In the last 20 years, we have seen several older swimmers maintain their high-performance level for many years. There are many reasons for this, including more and more swimmers turning pro, the evolution of sports science, etc.
Consequently, many swimmers are able to extend their careers and stand among the fastest swimmers in the world for over a decade. To illustrate that, Swimming Stats’ Instagram page has published the list of swimmers to end 2021 with the most consecutive years in the world’s top 10.
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All the names are very well known for their longevity in the sport, the top-ranked swimmer included. Ryosuke Irie has been one of the best backstrokers in the world for a long time. Although he hasn’t been on the podium of Olympics or World Aquatics Championships in an individual event since 2012, he remains an elite swimmer as of today. In fact, he’s ended every year since 2007 among the world’s top 10 in the men’s 200 backstroke, more than any active swimmer.
Sarah Sjostrom is both very versatile and experienced. She’s been in the world’s top 10 in no less than three events for more than 10 years: 50 and 100 fly (13 years), and 100 freestyle (12 years). And she was short of adding one more event to this list, the 50 free — she’s been in the top 10 in every year-end since 2011, with the sole exception of 2012.
Speaking of which, Cate Campbell is a swimmer who could be on the top of the list. She’s been in the top 10 of the women’s 50 free for 11 years, since 2011. But she was also between 2006 and 2009. In other words, if she made the top 10 in 2010 (she was 19th), she would be completing 16 consecutive years among the 10 fastest swimmers in the 50 free.
There are other “ifs”: If Katinka Hosszu had ended 2018 in the women’s 400 IM top 10, she would be completing 13 years inside the top 10; If Joao Gomes Junior had ended 2010 in the top 10 of the men’s 50 breaststroke, he would be completing 14 years in the top 10; and so on.
Curiously, of all the swimmers on Swimming Stats’ list in their respective events, Bruno Fratus is the only one to have won an Olympic medal in Tokyo last year, a bronze in the men’s 50 freestyle.
And where’s Katie Ledecky? In fact, Ledecky has been dominating the women’s 800 free since 2012, and she’s been the number 1 in the event in the last 10 years, a feat that no other swimmer comes close to. But this is a subject for another post.