SwimSwam’s Top 100 for 2021: Women’s #100-76

Jared Anderson contributed to this report

The Olympic year is here. Again. Maybe. And 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.

Who are the top 100 male and female swimmers you need to know about, you need to watch, with the biggest event in swimming less than 6 months away.

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:

WOMEN’S #100 – #76

The first batch of our top 100 are contenders for minor medals at the Olympic and long course World Champs level, including some of the standouts in short course meters who have proven valuable in arenas like the International Swimming League.

#100: Kate Douglass, USA – Douglass seems to be on the precipice of a long course breakout. We already know she’s deadly in every stroke in yards (49-point fly, 51-high back, 59-mid breast, 46-high free, 1:50.9 IM is wild, not to mention 2:03 breast, 1:56 fly, 1:44 free), but the LCM is starting to come through. In November 2020, she broke 25 in the 50m free (24.99), posted a 55.2 100 free and 57.4 100 fly, while she’s been strong in IM and breast, too. Based on her progression in yards already this season, she could very quickly become a medal threat in the 100 fly, though that isn’t a surefire bet by any means.

#99: Erika Fairweather, New Zealand – A 2003-born distance star, Fairweather could be New Zealand’s best shot at a medal on the women’s side, with 2019 bests of 55.6/1:57.9/4:08.

#98: Mary-Sophie Harvey, Canada – Harvey swims all the events you wouldn’t want to race as an age grouper, toting a 4:36 in the 400 IM and a 1:57 200 free in long course. It’s been several years since she’s gone bests in LCM, but she did show positive signs with SCM bests in the 200 free, 50 back, 200 fly, 100 IM and 200 IM during the 2020 ISL season.

#97: Emma Weyant, USA – A breakout 2019 saw Weyant claim the U.S. Summer Nationals title in the 400 IM with a 4:35.47, a huge performance for her first time under 4:40. The 2021 400 IM field is murky, and Katinka Hosszu certainly doesn’t have the kind of lead over the rest of the world like she did in previous years, when a Hosszu IM win was as certain as the sky was blue.

#96: Madison Wilson, Australia – Days before the pandemic hit Australia, Wilson had an incredible meet at the New South Wales Open Championships, logging lifetime bests in LCM in the 50 free (24.74), 100 free (53.50) and 200 free (1:56.60). Wilson first came up as backstroker, making the 2016 Australian Olympic team in the 100 back individually and making the final, but she might be an Aussie qualifier in 2021 in a free event this year.

#95: Svetlana Chimrova, Russia – Chimrova holds Russian records in both butterfly events, and she’s a true double-distance fly threat, though her 57.17 is from 2017 and her 2:07.33 from 2018.

#94: Brianna Throssell, Australia – With a very similar skillset to both Wilson (two spots above) and McLaughlin (below), she’s like McLaughlin in that she was primarily known for her 200 fly, but her 100/200 free and 100 fly have progressed further in the last few years. Throssel was 1:55.6 with a flying start on Australia’s winning 4×200 free relay at 2019 Worlds.

#93: Katie McLaughlin, USA – McLaughlin has made the U.S. roster for three different long course summer championships since 2015. She swam the 200 fly at 2015 Worlds, the 100 fly, 100 free and 200 free at 2018 Pan Pacs and the 100 fly at 2019 Worlds. Over the last few years, her 200 free has become her most potent event, and an out-of-championships 1:56.48 PR in June 2019 makes her a candidate for an individual 200 free spot on Team USA in Tokyo. She was also 1:55.3 with a flying start for Team USA on the 4×200 in 2019.

#92: Merve Tuncel, Turkey – At 15, Tuncel broke four Turkish records in the span of a week in late 2020. She’s been 4:06/8:28/16:03 in long course meters, climbing the world rankings, and her 4:06 in the 400 free, for context, would rank her third in the U.S. 15-16 age group behind only Katie Ledecky and Janet Evans.

#91: Melanie Henique, France – Henique was on fire in December, claiming French records in long course in the 50 free (24.34) and 50 fly (25.24). She was top 50 in the ISL Season MVP Rankings in the fall, too.

#90: Siobhan Marie O’Connor, GBR – O’Connor is one of the best swimmers in British history, and we can’t forget that she blasted a 2:06.8 in the 200 IM at the 2016 Olympics to take silver behind the Iron Lady. She hasn’t been nearly as good since then, though.

#89: Marie Wattel, France – Wattel is a strong sprinter, and she was 10th out of all women (18th overall) in the 2020 ISL Season MVP Rankings. Her 57.00 in the 100 fly in long course has her ninth in the world since January 1, 2017.

