Our Top 100 For 2022 series continues with the men’s 40th through 31st-ranked swimmers for the coming year.
The rankings are heavily weighted towards the Long Course World Championships, but also factors in other championship-level international meets, plus ISL scoring potential.
We’ll break down the list into multiple installments, so stay tuned as we continue with our lists.
These lists are, by nature, subjective. If you disagree, leave your thoughts/ranks in the comments.
#40: Jay Litherland, USA – Litherland has been nothing but consistent in performing when the chips are down, steadily moving up on the international stage in the men’s 400 IM. The 26-year-old was fifth at the 2016 Olympic Games and 2017 World Championships, and then followed up with back-to-back silver medals at 2019 Worlds and the 2021 Olympics. The UGA grad erased a near three-second deficit at the 300m mark to qualify for the Olympic team at the Trials last summer in Omaha, running down Carson Foster, and it feels like he’ll need to progress past the 4:09s he’s been hitting if he wants to continue medalling on the biggest stage down the line. Litherland only ranked tied for eighth in the world in the event in 2021, but until we see it, it’s hard to bet against him pulling out a top-two finish at Trials. However, it will be a tough task this year with reigning Olympic champion Chase Kalisz and 2021 world #1 Foster in his path.
#39: Fernando Scheffer, Brazil – Scheffer has been climbing the ladder in the men’s 200 freestyle ranks over the last few years, and caught fire with career-best form in Tokyo. The 23-year-old Brazilian joined the elusive sub-1:45 club in the final, clocking 1:44.66 for a new South American Record and an Olympic bronze medal. He followed up by putting together a solid short course season in the ISL, scoring 151.5 points for the LA Current, and also has the potential to be a future contender in the LC 400 with a best of 3:47.7. It was only a few years ago that it was a rarity to see a swimmer break 1:45 in the 200 free. In 2021, eight different guys did it. So the men’s 200 free is currently tightly bunched at the top, but Scheffer now factors firmly into that mix.
#38: Federico Burdisso, Italy – Burdisso has emerged as a top medal threat in the men’s 200 fly at each and every major competition he lines up in dating back to 2018, having broken out with a bronze that year at LC Euros shortly before his 17th birthday. The Italian was fourth at 2019 Worlds, second at 2021 Euros and then came through with the bronze in Tokyo, swimming in between 1:54.28 and 1:54.45 at all three meets. Now 20, Burdisso has also developed into a solid 51-mid 100 flier, and his ability to step up and perform his best at the biggest meets of the year makes him a good bet to be a medalist moving forward.
#37: Luke Greenbank, Great Britain – Greenbank broke through to win the bronze medal in the men’s 200 backstroke at the 2019 World Championships, hitting a best time of 1:55.85, and then had a massive 2021 that saw him deliver the eight fastest swims of his career. The 24-year-old roared to a new British Record in the semis at LC Euros in 1:54.43, going on to win silver behind Evgeny Rylov, and then proceeded to hit a trio of 1:54s at the Tokyo Games to ultimately claim bronze behind Rylov and Ryan Murphy. Behind those two, Greenbank is the only man currently going sub-1:55 consistently, putting him in a prime spot for major medals moving forward. And although the Brit isn’t as good of a short course swimmer as he is in the big pool, he still chipped in 121.5 points for the London Roar in the ISL last season.
#36: Tomoru Honda, Japan – Honda hit a rare achievement in 2021, winning an individual Olympic silver medal before ever competing at a World Championship. After winning silver in the men’s 200 butterfly at the 2019 World Juniors in 1:55.31, Honda ran down Daiya Seto to place first at the 2021 Japanese Olympic Trials in a time of 1:54.88, and further lowered his PB leading into the Games in 1:54.59. Still just 19 (he turned 20 on December 31), Honda dropped another best time in the Olympic final to win silver in 1:53.73, joining Kristof Milak as the only two men sub-1:54 for the year. Given he only just turned 20, has steadily improved, and the 200 fly is pretty wide open behind Milak, Honda is well on his way to being a consistent major international podium finisher. He’s not just a one-trick pony either, as Honda is also a very capable freestyler and IMer, which makes him a solid ISL scorer if he opts to get back into the league next season.
