It was a tough nominee field for the 2019 Female Athlete of the Year, with Katie Ledecky coming in as the 6-time winner. However, it was Simone Manuel who snapped Ledecky’s streak and won this prestigious award (and SwimSwam who
Manuel has been a well-known sprint name in the US, with 10 American records to her name. Yet even after winning the 100 free at the 2016 Olympics, Manuel once again wrote her name in the history books at the 2019 World Championships.
Among her feats, she became the 6th woman in history to sweep both the 50 free and 100 free at a single long course World Championships. She first defended her 2017 world title in the 100 free, out of lane one, with a new American record of 52.04. She then followed up with an upset win in the 50 free over powerhouses Aussie Cate Campbell and Swede Sarah Sjostrom.
Manuel proceeded to win two world record-breaking relays, the mixed 4×100 free relay and the women’s 4×100 medley relay. Likewise, she picked up silvers in the 4×100 and 4×200 free relays, all American records. Her silver in the mixed 4×100 medley relay solidified her 7-medal haul, becoming the first woman to do so at a single long course World championships.
Among the remaining nominees, Lilly King was successful in defending her 50 breast and 100 breast world titles, as well as being a member of the world record-breaking 4×100 medley relay. Similarly, backstroke lead-off Regan Smith walked out of Gwangju with 2 gold medals and 3 world records after only qualifying for the 200 back.
6-time winner Katie Ledecky also had a memorable performance at the World championships. After settling for silver in the 400 free, she fell ill and opted out of the 200 free and 1500 free. In her signature event, the 800 free, Ledecky came home hard in the last 50 to overtake Italian Simona Quadarella to take her lone gold medal of the meet.