Swimmers That Ended 2021 With The Most Consecutive Years As World #1

A few days ago, we learned about the swimmers to end 2021 with the most consecutive years in the world’s top 10. But what about those with the most consecutive years ranked as the world’s number one?

That’s exactly what Swimming Stats’ Instagram page has just published. And we now have one more demonstration of how legendary Katie Ledecky is.

Regarding Ledecky’s dominance in the women’s 800 freestyle, there is not much to add. She has been undefeated for over a decade, is the three-time Olympic champion, and is almost 10 seconds faster than any other woman in history.

It is logical that she would be the active swimmer with the most consecutive years ranked as the world’s number one. Since 2012 she has been the fastest woman on the planet, which means she has been at the top of the world ranking for a decade.

This is not an impressive feat just by today’s standards, but historically: Since 1989, only one other swimmer has appeared at the top of the world ranking for 10 years. his name, of course, is Michael Phelps. He did so in the men’s 200 IM, although not consecutively: he was #1 from 2003 until 2008, then in 2012, then again in 2015 and 2016.

In terms of being the fastest swimmer in the world for many years consecutively, Australia’s Grant Hackett is the one who comes closer to Ledecky: he was the fastest swimmer in the world in the men’s 1500 freestyle for eight years in a row (1998-2005), and also in 2008, which means nine non-consecutive years.

There are other retired swimmers who deserve honorable mentions:

#1 for 8 consecutive years (since 1989):

#1 for 7 consecutive years (since 1989):

And that’s why Adam Peaty‘s feat is also amazing. He has been the fastest swimmer in the men’s 100 breast since 2014, which means eight years. Two more years and he’ll be dominant for a decade, tying Ledecky’s record – although she’ll probably extend her record in the coming years as well.

Curiously, only two other swimmers managed to end 2021 with more than two consecutive years as world’s #1: Caeleb Dressel (men’s 100 fly for five years and 50 freestyle for three years) and Lilly King (women’s 100 breaststroke for three years) – and, again, Katie Ledecky (women’s 1500 freestyle for five years).

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Ledecky will go 3:55 in Paris
11 days ago

once again, GOAT

RMS
11 days ago

Who was #1 prior to Ledecky in the 1500?

Troyy
Reply to  RMS
11 days ago

Ledecky has two streaks broken by the Rio Olympic year (2013-2015, 2017-Current) when she didn’t swim the 1500 at all.

The unoriginal Tim
11 days ago

Was Phelps not #1 in 2 Fly from 2001 to 2011?

The unoriginal Tim
Reply to  The unoriginal Tim
11 days ago

I checked. Phelps topped the 2Fly in 2001,3,4,6,7,8,9,11,15 only. In fact he didn’t even register a time in 2005 as far as I can see.

Last edited 11 days ago by The unoriginal Tim
nuotofan
Reply to  The unoriginal Tim
10 days ago

After Athens04 Phelps had lack of motivations to train in some signature races, like 200 fly and 400 IM. So, at Worlds05 in Montreal he tried a different schedule: from 100 to 400 free, 100 fly and 200 IM. Obviously his form wasn’t scintillating also in these races but Phelps was so great that, even in that “low profile Worlds”, he won more medals that everyone else (but Grant Hackett was, rightly, considered the best swimmer of these Worlds where he won from 400 to 1500 free, swimming also a WR in the 800 free).

Mr Piano
Reply to  The unoriginal Tim
10 days ago

I remember Phelps saying he went 1:55.3 or something after worlds in 2005, and knew that he was slacking off too much.

tea rex
Reply to  The unoriginal Tim
11 days ago

I see Phelps 200 fly in ’01, ’03, ’04, ’06-’09, ’11, ’15. Seems like he was the best every year, but he wasn’t always focused on the event, or swimming in general. There were guys like Cseh, Seto, LeClos, Matsuda, Korzeniowski, and in 2002, a 31-year-old Franck Esposito.

Last edited 11 days ago by tea rex
tea rex
11 days ago

If she makes it to July 1st 2022, Katie Ledecky will have 10 years undefeated streak in 800m.

Walter
11 days ago

Janet Evans 800, perhaps 1987-1994?

Stewart 100 back gold in Fukuoka
11 days ago

This is a little unfair as there wasn’t enough long course swimming in 2020.

