Our Top 100 For 2022 series takes off on the men’s side here with swimmers ranked 100 through 76th.
In what will be another busy year of high-level swimming on the international stage, these rankings are primarily centered around the 2022 Long Course World Championships, looking at individual medal chances and world record potential first and foremost. But we’ll also be factoring in other international competitions such as the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, European Championships, SC Worlds, and the ISL season.
We’ll break down the list into multiple installments, so stay tuned as we continue with our lists.
- #100 – #76
- #75 – #51
- #50 – #41
- #40 – #31
- #30 – #21
- #20 – #11
- #10 – #1
Men’s #100 – #76
#100: Christian Diener, Germany – Diener slotted in at 99th in our 2021 ranks, and essentially holds serve here, though he did have a pretty strong year. Diener is more suited to the short course pool, highlighted by his silver medal victory in the 50 backstroke at the 2021 SC Worlds in Abu Dhabi. The 28-year-old lowered all three SCM German backstroke records in the latter half of the year, and is a valuable presence on the London Roar in the ISL.
#99: Michele Lamberti, Italy – Lamberti really came out of nowhere in 2021, winning three individual medals at the European SC Championships to go along with leading off the Italians world record-breaking 200 medley relay. Now one of the fastest men in history in the SCM 50 backstroke (22.62), Lamberti enters 2022 with a ton of optimism. In August, he posted a 24.75 in the LCM 50 back, and if he can continue on this rapid improvement curve, the 21-year-old could easily be a medal contender individually at LC Worlds, not to mention a mainstay on the SC scene.
#98: Drew Kibler, USA – Kibler has long been one of the best mid-distance freestylers in the NCAA, and took a big step forward when he qualified for the U.S. Olympic team in the 800 free relay. In Tokyo, Kibler’s 1:45.5 split in the heats earned him a spot in the final, and as he’s now in his senior year at Texas, his focus on long course meters and making international teams will see a significant increase in the near future. His stock is on the rise.
#97: Matti Mattsson, Finland – Mattsson clearly knows how to step up in the big moments. A relatively unknown swimmer over the last decade, the Finn won bronze at the 2013 World Championships in the 200 breaststroke, and then didn’t win another major international medal again until finishing in the same position at the Tokyo Olympic Games. Since that swim in 2013, where he clocked a PB of 2:08.95, Mattsson had only been sub-2:10 once when the 2021 calendar year began. He then had seven swims 2:08.5 or better over the last 12 months, highlighted by a blistering 2:07.13 in the Olympic final. Leaving an individual Olympic medalist this low is a rarity, but in Mattsson’s case, he’s 28 and hasn’t shown the consistency to indicate he can replicate that type of swim he had in Tokyo.
#96: Andrii Govorov, Ukraine – Perhaps no swimmer is more relieved that it’s no longer the Olympic year. Govorov is the world record holder in the men’s 50 fly (LCM), having blasted his way to a time of 22.27 in 2018, and remains one of the world’s best in the event each and every year. In 2021, the 29-year-old didn’t compete at the Olympics (after making the 50 free final in 2016), nor did he race in the ISL. But Govorov still finished the year ranked first in the world in the 50 fly, and enters the new year as a legitimate threat to win World Championship (and European Championship) gold in the event.
#95: Nicholas Santos, Brazil – Like Govorov, Santos is purely a 50 fly specialist and didn’t qualify to represent his home country of Brazil at the 2021 Games. Nonetheless, he was the short course world champion in the 50 fly in December at the age of 41, becoming swimming’s oldest world champion ever, and is the co-world record holder in the event. In long course, he’s won a medal in the 50 fly at three consecutive World Championships, and will eye a fourth in 2022.
#94: Mehdy Metella, France – The one-year postponement of the Tokyo Olympics was of huge benefit for Metella, who would’ve been forced to miss them had they been held in 2020 because of shoulder surgery. After winning bronze in the 100 free at the 2017 Worlds and making back-to-back finals in the 100 fly, Metella wasn’t at his best in Tokyo, placing ninth in the 100 fly and 23rd in the 100 free. With best times in the 47/50-point range in the two aforementioned events, the 29-year-old can’t be counted out just yet, though it remains to be seen if he can return to full force.
