SwimSwam’s Top 100 For 2021: Men’s #20 – #11

We’re kicking off the year 2021 with a countdown of the top 100 women and top 100 men in world-level swimming heading into the Olympic year. We’ll break down the list into multiple installments, so stay tuned as we continue with our lists.

We’ve placed a heavy priority on individual Olympic medal potential and world record potential, but we’ve also weighed potential for impact at other world-level events like Short Course Worlds, the ISL season, and the World Cup. These lists are, by nature, subjective. If you disagree, leave your thoughts/ranks in the comments.

See also:

MEN’S #20-#11

We’re into the blue-chippers now. Most of this block have legitimate chances to either win multiple medals or a single gold – though few of them are the gold-medal favorites. There’s a theme for quite a few of these guys: really, really high-level butterflyers or sprint freestylers. It doesn’t take too much connecting of the dots to figure out why their gold medal hopes are a little suppressed, keeping them just outside of our top 10 despite some clear, relay-carrying ability.

We’ve also got a couple of high-level distance guys who are just one tier below the distance duo that will show up in our top 10.

At the lower end of this 11-20 group are two 2016 Olympic gold medalists who have slid from the very top of their events over the past quad. But both have very real chances to surge into the top 10 with a return to form – or if one current gold medal contender ends up out of commission by Tokyo.

#20: Kosuke Hagino, Japan – Hagino won the 400 IM and took silver in the 200 IM at the last Olympics. But he hasn’t won anything at the world level since 2017. The 2020 ISL season looked like a major return-to-form step for Hagino, but we still have to see it in long course to pencil him back in among the gold medal hopefuls in the IMs this summer.

#19: Mack Horton, Australia – the Rio Olympic champ in the 400 free, Horton won silver in that event at 2019 Worlds. His former 400/800/1500 range has diminished some, and that lowers his total medal ceiling. He might have been considered the favorite for 800 free gold a couple years ago, but after missing the Worlds team in the event in 2019, he seems to have turned his focus downward in distance. Horton almost seems more geared to the 200/400 these days, but the 200 is a crowded landscape for medal contention. Still, Horton’s speed is improving, and he did split 1:44.8 on a relay in 2019. Ultimately, his stock depends a lot on the eligibility status of a certain Chinese distance swimmer who has gotten the better of Horton on several key occasions.

#18: Florian Wellbrock, Germany – Wellbrock is a dual-threat between pool and open water swimming as one of the world’s foremost long-distance racers. In 2019, he won World Champs gold in the 1500 free and in the open water 10K. To make the international level in both of those events simultaneously is rare; to win both is extremely impressive. Wellbrock has a legitimate shot at two Olympic gold medals, but even his relatively high odds of taking home two medals of any color should put him inside our top 20.

#17: Arno Kamminga, Netherlands – the 25-year-old Kamminga has never won a World Championships or Olympic medal. But that seems destined to change after a 2020 in which Kamminga hit long course times of 58.4 and 2:06.8 in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes, respectively. He ranks #3 all-time in the 100 breast and #5 all-time in the 200 breast. And although a certain member of our top 10 makes a 100 breast gold mostly a longshot, Kamminga has a very good opportunity to win two individual medals at the Tokyo Olympics.

#16: Danas Rapsys, Lithuania – Rapsys would have been the 2019 World champ in the 200 free, had he not taken a controversial false-start DQ. He figures to be a top gold medal contender at the 2021 Olympics, which would give Lithuania just its second Olympic swimming medal ever. He had a great ISL season, with the league’s fastest short course 400 free and its third-fastest short course 200 free, so the arrow is very much pointing in the right direction for Rapsys, who could also be an outside medal contender in the 200 back.

#15: Mitch Larkin, Australia – Larkin has been a fixture in the crowded men’s backstrokes since his two world titles in 2015. But while his backstrokes are probably just minor medal hopes for the time being (we’ve got a disproportionate number of backstrokers coming in our top 10), he supplements with a fast-rising 200 IM that just might make him a gold medal contender in a post-Phelps world. Larkin had the world’s top 200 IM time for all of 2019, though he missed the medals at Worlds. In 2020, he was #3 in the world in the event.