#88: Kelsey Wog, Canada – Wog was a huge contributor during the 2020 ISL season, ranking 20th overall in the MVP rankings. Her 2:22.8 long course best in the 200 breast puts her in a solid position, as nobody has been under 2:20 for more than three years.

#87: Maria Kameneva, Russia – The fastest 50 and 100 freestyler in Russian history, Kameneva has been 24.21 in the 50 and 53.45 in the 100. At 2019 Worlds, she was fifth in the 50 free (24.31), just two-tenths from the podium.

#86: Beata Nelson, USA – The #8-ranked female swimmer for the ISL season, Nelson’s SCM abilities are quite impressive. Racing fly, back and IM at various meets for the Cali Condors, Nelson’s underwaters are absurd, and her sprint versatility in almost every discipline is a huge asset in the ISL setup. Should her LCM come around, Nelson is probably a medal threat in both backstrokes and the 200 IM, but we haven’t seen her develop in the big pool yet.

#85: Abbie Wood, GBR – Wood was a bright spot on a lackluster New York Breakers roster during the 2020 ISL season, and she was top 40 in the MVP rankings, just three spots down from fellow IM’er Katinka Hosszu. Her 2:11/4:37 IM in LCM could get hacked down after she torched SMOC’s 200 IM British record during ISL competition with an SCM 2:04.77.

#84: Anastasia Gorbenko, Israel – It certainly feels like the Israeli wunderkind is on the verge of greatness. At 15, she secured long course Israeli records in the 50 back, 200 breast and 200 IM, and before she turned 17 she added national marks in the 100 back and 400 IM. Since turning 17, she’s added SCM national records in the 50 free, 100 back, 50 breast, 100 breast, 100 IM, 200 IM and 400 IM, the latter five coming during the 2020 ISL season. An all-around talent, Gorbenko has the makings of a truly elite IMer.

#83: Anastasia Kirpichnikova, Russia  – Kirpichnikova came careening onto the world stage in December, when she smashed Russian records in the 800 free (8:22.65) and 1500 free (15:53.18). She’s one of a few lurkers in the distance events who could surprise for a minor medal with a huge swim on the big stage.

#82: Delfina Pignatiello, Argentina – With a thunderous 15:51.68 in 2019, Pignatiello is a front-runner, alongside Kirpichnikova, for a medal in the 1500. The South American record holder is the sixth-fastest woman in the world since Rio in the 1500 free.

#81: Elena Di Liddo, Italy  – The Italian record-holder in the 100 fly (57.04), Di Liddo was edged out of the 100 fly bronze medal at the 2019 World Championships by four-tenths.

#80: Reona Aoki, Japan – Aoki dropped a 1:05.9/2:21 LCM combo in the breaststroke events in 2018, though she hasn’t beaten her times in long course since then. Still, she was great in the ISL season, including SCM times of 1:04/2:20, and she finished fourth in the 100 breast at the 2019 World Championships.

#79: Madisyn Cox, USA – The women’s 200 IM will be a gauntlet to get through just to make the American 2021 Olympic team. Cox, though, is a great racer who has a bronze medal in this event from the 2017 World Championships. She’s also quite good at the 200m free and 200m breast, and would be a dangerous ISL swimmer (though her fall med school plans would probably keep her out of that conversation).

#78: Anna Hopkin, GBR – Since finishing college in the States at the University of Arkansas with British coach Neil Harper, Hopkin has really elevated her game. A great sprint presence for the London Roar in the ISL, Hopkin was part of three British SCM relay records from 2019. She made the 2019 World Champs final in the 50 free, and just missed the 100 free final after going the third-fastest time in prelims.

#77: Bethany Galat, United States  – One of the best American 200 breaststrokers of this Olympic cycle, Galat won the 2017 World Champs silver in this event. Her 2:21.77 from that swim still has her at the #5 performer in this event since Rio, and while she missed the 2019 Worlds team (she was edged by Micah Sumrall and Lilly King at Pan Pacs, the last qualifier meet for Worlds), she’s been 2:21.84 since 2017. Further, she won silver at the 2018 SCM World Champs, silver at the 2019 Pan Am Games (behind another American, Annie Lazor) and was ranked sixth in the 200 breast for the 2020 ISL season.

#76: Emily Seebohm, Australia  – The ridiculously talented young backstrokers worldwide have crowded the field for Seebohm, who was a force at the 2012 Olympics during Missy Franklin’s debut days. She’s been no slouch since then, though; she won gold in the 100 back at the 2015 World Champs, silver at the 2017 Worlds and silver at the 2018 Pan Pacs. Seebohm was also a great ISL talent this past season, ranked T-24th overall in the MVP rankings, one slot ahead of American Michael Andrew.

