay) and 3 silvers (4 x 200 free relay, 4 x 100 free relay, mixed 4 x 100 medley relay). As the anchor leg on the women’s 4 x 100 medley relay, Manuel split a 51.86 to help the United States break the World Record by over a second.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 2 (tie)
  • Points: 10

2. Regan Smith, United States

Regan Smith rejuvenated American backstroke dominance with her double World Records in the 100 and 200 backstrokes in Gwangju. Smith bested Missy Franklin‘s 2012 World Record in the semifinals of the 200 backstroke with a mind-boggling 2:03.35, becoming the first woman under 2:04 in the event, and the first woman under 2:05 since 2013, making her also only the fourth-woman-ever to do so in the 200 back. Smith went on to win the gold medal in 2:03.69, two-and-a-half seconds ahead of runner-up Kaylee McKeown of Australia, who finished in 2:06.26.

In the final event of the competition, Smith led-off the women’s 4 x 100 medley relay, setting a new World Record in the 100 backstroke in 57.57, becoming the first woman ever to break the 58-second barrier. 57 had eluded female backstrokers for years, so when Smith hit the wall in 57.57 it was as if to send the message that this was the new norm–twice, in case the first ’57’ didn’t fully register. The relay took gold in a World Record time of 3:50.40, fully two seconds ahead of the Australians who claimed silver. All in all, the 17-year-old came away with 2 gold medals and 3 World Records.

What puts Smith over the top is her unique accomplishment in breaking two individual World Records at this competition. No other female competitor broke an individual World Record at the 2019 World Championships. On the men’s side, three individual records were broken by three different swimmers. Though she broke the World Record on Sunday, Smith was not selected to swim the 100 backstroke in Gwangju, so did not vie for a medal individually in that race.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 7
  • Points: 9

3. Sarah Sjostrom, Sweden

The overall female point scorer of the meet, Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom reaped 5 medals in South Korea: 1 gold (50 fly), 2 silvers (100 fly and 50 free), and 2 bronze (100 free and 200 free). Sjostrom did not break any World Records this time around, and her silver medal in the 100 fly came as an upset since she is the World Record holder in that event and 3-time defending champion. The 200 freestyle was somewhat a surprise entry for Sjostrom as she had seemingly abandoned the race after the 2016 Olympics, but she nonetheless won the bronze medal.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 1
  • Points: 15

4. Katinka Hosszu, Hungary

Hungarian Iron Lady Katinka Hosszu swept the IMs for the fourth-straight World Championships. Hosszu registered a trio of 2:07s in the 200 IM to supplement her already excessive dominance of the top-performances-all-time in the race, and ultimately captured gold by a margin of 1.07 seconds ahead of China’s Ye Shiwen, the IM double gold medalist from the London 2012 Olympics. Hosszu was four seconds off her best time in the 400 IM, but still won by a margin of nearly two seconds, again in front of Ye. Hosszu initially came into the meet with a grandiose schedule, as she’s wont to do, but scaled back as the competition went on. Hosszu’s two golds made up half of Hungary’s total medals, all of which were gold.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 2 (tie)
  • Points: 10

5. Ariarne Titmus, Australia

3:58.76. No matter the state of Ledecky’s health during the finals of the 400 freestyle, Ariarne Titmus‘ time is incredible and would have given Ledecky a run for her money regardless. In addition to the victory in the 400, Titmus took silver in the 200 freestyle and bronze in the 800 freestyle. Titmus also picked up gold and a new World Record in the women’s 4 x 200 freestyle relay.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 2 (tie)
  • Points: 10

6. Katie Ledecky, United States

Based on numbers alone, Katie Ledecky‘s name might be too high up on this list, until you consider that she had the worst World Championships of her life, spent time in the hospital, withdrew from two events, and still managed to win her 4th-straight gold medal in the 800 freestyle at the end of it all.

Ledecky’s week began in a shocking way when she placed 2nd in the 400 freestyle behind Australia’s Ariarne Titmus. Shortly thereafter, Ledecky swam the prelims of the 1500, taking the top seed going into finals the following day. Ledecky withdrew from that final and from the 200 freestyle and was not seen at the pool for a couple days. She returned for the finals of the women’s 4 x 200 freestyle relay–her first race since the prelims of the 1500–to post the 3rd-fastest split in the field and help the U.S. earn a silver medal, falling just short of the Australians, but swimming faster than the previous World Record, set by China at the suited 2009 World Championships.