#14: Andrei Minakov, Russia – the star Russian flyer Minakov would probably push the top 10 in this list if his primary events weren’t so dominated by another really high-ranking swimmer. At age 17, Minakov was the Worlds silver medalist in the 100 fly, and he’s only continuing to get better in both sprint fly and sprint free. His 47.57 in the 100 free put him #1 in the world for 2020, and he’s likely to have a big NCAA impact along with his world-level prowess.

#13: Kyle Chalmers, Australia – this feels low for the reigning Olympic champ and Worlds silver medalist in the 100 free. But the sprint freestyles are also crowded – Chalmers has a gold medal/world record ceiling, but he could be a tick off in one swim and miss medaling entirely. Missing much of late 2020 with shoulder surgery casts a lot of uncertainty as to where Chalmers will be in his floor-to-ceiling spectrum. He was the world’s #2 swimmer in the 100 free for 2020, and is a true relay monster who buoys Australia’s teams. His 200 free has come along nicely, though he was just 8th in the world there in 2020 and needs a really good swim to contend for a second individual medal along with his 100 free.

#12: Duncan Scott, Great Britain – the real deciding factor between Scott and Chalmers is range. Scott was the 2019 World Champs bronze medalist in the 200 free in addition to his wicked 46.1 split in a 100 free on the end of a gold-winning medley relay. And Scott is also a sneaky-good 200 IMer who missed medaling there by two tenths in 2019. Scott was #22 in overall ISL scoring, and his international profile is soaring after one of the greatest relay anchor swims in history with that 2019 Worlds medley relay.

#11: Chad le Clos, South Africa – le Clos doesn’t have the single-event ceiling of Chalmers or Scott. But he still has tremendous range in the butterfly and freestyle events. He won two silvers (200 free and 100 fly) at the 2016 Olympics and has pretty consistently been a multi-medal winner at every world-level event since: 200 fly gold at 2017 Worlds, one gold among four medals at 2018 Short Course Worlds, and two bronzes at 2019 Worlds. 9th league-wide in ISL scoring, le Clos is also a fixture in the World Cup most years, and remains extremely relevant on the world level heading towards his 29th birthday.

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questioning_the_list
1 year ago

So is Carson Foster not a top 100 swimmer? He definitely isnt top 10

Coach Macgyver
1 year ago

Klim Kole better than all these guys.

Swim fan
1 year ago

Personally think chad should be above Michael Andrew just based off his isl performance

ppmpjjmppA
1 year ago

Personally, I feel that Chalmers is low. I think Chalmers is currently the most threatening player to Dressel. Currently, there are no players who can approach Dressel for more than 0.1 seconds.

iLikePsych
Reply to  ppmpjjmppA
1 year ago

Swimming is not all about the 100 free. Let’s say Chalmers is an equal favorite to Dressel in the 100. However, I wouldn’t expect him to medal in other individual events (not saying he can’t). Compare that to Scott who is maybe just as good in the 100 (based on his 46.1 relay split), and has decent shots to medal in the 200 free and IM, and Le Clos who has decent odds to medal in the 200 free & 100/200 fly. It’s a balancing game between great shot at winning 1 event vs. decent odds to medal in multiple events with potential to win one

Robbos
Reply to  iLikePsych
1 year ago

This is a interesting debate, there is no doubt that Phelps is the GOAT.
However an interesting debate would be Lochte v Thorpe, who’s the better swimmer. Locthe, if swimming in any other time in history other then against Phelps, would have improved his his already impressive gold account. He also swam in a multiple events & different strokes & won many medals in those. While Thorpe on swam the freestyle, but how well did he swim them untouchable in the 400, near untouchable in the 200 & extremely competitive in the 100 free, I would say the 3 most competitive events in swimming (outside the 50, which I think is the fastest starters anyway).

Corn Pop
Reply to  Robbos
1 year ago

You forgot one of Ians greatest achievements . 2001 he broke the 800 WR TWICE including winning the World Championships as the 1st man under 7.40 & 20 secs faster than the 8th placegetter. That is Ledeckyan Rio stuff & in an off event.

