SwimSwam’s Top 100 for 2021: Men’s #40 – #31

We’re kicking off the year 2021 with a countdown of the top 100 women and top 100 men in world-level swimming heading infto 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.

Men’s #31-40

This group starts to get into the real serious medal contenders for the Tokyo Olympic Games. Included in this group are a number of both 50 freestylers and distance swimmers.

In the case of the two 800 medalists, Henrik Christiansen and David Aubry, there’s a lot of uncertainty in their primary event, the 800 free, and what’s going to happen now that it’s an Olympic race. Yes, we knew going into Worlds in 2019 that it was going to be an Olympic race, but now everyone’s had two years to train for it. The Mack Hortons and Gabriele Dettis coming up from the 400, plus Florian Wellbrock and Mykhailo Romanchuk coming down from the 1500, these rankings are as much a ‘hedge’ on that as anything.

In other cases, like the 50 free with the shared silver medalists from the World Championships Bruno Fratus and Kristian Gkolomeev, plus British breaststroker James Wilby, it’s not that their medal chances that drive them down out of the top 30, so much as it is the confidence in the swimmers ahead of them (Dressel and Peaty, respectively) to win gold.

The sprinters are further impacted by the return of one Florent Manaudou, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist in the 50 free, who looked really good in the last ISL season. Not just ‘won races’ good, but looked confident, looked fast, looked in full race mentality.

We also start to dip into the deep field of men’s 200 breaststrokers. When looking back at this list, some of them will wind up being overrated – but with so many swimmers knocking at the door of the World Record, it’s hard to keep them much lower than this.

#40: Townley Haas, United States – Haas has some big choices to make headed into the summer. Does he focus on the 100 and 200 free, with the medals that those races will bring, plus the goal of individual glory in the 200 free? Or does he try to stretch up into the 400 free, which 12 months ago looked like a wide-open path to the Olympic Team, before the emergence of Kieran Smith? His choices will say a lot about his confidence. Ultimately, this is a make-or-break year for Haas to show his long course promise, at a big meet, that he showed in yards in college. There’s some youthful energy and momentum in the Texas freestyle group, so maybe that will bring the spark.

#39: Bruno Fratus, Brazil – Fratus is a ‘gamer,’ a ‘racer,’ in the true Brazilian sprint mold. He’s not always consistent (he was faster in 2019 twice than his World Championship silver), but when he steps up on the blocks in the big finals, he finds a way to get his hand to the wall. Still, at some point, age and injury are going to catch up to Fratus, just like it did with Cesar Cielo before him around this age.

#38: Kristian Gkolomeev, Greece – The co-Worlds silver medalist in the 50 free with Bruno Fratus, Gkolomeev pretty much has one shot at a medal. He’s younger than Fratus, has less injury history, and had a better ISL season, so we’ve given Gkolomeev the edge. Like Fratus, though, he’s now got Caeleb Dressel and Florent Manaudou to contend with. That’s two former Olympic champions in their prime age-wise. Somebody has to be the odd man out.

#37: Jack McLoughlin, Australia – McLoughlin may be the most likely candidate to medal in all three men’s distance events (400 free, 800 free, 1500 free), besides his countrymate Mack Horton, that is. He would benefit, though, from taking a page out of Horton’s book and dropping the 1500, where he was just 16th place at Worlds in 2019. The 400 free at Australian Trials will be one of the highlights of the meet.

#36: David Aubry, France – Ironically enough, Aubry, who is qualified for the Olympic Games in the open water 10km race already, placed better in the 800 free (3rd) than the 1500 free (4th) at last summer’s World Championships. Both races are stacked this coming summer, and open water comes 4 days after the conclusion of pool swimming. Where will his focus lie for Tokyo? In my mind, he’s got a better shot at medals in the pool than in the ocean right now.