#35: Jack McLoughlin, Australia – McLoughlin has been putting up some of the fastest times in the world in the men’s distance freestyle events since 2018, and he’s got the medals to show for it. The Australian native won the men’s 400 free at the 2018 Pan Pacs, the 1500 free at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, and nearly pulled off an epic victory at the 2021 Olympics in the 400 free, winning silver in 3:43.52 behind Tunisian Ahmed Hafnaoui. McLoughlin, 26, is the only swimmer to have been sub-3:45 in the 400 in every year since 2018, swimming his PB of 3:43.27 in 2021, and also went a best time of 7:42.51 in the 800 free last year, ranking fifth in the world. His medal hopes at LC Worlds are tough to predict considering the depth of the talent in Australia, from 2021’s fastest swimmer Elijah Winnington, to 2016 Olympic gold medalist Mack Horton, and the youngster on the rise, Thomas Neill. But it’s fair to say McLoughlin has been the most consistent of those names recently (not necessarily including Neill), and if he can qualify to compete in Fukuoka, he’s a medal hopeful.
#34: Brendon Smith, Australia – Smith quickly entered the fray as a medal contender at the Tokyo Olympics after dropping an Australian Record of 4:10.04 in the men’s 400 IM at their national trials in June, taking off nearly five seconds from his 2019 PB of 4:14.91. Smith carried that momentum through the Olympic Games, lowering that Aussie Record down to 4:09.27 in the prelims before claiming bronze in the final (4:10.38). The 21-year-old also qualified to swim the 200 IM in Tokyo, finishing four-tenths outside of a semi-final berth in 22nd, and followed that up with an incredible ISL performance for the NY Breakers. He was the club’s top male scorer with 122 points, going a perfect five-for-five in the 400 free while emerging as the league’s fastest swimmer in the event (3:37.11) and second-fastest in the 400 IM (3:59.33). Given that the men’s 400 IM and 400 free clash on the Olympic schedule, Smith didn’t pursue the freestyle event for Tokyo, but at Worlds they’re at opposite ends of the competition, so he could become a long course player in that race in 2022 as well. But in the 400 IM, he’s a certain medal contender.
#33: Ilya Borodin, Russia – Borodin was, in many ways, the forgotten man of the Tokyo Olympics, as he was forced to withdraw just days out of the competition due to a positive COVID-19 test. That leaves us to imagine what might have been, as Borodin was coming off of winning the European title in May in a time of 4:10.02, which ended up being just six-tenths shy of the gold-medal-winning time in Tokyo. The 18-year-old Russian made up for lost time with an explosive short course season, winning the 400 IM five times for the Aqua Centurions in the ISL, breaking the world junior record in the event en route to winning gold at SC Euros in 3:58.83, and then knocking more than two seconds off of that to finish a close second to Daiya Seto at SC Worlds in 3:56.47. Borodin’s progress in the short course pool at the end of 2021 makes us pretty bullish on his long course prospects in 2022, though he’s currently only truly elite in one event.
#32: Andrei Minakov, Russia – Minakov was probably pigeon-holed a little bit after winning silver in the 100 butterfly at the 2019 World Championships (50.83), making his World Junior Record swim in the 100 freestyle in October 2020 a shock to many. Minakov dropped almost a full second in one swim, from 48.50 to 47.57, making him a true dual-threat leading into the Olympic year. The 19-year-old Russian won bronze in the 100 free at LC Euros in May, going sub-48 in all three rounds, but had an off swim in the 100 fly semis and missed the final. The opposite happened in Tokyo, as Minakov placed fourth in the 100 fly (50.88) and 10th in the 100 free, though his lead-off time from the 400 free relay (47.71) would’ve been fourth in the final. A few months into his freshman year at Stanford, Minakov went out and won six medals at his first SC World Championships in December, including a pair of relay golds and an individual bronze in the 100 fly. Also owning an elite best time in the 50 fly (23.02), Minakov has three events in which he’ll have a chance for a podium spot at LC Worlds, and he’s quickly becoming a premier short course swimmer as well.
#31: Thomas Ceccon, Italy – Flip the 100 fly for the 100 back, and Ceccon has a very similar skillset to Minakov. Ceccon, 20, really took his game to a new level at the Tokyo Olympics, soaring to lifetime bests in the 100 free (47.71) and 100 back (52.30, 52.23 if you include the mixed medley relay lead-off). The Italian finished fourth in the 100 back, 11 one-hundredths behind bronze medalist Ryan Murphy, and ended up 12th in the 100 free semis after his PB qualified him first out of the prelims. He finished the year ranked fourth in the world in the 100 back, tied with Minakov for eighth in the 100 free, and also sat eighth in the 50 fly (23.31). He added individual medals at SC Euros in the 200 IM (silver) and 50 fly (bronze), also splitting 20.82 on the 200 free relay, and added a bronze in the 100 IM (51.40) at SC Worlds. With such a vast skillset, Ceccon is set up to make a serious impact in 2022.