Our Top 100 For 2022 series continues with the 50th through 41st-ranked male swimmers in the world 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.
#50: Zach Apple, USA – Apple has consistently been among the top freestyle sprinters the U.S. has had to offer since 2018, and has now been between 47.69 and 47.79 four times in the 100 free. In late 2020, he emerged as a star for the DC Trident in the ISL, hitting multiple 45-point swims in the SCM 100 free, and qualified for his first Olympic team in 2021 by taking second at the Trials in his best event. Also an elite talent in the 50 and 200 free, the 24-year-old will continue to be in the running for a spot on the podium at major international events as long as he keeps hitting those 47s. He’s also been as fast as 46.69 with a relay takeover.
#49: Luca Urlando, USA – Urlando was penciled in to be a force at the Tokyo Olympics after breaking Michael Phelps’ 17-18 NAG record in the LCM 200 fly (1:53.84) in the summer of 2019. But a shoulder injury in early 2020 stalled his progress, and he ended up missing the U.S. Olympic team after placing third in both the men’s 100 and 200 fly at Trials. Now in his sophomore year at the University of Georgia, the 19-year-old appears on track to get on the U.S. World Championship team in 2022 and vie for a medal in the 200 fly. In Tokyo, Urlando’s PB was only a tenth slower than what it took to win silver, and while swimming a time and doing it in an Olympic final are two entirely different things, Urlando’s talent makes him a prime medal candidate in the event for years to come. Behind world record holder Kristof Milak, the men’s 200 fly is pretty wide open on the international stage.
#48: Leon Marchand, France – Marchand emerged as a swimmer on the rise in 2021, setting a French National Record in the men’s 400 IM (4:09.65) at France’s Olympic Trials, and he went on to place sixth in Tokyo while also taking 14th in the 200 fly and 18th in the 200 IM. Only one swimmer in the Olympic final ended up breaking 4:10, and at 19, Marchand figures to feature prominently in the event’s next wave of international medalists. His PBs in the 200 fly (1:55.40) and 200 IM (1:58.03) are also promising, and he’s had an explosive start to his NCAA career at Arizona State. If that form is any indication, we should be in store for more long course drops in 2022.
#47: Alberto Razzetti, Italy – Razzetti is a bit of a dark horse selection inside the top 50, but earns his spot after following up a strong Olympic performance with a breakout short course season. The 22-year-old entered 2021 with zero major international medals on his resume, but leaves with seven, winning two at LC Euros in May, three at SC Euros in November and then two more at SC Worlds in December, including 200 fly gold in the latter two. In long course, he essentially came out of nowhere to win silver at Euros in the 400 IM and then make the Olympic final, clocking 4:09 after his PB on record coming into the year was 4:21. Short course proved to be his bread and butter, resetting Italian Records in the 200 fly (1:49.06), 200 IM (1:51.54) and 400 IM (3:59.57), and he was also the top male scorer for the Toronto Titans in the ISL with 203.5 points (ranking 36th in the league overall). Given that his improvements came fast and furious in 2021, it’s hard to deny that he’ll be a force everywhere he competes in 2022.
#46: Danas Rapsys, Lithuania – Rapsys is a top-tier mid-distance freestyler, and if it wasn’t for a false start in the final, he would be the reigning world champion in the 200 free (unless you think that helped him edge out Sun Yang for the win, but anyway). The Lithuanian owns elite best times of 1:44.38 and 3:43.36 in the 200 and 400 free, both of which would’ve made the podium in Tokyo (the 400 would’ve actually tied for gold). But, Rapsys had a bit off an ‘off’ performance at the Games, placing eighth in the 200 and 13th in the 400. The 26-year-old rebounded well at SC Worlds, taking second in the 400 and third in the 200 free, and he also earned bronze at LC Euros back in May in the 400. He’s still a podium threat in the mid-distance frees, but the gap he appeared to have over his rivals in 2019 seems to have dissipated. No best times in long course since 2019 is a worrying sign.