#35: Henrik Christiansen, Norway – Christiansen’s last official recorded long course meet that we can find came at the 2019 World Championships. He’s only swum one official short course meet, in November of 2020, since the end of 2019. Christiansen had great trajectory in 2019, when he took 2nd in the 800 free at the World Championships. Thus far, the only evidence of whether that’s continuing is the best time of 7:25 in the 800 free (short course) that he swam in the ISL exhibition. If he’s race ready, he feels like a contender for 800 gold.

#34: Clyde Lewis, Australia – Lewis had Phelps-ish talent and versatility as a junior, but some lingering leg problems pushed him away from the IMs (specifically the breaststroke) and into a freestyle specialist. He had the fastest legal time in the 200 free at the World Championships of 1:44.90, from the semi-finals, before finishing just 6th in the final (and he touched 7th, before Danas Rapsys was disqualified). It seems like the standard to medal in the 200 free should drop dramatically in Tokyo from the 1:45.63 it took to stand on the podium in Gwangju, especially if Sun Yang winds up being eligible (still to be determined). Lewis has all of the talent to grab gold, though.

#33: Shoma Sato, Japan – Another of the young breaststroke group that will be chasing the World Record in the 200 in Tokyo, if he can make the team, the 19-year old Sato swam 2:07.02 in October, and then a 2:06.78 in late January. His stock is rising hard. He’s not been on the biggest stages yet though, so for now we give the slight edge to his countrymate…

#32: Ippei Watanabe, Japan – The heir to the Japanese breaststroke throne, Watanabe was the only Japanese male breaststroker to make the final in the 200 breaststroke at Worlds. It seems likely that, especially with the home-pool pressure and home-pool bump, Japan will put two into this final, and maybe even both sub-2:07.

#31: James Wilby, United Kingdom – Great Britain has pre-selected both of their allowed Olympic spots in the men’s 100 breaststroke. The best known of that pair is Adam Peaty, but the other is James Wilby, who was the silver medalist at last year’s World Championships. With the rise of swimmers like Ilya Shymanovich, Arno Kamminga, Nicolo Martinenghi, and many others, that position is far from secure. Wilby didn’t have a great ISL season. Like Peaty, he’s substantially better in long course than short course, but unlike Peaty, Wilby wasn’t close to his best times during the short course ISL season. But that was a tough time for many British swimmers, especially, because of the nature of the lockdowns in the country that were worse than most in getting pool access for elite swimmers, so we won’t read too much into that.

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Owlmundo
1 year ago

Where is tom shields????¿¿¿¿¿¿?????¿¿¿¿????¿?¿?¿?

Aussie Crawl
1 year ago

If Haas can work on losing some weight,
Then he could be the dark horse first
At US trials then the big show.

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Aussie Crawl
1 year ago

Is Haiku now the new comment thing?

AnEn
1 year ago

Really interested to see who the remaining 30 swimmers will be. Even if i include Rooney, Manaudou and Hagino i can only come up with 28 swimmers. I think Cseh hasn’t been ranked so far and he deserves to be in the top 100, but i don’t think that he should be in the top 30.

swimswamswum
Reply to  AnEn
1 year ago

Hmmm off the top of my head and not really in order: 1) Dressel, 2) peaty, 3) Murphy, 4) rylov, 5) kolenesikov, 6) chupkov, 6) seto, 7) hagino, 8) Kalisz, 9) raspys, 10) Larkin, 11) manadou, 12) Milak, 13) chalmers, 14) Horton, 15) Detti, 16) palterneri, 17) Rooney, 18) kamminga, 19) le clos, 20) shymanovich, 21)Duncan Scott, 22) Wellbrock, 23) Jiayu, 24) Minakov, 25) Wilson, 26) grinev, 27) Cseh, 28) romanchuk, 29) Irie, 30) Greenback….. some of these feel like stretches and I probably missed them earlier, but all of these are medal threats and many are multiple medal threats. Also noticed the ratings seem to be a little ISL heavy so tried to think that way as well plus… Read more »

Joe
Reply to  swimswamswum
1 year ago

Greenbank was already ranked at around 70 – 80.

Troyy
Reply to  swimswamswum
1 year ago

I think Rylov should be ahead of Murphy.

