Our Top 100 For 2022 series continues with the 75th through 51st-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 such as the Commonwealth Games, European Championships, Asian Games and SC Worlds, plus the ISL.
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.
- #100 – #76
- #75 – #51
- #50 – #41
- #40 – #31
- #30 – #21
- #20 – #11
- #10 – #1
Men’s #75 – #51
#75: Blake Pieroni, USA – Pieroni has turned into one of the more reliable options for the American men on the 400 free relay, factoring in on the gold medal-winning team in some capacity at two straight Olympics and two straight World Championships. Individually, Pieroni was six one-hundredths shy of a medal in the 100 free at the 2019 Worlds, hitting a best of 47.87 in the semis, and was also the 2018 SC world champion in the 200 free. Though his 2021 season was cut short due to injury, he’s a very strong ISL contributor in the short course pool and has the ability to challenge for a spot on a major podium in the 100 free.
#74: Zach Harting, USA – Harting has consistently been one of the top 200 flyers in the U.S. for the last few years, and appeared to have an outside shot at a medal in Tokyo after cracking the 1:55-barrier in the Olympic prelims. The 24-year-old ended up ninth in the semis, but has really been the only American man to perform each and every year in the event at their national selection meet, which puts him in the hunt for an international medal, especially with a plethora of guys in the 1:54-range fighting for podium spots behind Kristof Milak.
#73: Bryce Mefford, USA – Few swimmers exceeded expectations more so than Mefford at the U.S. Olympic Trials in June, as the California native dropped a massive personal best time of 1:54.79 to qualify for the Olympic team in the 200 back. Having also gone sub-53 three times in Omaha in the 100 back, Mefford placed fourth in Tokyo in the 200, and his time from Trials would’ve been just hundredths off of bronze. Though the road to qualifying for major international teams in a men’s backstroke race in the U.S. remains daunting, Mefford has established himself as one of the frontrunners. Behind Evgeny Rylov and Ryan Murphy, the third spot on the LC Worlds podium in the 200 back is within Mefford’s grasp.
#72: Max Litchfield, Great Britain – Litchfield has perennially been one of the world’s top 400 IMers dating back to 2016, when he finished fourth in the Olympic final and then won silver at SC Worlds. After a strong 2017 that saw him place fourth in both the 200 and 400 IM at the LC World Championships, Litchfield was dealt some injury adversity but came back and won bronze at the 2021 Euros in the 400 IM and then finished in a familiar position, fourth, in Tokyo. The 26-year-old has also evolved into a valuable contributor in the ISL, scoring 143.5 points for the Toronto Titans in Season 3, and in an event that has stagnated in terms of getting faster in recent years, he’s one of many with a chance at a World Championship medal in 2022 in the 400 IM.
#71: Shaine Casas, USA – Casas cut his NCAA career short and opted to turn pro this fall, and recently made the move to join Eddie Reese and the University of Texas training group. Coming off a breakout international performance at the Short Course World Championships, racking up six medals including an individual gold in the 100 back, Casas is priming for a big 2022. Despite narrowly missing the U.S. Olympic team last summer, the 22-year-old still finished the year tied for seventh in the world in the 100 back (52.76), and also has a high ceiling in the 50 and 200. With a change of scenery and 100 percent focus geared towards swimming, Casas is a bit of a dark horse medal contender at the 2022 World Championships, and will be a massive addition to whichever ISL club nabs him (if he decides to compete).
#70: Maxime Grousset, France – Grousset had a massive breakthrough in 2021, taking more than a second off his best time in the 100 free en route to placing fourth in the Olympic final. The 22-year-old entered the year with a PB of 48.56, and then went sub-48 six times in 2021, including a 47.52 on the lead-off leg of France’s 400 free relay at the Olympics. In the individual 100 free, he clocked 47.72 to finish less than three-tenths off the bronze medal, and he also finished fifth in the event at the European LC Championships and SC Worlds. This improvement curve suggests Grousset will be in podium contention in the 100 free for years to come, and he could also be a valuable pickup for an ISL club if he opts to go that route.
#69: Szebasztian Szabo, Hungary – It was a big 2021 for Szabo, who won a total of four individual gold medals at the European Championships, one in long course (50 fly) and then three in short course (50 free, 50 fly, 100 fly). That 50 fly victory at SC Euros included him tying the world record of 21.75, and his long course ability is starting to catch up to what he can do in the short course pool. The 25-year-old was the second-fastest LC 50 flyer in the world in 2021, and he was an Olympic semi-finalist in the 100 fly. While it’s a stretch to suggest Szabo can challenge the world’s best in a 100-meter race in the big pool, he’s one of the favorites for World Championship gold in the 50 fly this year and will continue to be one of the best short course swimmers (and ISL scorers) around.
#68: Katsuhiro Matsumoto, Japan – Matsumoto joined the elusive sub-1:45 textile club in the 200 freestyle in early 2021, roaring to a Japanese Record in a time of 1:44.65 at the Olympic Trials in April. The 2019 World Championship silver medalist in the event, Matsumoto’s poor preliminary swim at the Olympics dashed his hopes of a medal on home soil in Tokyo, placing 17th overall, two seconds off his PB. Despite that, the 24-year-old remains a premier medal threat in the 200 free at 2022 Worlds, and should rack up some medals at the Asian Games.