#45: Chad Le Clos, South Africa – Le Clos is no longer the force he once was, but is still an exceptional talent that can’t be counted on the big stage. The South African was in the fight for a spot on the podium in the Olympic final of the 200 fly, ultimately taking fifth, and he failed to advance out of the heats in the 100 fly. Now 29, Le Clos has suggested that post-Tokyo his focus will turn away from the 200 fly and more towards the 100 freestyle, which only dampens his future prospects of medalling at the LC Worlds level. But Le Clos is still one of the best out there in the short course pool, and has been known to pull a trick or two out of his hat when the pressure is on. He’s a mainstay for Energy Standard in the ISL, and the Commonwealth Games present an opportunity for him to rack up some hardware.
#44: Matthew Sates, South Africa – The future is bright for Sates, but the crystal ball on what we can expect from him in 2022 remains a little bit hazy. Sates, who turned 18 during last summer’s Olympic Games, placed 14th in the 200 IM in Tokyo and 32nd in the 100 fly, but really announced himself as a force to be reckoned with down the line on the FINA World Cup circuit in October. The South African lowered SCM World Junior Records in the 200 free (1:40.65), 400 free (3:37.92) and 200 IM (1:51.45), beating some of the sport’s best in the process, and also put up elite times in the 100 IM (51.74) and 400 IM (4:01.98). Those efforts were expected to culminate with a big showing at the SC World Championships, but due to travel restrictions, he and South African teammate Tatjana Schoenmaker were forced to withdraw from the event. This coming year, Sates is expected to join the University of Georgia in the NCAA, but that seems to be in doubt now due to the pandemic. With the LC World Championships and Commonwealth Games on the horizon, we’ll truly get to see where Sates’ long course ability lies relative to short course. Given what we saw in October, it’s hard to ignore him as a candidate to breakthrough and challenge for medals at Worlds. His time in the 200 free in particular is one that only a handful of swimmers, ever, have been faster than, and it was almost a full second faster than what eventually won gold at SC Worlds.
#43: Nic Fink, USA – Fink is riding high after finishing the year with a flourish, sweeping the men’s breaststroke events in the ISL final (topping newly-minted 100m world record holder Ilya Shymanovich in the process) and then winning the 50 and 200 breast (and taking third in the 100) at SC Worlds. The 28-year-old also had an impressive year in long course, finishing 2021 ranked sixth in the world in the 100 breast (58.50) and seventh in the 200 breast (2:07.55), both lifetime bests. After placing fifth in Tokyo in the 200, Fink enters 2022 with a great shot at winning his first LC World Championship medal, especially as someone who’s shown a penchant for stepping up in big moments.
#42: Martin Malyutin, Russia – Not unlike Rapsys, Malyutin is a legitimate medal contender in the men’s 200 and 400 freestyle, but fell shy of expectations in Tokyo. Malyutin had a disastrous showing in the 400 free, placing 22nd while adding more than five seconds from his best time, but came back nicely in the 200, finishing fifth. The 22-year-old did sweep those two events at the European Championships a few months earlier, hitting respective best times of 1:44.79 and 3:44.18 to rank eighth in the world (in both) at the end of 2021. Malyutin is arguably the world’s best closer in the 200 and 400 free, and if he can add a bit more front-end speed to his arsenal, he’ll be in the fight for gold at LC Worlds in 2022.
#41: Alessandro Miressi, Italy – An individual Olympic medal was the one thing missing from what was an otherwise banner year for Miressi, as the Italian racked up five medals at LC Euros, two relay podiums at the Tokyo Olympics, and then closed things off by winning three golds at SC Worlds in Abu Dhabi, including an individual title in the men’s 100 freestyle. Miressi swam sub-48 in the 100 free a staggering 10 times in 2021, hitting a best of 47.45 at Euros where he was a close second to Russian Kliment Kolesnikov. In Tokyo, Miressi finished sixth in the final, but played a significant role in helping the Italians win silver in the 400 free relay and bronze in the 400 medley relay. At SC Worlds, the 23-year-old churned out a blistering time of 45.57 to win the title over American Ryan Held (45.63), and enters 2022 as a bonafide podium contender in the 100 free. The only thing that detracts from Miressi’s value is that he’s really only a premier player in one event on the international stage.