AnEn
Reply to  Troyy
1 year ago

He said that his list isn’t really in order. Ranking them like that would be completely absurd.

swimswamswum
Reply to  Troyy
1 year ago

Totally agree! Wasn’t any real order other than people who popped into my head first. I would guess the top 5 order is 1) Dressel 2) Peaty 3) Rylov 4) Seto (i think seto would have been 2 or 3 pre-2020) 5) Palterneri

AnEn
Reply to  swimswamswum
1 year ago

My top 5 would be:
1) Dressel
2) Seto
3) Milak
4) Rylov
5) Paltrinieri/Yang

Peaty is only relevant in one olympic event, so i can’t justify ranking him inside the top 5.

AnEn
Reply to  swimswamswum
1 year ago

Greenbank was already ranked #84 and Grinev was already ranked #59, which leaves us with 28 swimmers …
Also not sure how Cseh and Greenbank are medal threats?

swimswamswum
Reply to  AnEn
1 year ago

Shucks… knew I must have missed a few. Greenback won bronze in the 200 back which if he can keep improving to a 1:54 I think he’s a threat for bronze. He also is the backstroker for GB’s medley which gives him a potential gold. However I was grasping at straws with him because I couldn’t think of another Worlds medalist who hadn’t already been listed. Knowing his placement now, I think Grinev is probably underrated and should be up in this one given how consistent he was at worlds last year. Cseh was more of a nostalgia and running out of people thing – he’s shown some flashes of medal contention in 100/200, but agree it’s not likely. Anyone… Read more »

AnEn
Reply to  swimswamswum
1 year ago

I just see no chance for Greenbank to beat at least 4 out of Kolesnikov/Rylov/Murphy/Larkin/Xu/Irie at the olympics. I think making the final would be a good result for him.

swimfan_00
Reply to  AnEn
1 year ago

Chalmers > Manaudou > Dressel

Khachaturian
1 year ago

I would put Sato higher than Watanabe because he is slightly better at the 100. It is a low chance but his times have been getting better.

AnEn
Reply to  Khachaturian
1 year ago

He is also younger, so probably more potential.

Rafael
Reply to  AnEn
1 year ago

Kamminga and Sacki are cases where age surprises.. but I understand the reason

RUN-DMC
1 year ago

So far only 14 Americans on the list. Does anyone think the total number of Americans on the list will be more than 22?

AnEn
Reply to  RUN-DMC
1 year ago

No. Which americans would you rank in the top 30? Dressel, Murphy and … ? Don’t think that there are any other guys with a realistic gold medal chance.

IUFAN
Reply to  AnEn
1 year ago

Kalisz

N P
Reply to  IUFAN
1 year ago

I agree. People are really low on Kalisz right now because of his lackluster 2019, but in my opinion he will be back as strong as ever. (Still see Seto as the favorite in both IMs, but Kalisz isn’t out of the picture, imo.)

I think we either see Kalisz back to his 2017 level, or he completely bombs. I don’t think we’ll see a situation like he only makes the 4 IM and then finishes third. It’s either full strength or bust.

Daddy
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 year ago

DIII breaststrokers for 500, Alex

Right Dude Here
Reply to  Daddy
1 year ago

The Emory Volleyball!

Rafael
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 year ago

Dressel
Kalizs
Rooney
Held

Last edited 1 year ago by Rafael
AnEn
Reply to  Rafael
1 year ago

I think Held was already ranked. I think the remaining 4 will be Dressel, Murphy, Rooney and Kalisz.

Rafael
Reply to  AnEn
1 year ago

Right.. Forgot about Murphy.. makes sense (Even Not seeing him as favorite in any event.. but he has a shot at gold on 100 back)

AnEn
Reply to  AnEn
1 year ago

Interesting that Rooney is ranked top 30 for being world number 2 in 2019 (without winning a medal), while guys who actually won medals and where also ranked number 2 are ranked below him (Litherland, Christiansen).

Rafael
Reply to  AnEn
1 year ago

Maybe because of Relays? But I think Relays should not be considered on evaluation of athletes.