#67: Eddie Wang, Chinese Taipei – Eddie Wang, or Kuan-Hung Wang in his native Chinese Taipei, took the swimming community by storm when he broke the World Junior Record in the SCM 200 fly during the 2020 ISL season in a blistering 1:49.89. Wang, 19, went on to set a LCM best of 1:54.44 in his Olympic debut, qualifying second out of the heats before finishing 13th in the semis in Tokyo. Despite missing the Olympic final he came out of 2021 ranked fifth in the world in the event, and after another strong ISL showing for the Cali Condors, he’s one name to watch for in the 200 fly down the line.
#66: Hugo Gonzalez, Spain – Gonzalez, currently a senior at Cal, had a huge European Championship campaign in May, winning the men’s 200 IM while adding a silver in the 100 back and bronze in the 50 back. He carried that momentum forward into what was his second Olympic appearance, placing sixth in the 100 back, and now projects to be in the medal conversation in all three races moving forward.
#65: Hubert Kos, Hungary – One of the lesser-known names to crack the top 100, Kos has a ton of potential and we saw some of it in 2021, as he dropped a 1:56.99 in the 200 IM semi-finals at the European Championships to break the World Junior Record. While he ended up adding a second and placing fifth in the final, the 18-year-old gained a wealth of experience by competing at the Tokyo Olympics and then earning a bronze medal in the 400 IM at SC Euros (also finishing a tenth off bronze in the 200 IM). In addition to his medley abilities, Kos has the potential to be a future player in the 100 fly with a LC best of 51.52, and even a modest improvement in 2022 will shoot him up the ranks into medal contention.
#64: James Wilby, Great Britain – Wilby has consistently been atop the world rankings in the men’s breaststroke events since 2018, and is coming off of placing fifth in the 100 and sixth in the 200 breast at the Tokyo Olympic Games. The 28-year-old also won bronze in the 200 breast at the European Championships, and while the male breaststroke scene is quickly evolving, he’ll be right in the thick of things in 2022 if he can continue to produce 58 and 2:07-point swims.
#63: Mack Horton, Australia – Australia’s long history of success in the men’s 400 freestyle continued at Horton’s expense in 2021, as the reigning Olympic champion was denied an opportunity to defend his gold medal from Rio after placing third at the Aussie Trials. Horton’s time in that race, 3:43.92, would’ve won bronze at the Games, and he’s still only 25. We also can’t forget that he’s won two straight silver medals in the 400 at the World Championships, and now the only man to beat him in those two races, Sun Yang, won’t be there in 2022. It’s not an easy road to get there at the Australian Trials, but if he does, Horton will be in contention for 400 free gold at the World Championships.
#62: Jeremy Desplanches, Switzerland – Desplanches has had a nice run of success of late in the 200 IM, winning the 2018 European title before claiming World Championship silver in 2019 and then Olympic bronze in 2021. Desplanches has hovered around the 1:56-range in the 200 IM over that span, and the one thing that knocks his ranking a little bit is the fact that he hasn’t seen a ton of improvement during that time, and he doesn’t have any other high-end events where he’s really a threat for a medal. The 27-year-old is consistent enough to remain a medal contender in 2022, however.
#61: Lewis Clareburt, New Zealand – Clareburt dropped two seconds to surprise the field and win bronze in the 400 IM at the 2019 World Championships, and continued his progression by hitting a best of 4:09.49 in the Olympic prelims in Tokyo, qualifying second overall. The Kiwi ended up seventh in the final, but that prelim time was just seven one-hundredths slower than what ended up winning gold, and he also took a big step forward by making the Olympic final in the 200 IM. The Commonwealth Games present a big opportunity for the 22-year-old to pick up more international hardware, and he remains among the world’s best in the 400 IM.
#60: Robert Glinta, Romania – Glinta broke through with his first major international title in 2021, winning gold in the 100 back at Euros in May, and added a bronze medal in the event to close the year at SC Worlds. The 24-year-old has consistently performed on the big stage, having made consecutive Olympic finals in the 100 back, and finished 2021 as the #2 50 backstroker in the world as well. He should continue to be a top scorer for Iron in the ISL, and while the men’s sprint backstroke events are stacked at the top, shouldn’t be too far outside of a medal at LC Worlds if he continues to perform up to his potential.
#59: Mitch Larkin, Australia – Larkin may never return to the 2015 form that saw him sweep the 100 and 200 backstroke events at the World Championships, but he remains in the medal conversation at the highest level after finishing 2021 ranked in the top-seven worldwide across three events. The 28-year-old was seventh at the Olympics in the 100 back, but his two best events, at least relative to the competition out there, seem to be the 200 back and 200 IM, which coincide at the Olympics. After winning bronze in Rio in the 200 back, Larkin opted to swim the 200 IM in Tokyo, going on to miss the final despite swimming a time earlier in the year that would’ve been in the mix for a medal. The 200 back is a similar story, with his 1:54.38 time from April good enough to land on the Olympic podium. The Commonwealth Games represent a great chance for him to return to his winning ways, as he comes in as the defending champion in four different individual events.