#93: Takeshi Kawamoto, Japan – Kawamoto produced a pair of Japanese Records in the 50 (23.17) and 100 fly (51.00) at the Olympic Trials in April, closing out the year ranked in the top-10 worldwide in both events. At his first Olympics, the 26-year-old had an off prelim swim in the 100 fly and missed the semis, but came back and had a solid performance in the ISL season for the Tokyo Frog Kings. Moving into 2022, Kawamoto has the ability to be a medal contender at LC Worlds in the 100 fly, and should be a prominent figure at the Asian Games.
#92: James Guy, Great Britain – As the 2015 world champion, Guy was previously pegged as Great Britain’s top 200 freestyler, but he’s evolved into more of a butterflyer over the last five years. Guy broke through by cracking the 51-second barrier in the 100 fly at the 2017 World Championships, tying for bronze with Joseph Schooling, and then got back in the 50-point range in 2021, taking bronze at the European Championships. A team-first ‘guy,’ the Brit dropped the event at the Olympics to focus on relays, and that may be where his top priority is moving forward, but he remains an elite talent that can contend for individual medals. While Tom Dean and Duncan Scott seem to have GBR’s two 200 free spots on lock for the forseeable future, Guy also showed he hasn’t dropped off there, either, splitting 1:44-mid twice on the 800 free relay in Tokyo.
#91: Vladislav Grinev, Russia – The 2019 World Championship bronze medalist in the men’s 100 freestyle, Grinev was a victim of the stacked freestyle corps in Russia, missing an individual entry in the event at the Olympics after placing third at Trials in a time (47.85) that would’ve been sixth in the Tokyo final. The 25-year-old finished the year off on a good note, placing third in the 100 free at SC Euros and then taking fourth at SC Worlds, and remains one of the world’s best in the event. He’ll continue to be a key cog on the Russian free relays, and is capable of challenging for a major international medal individually if he can just get through Trials.
#90: Ryan Held, USA – Perhaps one of the male swimmers most negatively impacted by the Olympic postponement, Held wasn’t on the American World Championship team in 2019, but a few days after the meet wrapped up he posted the #3 time in the world for the year at the U.S. Championships in the 100 freestyle (47.39). Instead of rolling into 2020 with all of that momentum, Held had to prolong his prep for another year before heading to Omaha for the U.S. Olympic Trials, and ended up missing the team after finishing sixth in the 100 free final (a place that normally qualifies for the Games) and then getting bumped due to relay-only roster numbers. The 26-year-old carried it forward and followed up a solid season with the LA Current in the ISL by piling up six medals at SC Worlds, including a pair of individual silvers in the 50 and 100 free. The second individual spot on the U.S. team at LC Worlds is largely up for grabs behind Caeleb Dressel, and whoever gets there has a great chance at a medal. It could very well be Held. And while the 100 has always been his bread and butter, Held’s 21.62 50 free best time from April also ranked him 10th in the world in 2021, only trailing Dressel and Michael Andrew domestically.
#89: Tomoe Hvas, Norway – Hvas is a multi-talented swimmer that has been on the cusp of a breakout for a few years now. The 21-year-old took on flagbearer duties at his first Olympic Games in Tokyo, and had a very promising 200 IM prelim (1:57.64) before falling flat in the semis and placing 16th (his time from heats would’ve actually tied for eighth in the semis and set up a swim-off with Laszlo Cseh). As he was gearing up for a big showing at the European SC Champs in November, Hvas withdrew due to illness after posting the top time in the 100 fly semis (49.22, which would’ve won gold in the final). While he didn’t quite regain that 100 fly form at SC Worlds in December, Hvas did win silver in the men’s 100 IM (51.35), and was also a finalist in the 200 fly. His SC performances are already elite, and that 200 IM swim in Tokyo suggests he’s just scratching the surface of his potential in LC.
#88: Tom Shields, USA – Shields remains one of the best short course swimmers around, evidenced by his 290.25 ISL points in 2021 that ranked 10th leaguewide and first on the LA Current. He broke the American Record in the SCM 50 fly in October (21.99), had multiple 48-second swims in the 100 fly over the course of the season, and despite being diagnosed with pneumonia following the meet, he still made a pair of individual finals and won a couple of relay medals at the SC World Championships. In long course, Shields held off the youngsters to qualify for his second straight Olympic team in the men’s 100 fly, ultimately placing 15th in Tokyo. With an uptick in swimmers capable of going sub-51 in the event, the 30-year-old’s time challenging for a podium spot at an LC championship meet may have passed, but he remains elite in the short course pool.