Just for example.. people who think Jenny is better than Krisztina or Inge because of Gold Medals..

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Rafael
1 year ago

Rooney? Have you seen him swim in the last year?

PeatyPiper
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 year ago

Wayne Rooney

Skoorbnagol
Reply to  PeatyPiper
1 year ago

Don’t think the Derby County FC manager is making the list.

Robbos
Reply to  Skoorbnagol
1 year ago

Great team, well in my eyes, 40 year ago.

AnEn
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 year ago

Just looked at the ranking again:
The following guys haven’t been ranked so far if i didn’t miss anything:
Murphy, Dressel, Kalisz, Rooney, Shields
Who of those 5 will miss out?

Rafael
Reply to  AnEn
1 year ago

Shields won´t even qualify for OG…

swammer
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 year ago

so sad to still have to wait for places 10-1 to see Lochte 🙁

Skoorbnagol
Reply to  swammer
1 year ago

If Lochte is in the Top 10 ‘AnEn’ will have a meltdown

AnEn
Reply to  Skoorbnagol
1 year ago

Don’t worry. I am not emotional about this ranking, but i can still point out “logical flaws”.
Many american swimmers so far have been overranked, but i think that you could have justified ranking Lochte in the top 100. Not sure guys like Diener or Heidtmann have a better chance at making a final than him.

run-dmc
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 year ago

Carson Foster and Lochte deserve a ranking. And maybe Pebley.

AnEn
Reply to  IUFAN
1 year ago

Yes, ranking him top 30 would make sense. Not sure how good his gold medal chances are, but he could win 2 individual medals.

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  IUFAN
1 year ago

Casas, at the rate he’s dropping.

swimfan210_
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
1 year ago

Already ranked at #42

Ervin
1 year ago

Haas will swim all 3 events at trials

AnEn
1 year ago

Seems like a decent list, anyone except for Haas has a realistic medal chance. Would like to know the reasoning for ranking Haas ahead of guys like Matsumoto or Malyutin (who both won a medal in 2019)?

Water is Water
Reply to  AnEn
1 year ago

He has been a 1:45.0 individually, split 1:43.7 on a relay, and has an individual world championships silver medal to his name. Its not like he is a scrub.

AnEn
Reply to  Water is Water
1 year ago

Still doesn’t make a lot of sense to value results from 2017 more than results from 2019 when you make a list for 2021. Matsumoto’s PB is 1:45.13 from less than a month ago, Haas has a PB of 1:45.04 from more than 3 years ago, not much of a difference + Matsumoto is younger than Haas. Malyutin has a PB of 1:45.60, but he is also 3 years younger than Haas.

An other example: Wojdak won silver in the 800 free in 2017, his time there would have been enough for bronze last year and he is the same age as Haas, still he isn’t even ranked in the top 100.

AnEn
Reply to  AnEn
1 year ago

Sorry, i was wrong about Wojdak: He was ranked number 95.
Still i don’t get why there is such a huge difference between his ranking and the ranking of Townley Haas.

swimswamswum
Reply to  AnEn
1 year ago

Haas has pretty good relay shots and also showed he was back in form during the ISL season, contending with and beating some of the best 200 freestylers in the world head to head. And that’s with his awful underwaters. I agree he’s probably overrated if we look at 2018 and 2019 results, but I think signs are pointing in the right direction for him and his relay splits show some major upside on his 200.

N P
Reply to  AnEn
1 year ago

Well, first of all, I’d more say it’s Haas’s results from 2018 that’s being considered strongly – that’s where his 1:43.7 split came from. Sure he misfired in 2019, but he was still in 1:45 low shape. I think it’s more about Haas being more of a known constant than Malyutin at least and having more range than Matsumoto.

Time Keeper
1 year ago

What are all these trolls gonna do when Dean is not even in the top 100??

iLikePsych
Reply to  Time Keeper
1 year ago

This is a ranking for mortal men only

Crk
Reply to  iLikePsych
1 year ago

He sits among the gods

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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