#58: Vladimir Morozov, Russia – Morozov is capable of winning the World Championship title in the 50 freestyle this year. He could also just as easily miss making it out of the prelims. That’s been the reality for the Russian speedster at the majority of major international meets he competes in, including 2021 – a lack of consistency. We saw Morozov swim the second-fastest 50 free of his career at the Russian Trials in April, 21.41, and then at the Olympics, he finished 16th with a semi-final time of 22.25. The 100 free scene in Russia has gotten extremely competitve, and appears to have passed him by, but he’s still got a chance to be a top 50 free guy on his best day.
#57: Joshua Liendo, Canada – Liendo has been improving rapidly of late, and that was really on display at the Short Course World Championships, as the 19-year-old Canadian lopped off huge chunks of time to win a pair of individual bronzes in the 50 and 100 free. Liendo made similar strides in the long course pool earlier in the year, making the Olympic semi-finals in the 100 free and 100 fly, while also putting up 47-mid and 50-high relay splits in the two events. It feels like we’re only scratching the surface of what Liendo can do, especially in long course after what we saw in December, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him on the podium at LC Worlds.
#56: Josif Miladinov, Bulgaria – It’s just the beginning for Miladinov, who broke 51 seconds in the 100 fly to win silver at the European Championships one month before his 18th birthday. That time of 50.93 ranked him eighth in the world in 2021, the same position he ended up finishing in the Olympic final. The Bulgarian also has potential to be a future player in the 100 free, holding a best of 48.83 from December 2020, and is an imminent threat to medal at LC Worlds this year in the 100 fly.
#55: Jakub Majerski, Poland – Majerski joins Miladinov in the next wave of great 100 butterflyers, showing a linear progression that culminated with a fifth-place finish in the Olympic final. Entering the year with a best of 52.11, Majerski went 51.11 to take fourth at Euros in May, and then hit 50.97 in the Olympic prelims before hitting a Polish Record of 50.92 in the final. The 21-year-old is also a future player in the 200 fly, clocking 1:56.26 at Euros, and also showed some short course improvements in both the ISL and SC Worlds.
#54: Matthew Temple, Australia – The 100 fly has turned into one of the most competitive events on the men’s side in recent years, with nine different swimmers dipping under the 51-second barrier—once a rarity—in 2021. Temple didn’t just sneak under that mark, but absolutely crushed it at the Australian Olympic Trials, putting up a time of 50.45 to erase the national record that had been on the books since the super-suit era. At the Games, the 22-year-old fell just shy of a medal in fifth, clocking 50.92, but also established himself as a top performer in the 100 free (leading off the 400 free relay in 48.07) and could even push for a medal in the 200 fly in the future (going a PB of 1:55.25 at Trials). In addition to his LC exploits, Temple also had some noteworthy performances for the NY Breakers in the ISL, and is clearly still hungry for more after changing training bases after the season.
#53: Felix Auboeck, Austria – Auboeck made his way onto some major international podiums in 2021, earning silver at the LC European Championships in the men’s 400 free before winning the event outright at SC Worlds in December. The 25-year-old Austrian also came within 13 one-hundredths of winning an Olympic medal in the 400 free, tying for fourth in Tokyo in a time of 3:44.07, and was also a finalist in the 800 and 1500. Having hit new personal bests in the long course 200, 400, 800 and 1500 free in 2021, plus the short course 400 and 1500, Auboeck has clearly not peaked and should continue to challenge to be on major international podiums moving forward.
#52: Ben Proud, Great Britain – Known to be one of the sport’s best pure sprinters, Proud is coming off of a big short course season that saw him smash his British Record in the 50 free (20.40) and then win the SC World Championship title in 20.45. Having tied for fifth in the event at the Tokyo Olympics in 21.72, Proud could very well be vying for the LC World Championship title this year if his short course performances are indicative of what’s to come. The 27-year-old’s LCM best time sits at 21.11, set in 2018, which would put him right near where Caeleb Dressel has been in winning the Olympics and World Championship titles the last four years. Proud is also among the challengers for gold at Worlds in the 50 fly, having won in 2017, and should also stack up medals at Euros and the Commonwealth Games in 2022.
#51: Xu Jiayu, China – Xu is one of the fastest 100 backstrokers of all-time in both short course and long course, having recorded respective times of 48.88 and 51.86 in 2018. After winning Olympic silver in the event in 2016, Xu won back-to-back World Championship titles in 2017 and 2019, and then fell to fifth in Tokyo this past summer. He doesn’t appear to be the same threat in the 200 that he’s been in the past, having placed 15th at the Olympics after clocking 1:53.9 just three years earlier, but he’s got a shot at making it three in a row in the 100 back at Worlds if he’s on form, along with a chance to win the 50 back. He’s also been excellent over the course of his career at the Asian Games, having won nine medals (including four gold in 2018), so that meet could provide a nice confidence boost.