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4 months ago

Not sure how Beata Nelson is ranked higher than Brianna Throssell or Katie McLaughlin. The latter two are proven long course and will surely win medals in relays imo

Reply to  Samesame
4 months ago

This was never intended to be a purely long course ranking, especially this low in the ranks where swimmers’ more important contributions might be to their ISL teams than their national teams. She was the 10th highest-ranked female scorer in the ISL regular season last year, and 8th-fastest female scorer after finals.

Reply to  Braden Keith
4 months ago

So explain how Kate Douglass is ranked 100…

Reply to  leisurely1:29
4 months ago

“explain how” is such a vague demand. Can you be more specific about your objection?

Reply to  Braden Keith
4 months ago

I would have thought she would be in the top 10 with 9 other UVA swimmers

Reply to  Braden Keith
4 months ago

Ya if this isn’t just long course then Kate Douglass needs to very much be higher. I’m sorry but comparing the accomplishments between her and the girl ahead of her is kinda laughable. For #99, 55/1:57/4:08 is not even close to a medal contender, maybe in 2004 it was?…..also did not know Douglass went sub-25 LC…her versatility is astonishing and, yes, her LC breakthrough is nigh.

Last edited 4 months ago by swimfast
Reply to  Samesame
4 months ago

Agreed – I guess I struggle a bit with an international ranking being based partly on yards, which the majority of the world will never swim. I get scm/scy being factored in if we’re looking at form, but only really if that individual has proven that they’re decent LCM swimmers already. Honestly I think LCM is the only global “language” we have in swimming and so it’s the only thing we can use to create a meaningful ranking system.

Nelson is an absolutely awesome SC swimmer but has just never shown the same sort of form long course, so it’s hard for me to get my head around her being ranked so highly.

4 months ago

The breaststroke rankings are particularly tough because there’s a realistic scenario where Wog or Galat snag gold in the 200. Perhaps not crazy likely, but it’s tough seeing them so low. Looking forward to seeing #75-#1!

Reply to  N P
4 months ago

What “realistic” scenario would that be? Efimov being caught again?

Casas 100 back gold in Tokyo
Reply to  AnEn
4 months ago

Efimova is not guaranteed to win even if she competes.

Reply to  Casas 100 back gold in Tokyo
4 months ago

No one is guaranteed to win any event. That’s how competitions work.

Reply to  AnEn
4 months ago

It’s realistic because Wog wasn’t rested when she swam her 2:22. She did it a month and a half before 2020 Canadian Olympic trials was supposed to happen.

Reply to  Prettykitten
4 months ago

I’m high on Wog. I actually advocated for her to be higher on this list.

She did swim her 2:22 at U Sports. So, while I acknowledge that U Sports are not Trials, and not really as big as NCAAs, we can’t pretend like it’s a throwaway meet either.

Her biggest challenge is that she has no room for error at Trials. It’s her and Kierra Smith for one spot on the team, and both have bests of 2:22. It’s clear Kelsey has the momentum, but if she misses, she won’t get a spot on the team in her best event.

Still maybe makes the team in the 100 and has a good chance at a relay medal there, though.

Reply to  Braden Keith
4 months ago

I don’t think smith will even make the team. She was not very good at ISL at all

Reply to  Braden Keith
4 months ago

Agree on all, including level of rest and importance of Usports. Hard to say what could occur with her in the 15 months since. She also has a good shot to make the team in 2IM, had been 210 and a world’s semi finalist I believe. And possibly a depth option (another one which is great for CAN) on the 4×2.

Reply to  Braden Keith
4 months ago

The Kelsey Wog ranking is seriously baffling to me.

Wog: Top 20 ISL point scorer, realistic path to an Olympic medal… ranked 88th. Huh?

She’s ranked below Madisyn Cox – yet Wog’s 200IM, an event that’s not her primary focus, is almost as fast as Cox is in her best event.

Kierra Smith had literally 0 points at ISL, lost to Wog head-to-head over every single distance of breastroke and never put up a time close to Wog all season… not entirely sure how realistic of a challenger she’ll be for Wog.

Don’t get me wrong I love these rankings you guys are doing… just saying if these were Vegas odds I’d definitely be taking a bet on Wog

Reply to  Braden Keith
4 months ago

Why only 1 spot for 200breast? Canada usually sends top 2 (if they both meet the FINA ‘A’ Standard)?

Reply to  TheJudga
4 months ago

Because 1 spot has already been assigned to Sydney Pickrem.

4 months ago

Beata Nelson should not be on this list. No notable times in long course.

tea rex
4 months ago

“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.”

Reply to  tea rex
4 months ago

Yea I disagree so I left my thought lol

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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