#87: Ippei Watanabe, Japan – One of the fastest 200 breaststrokers of all-time, Watanabe surprisingly failed to make the Japanese Olympic team after posting a time of 2:08.30 at their Trials. That came despite delivering a 2:07.08 performance just a few months prior in late 2020, and he was also 2:07-mid in early 2021. The former world record holder is still just 24, and Tokyo marked the first major international podium he’s missed in the 200 breast since Rio. It seems he’s destined for a rebound, though his best event is certainly getting more crowded at the top, both domestically and internationally.
#86: Trenton Julian, USA – Julian was leading the 200 fly at the U.S. Olympic Trials with 50 meters to go, but didn’t leave enough in the tank to finish things off. The Cal fifth-year ended up taking fifth in that event in Omaha, and also placed fourth in the 100 fly and eighth in the 200 IM. Two months later he unleashed some massive swims at the Summer Championships in Irvine, including posting a 200 fly PB of 1:54.71 that ranked seventh in the world for 2021. Julian finished the year off by claiming three relay medals at SC Worlds, including swimming a 1:41.35 leg on the championship-winning 800 free relay, and was also fourth individually in the 200 fly. Given that only two men managed to go under 1:54 in the 200 fly Olympic final, Julian is in the mix to potentially challenge for a spot on the podium if he can get himself a spot on the American team at LC Worlds.
#85: Thom de Boer, Netherlands – de Boer, who turned 30 on Christmas Eve, is a veteran of the sport that has really found his stride over the second half of his career. Having never qualified to represent the Netherlands at either the Olympics or LC World Championships entering 2021, de Boer qualified for Tokyo and broke the Dutch national record in the 50 free a few times in the lead-up, bringing it down to 21.58 less than a month out in early July. After making the Olympic final in the event, placing eighth, de Boer found success in the ISL representing Iron (especially in the freestyle skins event) and won a combined seven relay medals across the Short Course European and World Championships at the end of the year. This included recording two of the fastest 50 free relay splits in history—20.15 and 20.23—in anchoring the Dutch team to back-to-back golds in the mixed 200 medley relay, breaking the world record at Euros. de Boer was fifth individually in the 50 free at both meets, and remains a medal contender in the event in 2022 in both the long course and short course pool.
#84: Krzysztof Chmielewski, Poland – The 17-year-old Chmielewski took a big step forward in 2021, winning the European Junior title in the 200 fly in early July and then finished the month off by breaking through and making the Olympic final in the event. In order to get there, the Polish native hit a new PB of 1:55.29 in the semis, improving on the 1:55.46 he swam in the prelims at the European Championships in May (going on to finish ninth), and ultimately placed eighth in the final. At year’s end, he placed ninth in the 200 fly at SC Worlds, missing the final by .01. The youngest swimmer in that Olympic final by three years, the future is bright for Chmielewski, and he’s really not that far off of being in medal contention.
#83: Emre Sakci, Turkey – Sakci is coming off of smashing the world record in the 50 breaststroke (SCM) at the end of the year, clocking a time of 24.95 to become the first swimmer under the 25-second barrier. That came on the heels of what was a relatively down year for Sakci, who failed to advance out of the prelims at the Olympics in the 100 breast (19th) and then was disqualified in both the 50 and 100 breast at SC Worlds. The 24-year-old did pick up a silver medal in the 50 breast at SC Euros in November, and also recorded a LCM best time of 26.83 on December 29. In 2022, Sakci is one of many elite sprint breaststrokers from Europe, and while he may need to drop a bit of time to be in the medal picture in LC, you can’t deny that he’s the favorite to win the SC World title in the 50.
#82: Coleman Stewart, USA – Stewart’s 100 backstroke world record (SCM) early in the ISL season perhaps overshadowed what was an overall breakthrough year for the NC State grad. Stewart wasn’t far off of making the U.S. Olympic team in the 100 fly and the 400 free relay, and his omission from the SC Worlds team after breaking the world record brought USA Swimming’s selection criteria under the microscope. The 23-year-old will need to drop about a second in the long course 100 back to challenge for a spot on the U.S. Worlds team in that event, but has an outside shot in the 100 fly and if he can get there, will challenge for SC World gold medals at the end of 2022. He remains a critical scorer for the Cali Condors in the ISL, too.