No doubt Ian”s 7.39 is superior to Paltrineri’s 2019 7.39 win by a country mile. Hackett would also have medalled

.ps.Ian also has a World Silver for the 200im.(an off off event).

Last edited 1 year ago by Corn Pop
Bonk7809
Reply to  iLikePsych
1 year ago

I’m still very skeptical of saying Scott is anywhere near Chalmers in the 100 free individually. There’ve been a lot of swimmers who’ve thrown down massive splits on relays and never could quite repeat that individually. Morozov, Adrian, and Agnel have all put up 46 something splits on relays, but never made it past 47.5 with flat starts, Lezak himself never produced an individual time within a second and a half of his nuts relay split. Plus, as far as I know Scott doesn’t have any other standout relay swims, to me it felt like that 46.1 was just a one time thing, a product of relay adrenaline, heat of the moment kind of thing. Wouldn’t expect him to medal,… Read more »

AnEn
Reply to  iLikePsych
1 year ago

The funny thing is that you could actually justify ranking Chalmers ahead of Scott, because unlike Scott he has a shot at winning an individual gold. On the other hand guys like Wellbrock or Rapsys, who are favorites in one event and could medal in a second event, are ranked lower than both those guys. Overall the problem with this list is that whoever made it clearly didn’t bother to first decide about his/her criteria for ranking swimmers and as a result the ranking is all over the place. Sometimes swimmers are ranked higher for having a better shot at gold and sometimes swimmers are ranked higher for being competitive in more events.

AnEn
Reply to  ppmpjjmppA
1 year ago

There are tons of guys who can beat Dressel in the 200 free. Interesting that people assume that Chalmers is so close to Dressel in the 100 free is because he is so good and not because the 100 free is Dressel’s weakest event.

Samesame
Reply to  AnEn
1 year ago

Deleted

Last edited 1 year ago by Samesame
Monday Morning Grind
1 year ago

To much doubt in this thread towards Chalmers. I like him where he is. He has world level talent, a world level resume, and he is the man to challenge the #1 swimmer in the world right now.

Mr Piano
Reply to  Monday Morning Grind
1 year ago

He also had a shoulder injury a few months ago.

Troyy
Reply to  Mr Piano
1 year ago

Chalmers was looking soooo good in March last year but with the pandemic and surgery I have doubts heading into Tokyo.

Sam
Reply to  Troyy
1 year ago

I’m putting my money on Chalmers. (Really hoping the shoulder holds up). Love his attitude to swimming too.

Monday Morning Grind
Reply to  Sam
1 year ago

He bounced back from surgery and swam best times in 2019 and he’s only 22. Shoulder surgery with the no pressure situation the pandemic gave him and I think he should be ok.

Last edited 1 year ago by Monday Morning Grind
Robbos
Reply to  Monday Morning Grind
1 year ago

Exactly my thoughts, you have Dressel, clearly no 1 swimmer in world after last year’s WC, he is out of sight in the 100Fly, a pretty strong favourite in the 50 cause of his start. In the 100, Chalmers present the greatest challenge to the blue riband event & I’m surprised he is rated so low.
I wonder where Adrian ranked in years gone by, he only really competitive in 1 event.

Sun Yangs Hammer
1 year ago

Will it be Dean or Casas first👀?

Eisenheim
1 year ago

So far so good. Next we will finally see Sun Yang at #1 with Milak #2 and Dressel #3.

lolololol
Reply to  Eisenheim
1 year ago

This comment does not spark joy

Last edited 1 year ago by lolololol
Coach Mike 1952
Reply to  lolololol
1 year ago

well said

AnEn
Reply to  Eisenheim
1 year ago

Might have been the case if Dressel wouldn’t be american or if Yang would be american.

John smith
Reply to  AnEn
1 year ago

Or maybe if yang wasn’t a drug cheat

AnEn
Reply to  John smith
1 year ago

If you don’t want to include drug cheats, the list would look completely difficult. You probably couldn’t pick a single of the top 30 or 40 guys. On the other hand this would explain why Lochte didn’t make the list.

