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?
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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):
- Alexander Popov (men’s 100 freestyle, 1991-1997)
- Ian Thorpe (men’s 400 freestyle, 1998-2004)
- Sarah Sjostrom (women’s 50 butterfly, 2014-2020)
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).