#81: Radoslaw Kawecki, Poland – One of the more underrated short course swimmers over the past decade, Kawecki won a fifth straight medal in the men’s 200 back (and fourth gold) at the 2021 SC World Championships, edging out American Shaine Casas for the victory in 1:48.68. The 30-year-old also won the European SC title in the event, and is a consistent finalist in LC, placing sixth in the Olympics this past summer.
#80: Hunter Armstrong, USA – Not many expected Armstrong to be the second U.S. entrant in the men’s 100 back at the Olympics, but he was just that after upending names like Shaine Casas, Justin Ress, Matt Grevers and Bryce Mefford in the final at Trials. Armstrong, 20, ended up tying for ninth in Tokyo in the event, but his time from Omaha (52.48) ranked him fifth in the world at year’s end and he now owns an Olympic gold medal after swimming the prelim lead-off leg on the American men’s 400 medley relay. The path to an individual berth in a men’s backstroke on Team USA remains a daunting task, but Armstrong proved he’s capable and will no doubt enter the 2022 World Trials with a new level of confidence after his 2021 success. Evgeny Rylov, Kliment Kolesnikov and Ryan Murphy will be hard to beat in the 100 back over the next few years, but Armstrong is right there in the next tier.
#79: Tamas Kenderesi, Hungary – Kenderesi was the surprise bronze medalist in the 200 fly at the 2016 Games in Rio, and has remained pretty consistent in being among the world’s top performers in the event in the years since. In Tokyo, the Hungarian nearly repeated his performance from Rio, placing fourth in the Olympic final, .07 outside of a medal. The 25-year-old is a bit of a one-trick pony in terms of only being competitive at the highest level in one event, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that he’s in the mix for a medal each and every time he’s racing.
#78: Thomas Neill, Australia – Neill appears to be the latest in a long line of standout mid-distance+ freestylers from Australia. The 19-year-old was third in the 200 free at the Australian Olympic Trials (1:45.70), but earned an individual spot at the Games after Kyle Chalmers dropped the event. At the Games, Neill essentially matched his time from Trials (1:45.74), placing ninth, just .03 outside of earning a berth in the final. Neill did anchor the Aussie 800 free relay to bronze in Tokyo, splitting a scorching 1:44.74, and was also fourth at those Olympic Trials in the 400 free, clocking a time of 3:44.51 that would’ve earned an Olympic berth had he been from anywhere other than Australia (that time is only 1.15 seconds slower than what won Olympic gold). Neill’s only hurdle to take that next step is the stacked group of Australian freestylers, with the likes of Elijah Winnington, Jack McLoughlin and Mack Horton currently ahead of him in the pecking order (at least in the 400). But Neill’s got time on his side, and the 2022 Worlds and Commonwealth Games present excellent opportunities to earn more major international hardware.
#77: Florent Manaudou, France – After taking a break from the sport after the Rio Games, Manaudou returned to the water in 2019 and appeared to be all-in on the Tokyo Olympics and returning to the podium in the men’s 50 freestyle. One year later than expected, Manaudou did just that, taking silver behind Caeleb Dressel to claim a third straight Olympic medal in the splash n’ dash. With the next Olympics taking place in his home country, it seems likely that the Frenchman will push until Paris 2024. But, now 31, it remains to be seen where his commitment lies in 2022, and how serious he’ll train for the World Championships. Still, he’s always a medal threat whenever he takes to the blocks in the 50 free.
#76: Bruno Fratus, Brazil – Fratus is in a similar situation to Manaudou, zoning in solely on the 50 free as the years go by and opting to center each season around one major competition. But the results speak for themselves, as Fratus has now been on the 50 free podium at three straight World Championships and then went out and won bronze in Tokyo behind Dressel and Manaudou. He’s now 32, but has consistently been 21-mid or better in recent years, which keeps him near the top of the world rankings and on international podiums. Fratus is not showing any signs of slowing down, either, as he was racing as recently as early December at the US Open in Greensboro.