No, 2019 was not a very successful meet for Ledecky when compared to her previous accomplishments, but given that she still came away with 1 gold and 2 silver medals and was sick for most of it, we have to recognize her as one of the best female swimmers at the meet.

7. Lilly King, United States

Breaststroke queen Lilly King defended both of her 50 and 100 breast titles in Gwangju, and could have made a serious run at the 200 had she not been disqualified in the prelims. In addition to the sprint breaststroke crowns, King helped the United States to a gold and World Record in the 4 x 100 medley relay and silver in the 4 x 100 mixed medley relay.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 2 (tie)
  • Points: 10

8. Olivia Smoliga, United States

Olivia Smoliga reached new heights at the World Championships, forcing fans to re-evaluate her underdog reputation within the ranks of  the crowded American backstroke field. In Gwangju, Smoliga captured bronze in the 100 backstroke in a time of 58.91 as the top American finisher. Later, Smoliga won the 50 backstroke, lowering her own American Record in the event down to a 27.33. Smoliga led off the women’s 4 x 100 medley relay in prelims, so she collected a gold for that race as well.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 10 (tie)
  • Points: 7

9. Simona Quadarella, Italy

Simona Quadarella rose to the occasion in the absence of Ledecky to win the women’s 1500 in a new Italian National Record and massive best time of 15:40.89, 8 seconds ahead of silver. Quadarella also nearly won gold in the 800, but was chased down by Ledecky, registering another National Record time of 8:14.99. Quadarella was also originally entered in the 400 but scratched to focus on the longer events, a bet that paid off.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 8 (tie)
  • Points: 8

10. Yulia Efimova, Russia

Yulia Efimova is one of only two women to make the podium in the 50-100-200 of any stroke at this year’s World Championships (the other being Sarah Sjostrom winning silver-bronze-bronze in the 50-100-200 freestyles). Without Lilly King in the 200, Efimova swam in a league of her own, winning gold by over two seconds. Efimova was also silver in the 100 breast and bronze in the 50 breast.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 2 (tie)
  • Points: 10

11. Emma McKeon, Australia

Emma McKeon has been one of the most consistent and vital members of all Australian relays since the 2013 World Championships when she was a just 19-years-old and swimming exclusively on the 4 x 100 free relay. At this year’s World Championships, McKeon swam on all 5 Australian relays, each of which won a medal, aggregating three golds (4 x 100 free, 4 x 200 free, mixed 4 x 100 medley) and 2 silvers (4 x 100 medley, mixed 4 x 100 free). Individually, McKeon won a bronze medal in the women’s 100 fly and placed 4th in the 100 free.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 20 (tie)
  • Points: 3

12. Ye Shiwen, China

China’s Ye Shiwen won silver in both the 200 and 400 IMs behind Iron Lady Hosszu, proving that she isn’t a one-and-done teen phenom after sweeping the IMs at the 2012 London Olympics. Ye became an Olympic champion at a much younger age than Hosszu, age 16 versus 27, but was relatively quiet internationally until last year when she came roaring back onto the scene. After this year’s World Championships, Ye and Hosszu are positioned for a very intriguing showdown in the IMs at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 10 (tie)
  • Points: 7

13. (Tie) Maggie MacNeil/Kylie Masse, Canada

Sarah Sjostrom was the undisputed queen of the 100 butterfly… until Maggie MacNeil showed up and dropped a 55.83 to win the gold medal. MacNeil had a fantastic freshman season at the University of Michigan, but still finished behind Sweden’s Louise Hansson in the 100 yard butterfly at the 2019 NCAA Championships. MacNeil had proven she was a great yards swimmer, but prior this World Championships, MacNeil’s best time in the 100 LCM butterfly was a 57.04 from the 2019 Canadian Trials. Before this summer, MacNeil’s best time was a 58.38. A massive lifetime best + a Canadian Record + a gold medal + 2 more relay bronze medals = very excited Canadian/Michigan Wolverine swimming fans.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 13 (tie)
  • Points: 5