AnEn
1 year ago

Sadly another absurd list. There is absolutely no way that Chalmers (one silver medal at best), Le Clos (two minor medals at best), Scott, Minakov, Larkin or Kamminga should be ranked ahead of Wellbrock who is favourite in one event (where he could break the world record) and could win a medal in an other event (800 free).

The correct ranking would have been:
20:
Chalmers

19-13 (in no particular order):
Hagino
Le Clos
Larkin
Minakov
Kamminga
Scott
Horton

12-5 (in no particular order):
Yang
Rapsys
Wellbrock
Peaty
Chupkov
Rylov
Murphy
Xu

4-1:
Milak
Paltrinieri
Seto
Dressel

spaziebahhh
Reply to  AnEn
1 year ago

Based on how hard you’re triggered right now, and that you think that Wellbrock is favored over Paltrinieri in the 1500 free, you must be German, right?

The 1500/10K double is much, much harder at the Olympics than it is at Worlds. My fear with him is that he’s going to try to pull it off and flop terribly.

Interesting that you think Wellbrock is the favorite to win the 1500, but that you rank Paltrinieri so many spots ahead of him….

AnEn
Reply to  spaziebahhh
1 year ago

1) If you look at the facts, then you have to consider Wellbrock the favorite in the 1500 free, regardless of nationality. He beat Paltrinieri at the last 2 major competitions and is 3 years younger than him.
2) Paltrinieri will also go for the 1500/10k double, so not sure what point you are trying to make. Wellbrock pulled off the double at the world championships, not sure why it should be something completely different at the olympics. Before Wellbrock noone ever pulled it off at world championships. Even Mellouli medalled at both events at the olympics. Also at the olympics the 10k will be after the 1500 free, so not sure why it would make him flop in… Read more »

Admin
Reply to  AnEn
1 year ago

RE: your point 2, it is actually completely different in terms of timing.

At Worlds, the 10k was 11 days before the 1500.
At the Olympics, the 10k is 4 days after the 1500.

AnEn
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 year ago

I am well aware of that. Not sure why that would make it more difficult for him to perform in the 1500 free, unless of course being rested is a disadvantage.

spaziebahhh
Reply to  AnEn
1 year ago

Most of your arguments have been centered around the claim of an American bias by swim swam. Thus rendering your 4th point and entire argument moot.

Boom.

Mic Drop

Ruskie Out

AnEn
Reply to  spaziebahhh
1 year ago

I see, i had the (slim) hope that you would use my advice to try to become a more productive member of society, but sadly i am not surprised that you apparently went the other way. It is difficult to accept own shortcomings and work on them and usually when someone else points them out, most people try to attack said person in order not to have to admit their own shortcoming to themselves. Maybe you will change your mind after some more time to reflect.
Maybe if you would pay more attention to your “logical” reasoning instead of trying to seem cool, you would be able to actually lead a productive discussion some day.

On topic: Again you… Read more »

lolololol
Reply to  AnEn
1 year ago

I think Milak is ranked too high on your list. He is almost a lock for gold in the 2fy, but he might not even medal in the 1fly. As opposed to someone like Murphy who has a good chance at 3 golds. Or Adam peaty who will win the 1br and is almost guaranteed a medal in the relay.

Last edited 1 year ago by lolololol
Casas 100 back gold in Tokyo
Reply to  lolololol
1 year ago

I would like to bet on Milak winning a medal in 100 fly.

Last edited 1 year ago by Casas 100 back gold in Tokyo
Rafael
Reply to  lolololol
1 year ago

3 Gold medals? Rylov is more of a favorite on 200

100 back he has a better chance but not a lock

Relays should not be herr

AnEn
Reply to  lolololol
1 year ago

Like i said many times, before: It makes no sense to use relays for this ranking. Peaty will win 1 golds and Murphy is less likely to win gold than Milak. Milak is the huge favorite in one event (where he could set a world record) and is probably the favorite for bronze in another event. It would make zero sense to rank Peaty ahead of Milak. Murphy just has more competition and might end up with only one medal or maybe even no medal at all. Milak is more likely to win one gold than Murphy, but less likely to win 2 golds.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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