Stewart 100 back gold in Fukuoka
Reply to  Stewart 100 back gold in Fukuoka
11 days ago

Why the downvotes? Many swimmers’ streak got broken in 2020 because they didn’t have opportunities to race in long course due to covid.

Dressel’s 100 free: #1 in 2019 and 2021.
Wellbrock’s 1500 free: #1 in 2018, 2019 and 2021.
Kolesnikov’s 50 back: #1 in 2018, 2019 and 2021.
Rylov’s 200 back: #1 in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021.
Peaty’s 50 breast: #1 in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021.
Milak’s 200 fly: #1 in 2018, 2019 and 2021.
Titmus’ 400 free: #1 in 2019 and 2021.
MacNeil’s 100 fly: #1 in 2019 and 2021.

You can argue some of them wouldn’t have been #1 in 2020 anyway, but some of them clearly would have been.

swifter
Reply to  Stewart 100 back gold in Fukuoka
10 days ago

You are right. Of the 8 you mentioned, all or at least 75% of them would have continued the streak through 2020.

Santa banana
11 days ago

Not surprised considering the lack of depth in women’s distance swimming. Probably will get downvoted, but it’s the truth.

Peaty’s streak is more impressive.

Ledecky will go 3:55 in Paris
Reply to  Santa banana
10 days ago

This is really embarrassing for you buddy

You could literally say the same about mens breaststroke through??? Aside from Kamminga no man has been sub 58 in breaststroke, you could call that a “lack of depth” as well (besides peaty obviously)

It’s not a lack of depth, it’s that Katie has set the standard so high that all the other female distance swimmers seem really bad when they aren’t…like titmus, Wang, and quaderella have all been at Adlington WR level so if Katie hadn’t existed they would be hyped as the best and you wouldn’t complain about the lack of depth in womens distance

You aren’t getting downvoted for “speaking the truth” you’re getting downvoted because your take is horrible

Last edited 10 days ago by Ledecky will go 3:55 in Paris
Santa banana
Reply to  Ledecky will go 3:55 in Paris
10 days ago

I don’t care about being downvoted. I am not a fan of likes in forum anyway because it promotes groupthink.

Oh and don’t get me wrong about Ledecky. She is the GOAT and deserves all the allocades and praise. She is awesome.

But still does not change the fact that distance swimming has poor depth. You swimming nerds (including myself) have to admit that they are not as competitive as the sprints.

Ledecky will go 3:55 in Paris
Reply to  Santa banana
10 days ago

Yeah, sprints are usually more competitive because more people are willing to do a 100 than a 800 or a 1500, but that doesn’t mean that a distance win streak should be discredited as less impressive. Also, about distance swimming having no depth, have you seen the mens side of distance swimming right now? The depth there is incredible and has been for years now

Dressel on top
Reply to  Ledecky will go 3:55 in Paris
10 days ago

Nah, Peaty is more impressive. Easy to win a distance event than a sprint.
Go sleep little girl, you have homework for your high school next week.

Last edited 10 days ago by Dressel on top
Ledecky will go 3:55 in Paris
Reply to  Dressel on top
10 days ago

😀😀😀😀 sir this is a wendy’s

Last edited 10 days ago by Ledecky will go 3:55 in Paris
Philip Johnson
Reply to  Santa banana
9 days ago

“You swimming nerds (including myself) have to admit that they are not as competitive as the sprints.”

A lot of swimmers don’t have have the tenacity to do anything about a 200.

swifter
10 days ago

Great stat, and meaningful too.
A question – what about Ariarne Titmus?
Perhaps she did not race 400 in covid-lost 2020, but she surely was the fastest 400er at least 3 years running – 2019-20-21

Swimmery
Reply to  swifter
8 days ago

Even before the height of pandemic in AUS, Ariarne Titmus did not swim an LCM race of any type from Aug 2019-Dec 2020, a period of 16 months, and a mysterious but quite consecutive and conspicuous absence from that segment of competition. Kiah Melverton and Maddy Gough were the top AUS 400 Freestylers for the 2020 season, while Ledecky, Wang and Sullivan were top 3 in the world.

Troyy
Reply to  Swimmery
8 days ago

She’d have swam at the same number of meets in 2020 as Ledecky if her whole club hadn’t withdrawn from NSW Champs in March because of covid but apparently not swimming a meet in March when a pandemic is exploding is suspcious. There were even plans to swim at the Pro Swim Series in the US but we all know what happened to the rest of that series after Des Moines.