Kylie Masse successfully defended her 2017 World Title in the 100 backstroke in Gwangju, despite swimming half-a-second slower than she did in Budapest. Masse may not have improved upon her 2017 World Record (which has since been broken twice), but she did swim faster in the 200 backstroke in 2019, and win a bronze medal there. Masse also earned a bronze medals in the 4 x 100 medley relay.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 10 (tie)
  • Points: 7

14. Cate Campbell, Australia

Cate Campbell did not win individual gold in Gwangju, but was a vital part of two Australian relays that won gold–the women’s 4 x 100 freestyle and the mixed 4 x 100 medley–as well as the silver-medal 4 x 100 medley relay. In the women’s 4 x 100 freestyle relay, Campbell recorded a 51.45 split as the anchor leg to bury the field and get Australia to the wall in a total time of 3:30.21, a new Championship Record and barely off the World Record. In the mixed 4 x 100 medley relay, Campbell blasted a 51.10 to run down Simone Manuel and the U.S. contingent to win the gold medal. Campbell also won silver in the 100 freestyle and bronze in the 50 freestyle.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 10 (tie)
  • Points: 5

15. Federica Pellegrini, Italy

In what was supposedly her final World Championships, Italian superstar Federica Pellegrini won her 8th-consecutive World Championships (LC) medal–and 4th gold–in the 200 free at the 2019 competition in Gwangju. Those medals, alongside her two world titles in the 400 free (2009, 2011), make her the 5th-most decorated woman at the World Championships (LCM) and 9th-most decorated swimmer in history with individual medals alone.

In her final swim of the meet, Pellegrini anchored the Italian 4×100 women’s medley relay, splitting a 52.53 to buoy the team to a new national record time of 3:56.50, though they just missed the podium. Though 30-years-old, the split was Pellegrini’s first time under 53 seconds.

FINA Trophy Standing:

  • Place: 10 (tie)
  • Points: 5

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Maple Syrup

Smoligia ranked as 8th??? I don’t think so. MacNeil and Masse performance are much better.

Gen D

I think Masse should have ranked above Smoliga or at least tied her.

Wondering

Smogs get a +10 bump for being perfect

Robbos

Very difficult against the top 2, I would move Titmus ahead of Hosszu.
The confusing one was Olivia Smoliga, way too high. Every swimmer below her won golds in Olympic events in the final.

Heyitsme

Agreed and MacNeil should be higher

Philip Johnson

Finally, Simone gets some respect.

Lampe

Yes, respect S. Manuel, but you absolutely have to flip this and put R. Smith #1 and S. Manuel #2. Swimming is an objective sport, based on times, and Smith totally crushed two individual WRs. No one thought Missy’s 200 Back WR was going down for another few years, and have you forgotten the big fuss that was made when K. Baker swam to a 58.00 WR in 100 Back last year? Smith blasted through that WR too. Yes, Manuel won two individual events (but no WRs) and you can’t necessarily reward someone for swimming a lot of relays, especially when a poor swim cost USA gold in one of them. That’s a big deduction.

Philip Johnson

Yes, I mostly agree. Those two world records should put her at the top, but saying glad Simone is recognized.

Spectatorn

why not? Swimming a lot of relay means the swimmer has to manage their energy and focus for many more days. Precisely as you said – if they had a “poor swim”, they got a lot of boos from comment section here >_< With that said, swimming more and winning medals in each of the events should be rewarded 🙂

Superfan

I have pros and cons on relays. It is easier for Simone to swim on USA relays than Sarah S on Sweden. Simone gets a bye into finals. Sarah or anyone from most countries have to swim prelim and finals.
Depends on the definition/criteria of rankings I guess!

Superfan

Another good example was the GB medley. 3 of their 4 legs swam prelims and without Peaty they couldn’t just cruise. USA had 4 “fresh” legs for finals…..advantage USA, the win GB

Troy

That’s still easier than winning individual medals where you need to swim multiple rounds (top relay swimmers usually only swim the final). In the case of 50s and 100s that’s 2 less swims per medal.

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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