Our Top 100 For 2022 series continues as we move into the top 40, with everyone from here on out a likely candidate to make a serious impact in the new year.
Rather than a ranking based on the performances that we saw in 2021, the series is geared towards who we expect to be the top performers in 2022.
The rankings are weighted heavily towards the 2022 Long Course World Championships, factoring in individual medal and world record potential, but we’ve also accounted for other major international events that will take placing during the year. Note that long course gets a priority, but short course ability and ISL scoring potential are baked into the ranks as well.
We’ll be breaking down the top 100 into multiple installments, so keep an eye out as they’re released.
These lists are, by nature, subjective. If you disagree, leave your thoughts/ranks in the comments.
#40: Anastasia Kirpichnikova, Russia – It was a breakout year for Kirpichnikova, whose 2021 was highlighted by a near world record miss in the women’s 1500 freestyle at SC Euros in November (15:18.30). The 21-year-old Russian swept the women’s distance free events at that meet (on home soil no less) and also doubled up on silver medals at LC Euros in the 800 and 1500 behind Italy’s Simona Quadarella. Kirpichnikova made the final of women’s 800 and 1500 free in Tokyo, though she was faster in the prelims than the final both times, and finished the year ranked sixth and seventh in the world, respectively, in long course. She finished the year out with a solid showing at SC Worlds, though having no women’s 1500 hurt her medal count. Kirpichnikova won silver in the 800 free and took fourth in the 400, and if she can translate some of that SC success into the big pool in 2022, she’s a medal hopeful.
#39: Katie Grimes, USA – Grimes was undoubtedly the biggest surprise at the U.S. Olympic Trials last year, dropping 17 seconds to make the Olympic team in the women’s 800 freestyle (8:20.36) after coming into Omaha as the 19th seed. Grimes, who was 15 at the time and only recently turned 16 in early January, went even faster in Tokyo, clocking 8:17.05 in the prelims before placing fourth in the final, just over a second outside of a medal. The Sandpipers of Nevada product finished 2021 ranked third in the world in the 800 free, and was also eighth in the 1500 with her time from Trials (15:52.12). Grimes was denied a chance to vie for some international hardware after being forced to withdraw from the Short Course World Championships in Abu Dhabi due to COVID protocols, having qualified for the 800 free final, but should get that chance in 2022 at LC Worlds. Grimes is the youngest of a talented new crop of female distance freestylers, and while it’s unfair to compare anyone to Katie Ledecky, she’s positioned herself to join her American teammate on major international podiums starting right now.
#38: Yu Yiting, China – Yu is a dark horse selection this high in the rankings, but it reflects the potential she has (and has already started realizing) in 2022 despite being 16 years old. At the 2019 World Championships, just over a month before her 14th birthday, Yu placed 11th in the women’s 200 IM, clocking a time of 2:11.60. She then broke the World Junior Record twice at the Chinese Olympic Trials in May 2021, coming away with a time of 2:09.64, and then further improved that in the Olympic final, placing fifth in 2:09.57. Yu also owns an elite best of 4:35.94 in the 400 IM, which would be the World Junior Record if it was ratified, and she set another WJR in the 200 IM at SC Worlds, winning silver in 2:04.48. Her consistency in the 200 IM makes her an imminent threat for gold at LC Worlds, given that the event is now relatively wide open, and she has the ability to make a run in the 400 IM, though she’s yet to come close to that 4:35 from one year ago. In addition to Worlds, the Asian Games present a huge opportunity for Yu to elevate her name.
#37: Kira Toussaint, Netherlands – Toussaint’s specialties lie outside of what’s contested at the Olympics—that is, short course meters, and the long course 50 back. But that won’t be a huge problem in 2022. In LC, Toussaint is coming off of setting the European Record in the 50 back (27.10) last April, winning the title at Euros the following month, and then placing seventh in the 100 back final in Tokyo. The Dutch native did set a PB of 58.65 earlier in the year, ranking ninth worldwide at year’s end, and then followed up with a very impressive short course season. The 27-year-old swept the women’s backstroke events at SC Euros and won nine backstroke races during the ISL season (despite missing the final), scoring 250.5 points for the London Roar. In 2022, it’s hard not to slot in her as the favorite to win the LC World title in the 50 back, and she’ll factor prominently in the medal conversation in the women’s backstroke events at LC Euros and SC Worlds. She’ll also have a new target to shoot for after her SC 50 back world record was smashed by Maggie MacNeil in December.
#36: Rhyan White, USA – White ended up unexpectedly being the American woman swimming both backstroke events at the Tokyo Olympic Games, edging out Olivia Smoliga for the second spot in the 100 back (behind Regan Smith) and then pulling off the victory in the 200 back with Smith, the world record holder and reigning world champion, back in third. White matched her best time of 58.43 in the 100 back Olympic final to take fourth, and finished in the same position in the 200, .21 outside of a medal in 2:06.39 (after going 2:05.73 at Trials). The 21-year-old finished 2021 ranked fourth worldwide in the 200 back and sixth in the 100 back, and should factor into the final of both events at LC Worlds barring failing to finish in the top-two at the U.S. Trials. While that’s certainly a possibility, given the wealth of talent in the U.S., Smith and White would have to be considered the frontrunners in both events. Currently in her senior year at Alabama, White only reaffirmed her place among the world’s best at SC Worlds, winning gold in the 200 back (2:01.58) and taking fifth in the 100 back (55.87).
#35: Wang Jianjiahe, China – It’s hard to believe Wang is still only 19 given that she burst onto the scene almost four years ago. After winning the 2018 SC World title in the women’s 800 freestyle a few months after turning 16, Wang picked up bronze at the 2019 Worlds in the 1500, and also set a new Asian Record in the 800 free (8:14.64) earlier that year. At the Tokyo Olympics, Wang annihilated her Asian Record in the 1500 free prelims, clocking 15:41.49, ultimately placing fourth in the final. She was also fifth in the 800 free, and finished the year ranked third (1500) and eighth (800) in the world. Several youngsters are on the rise in the women’s distance events, and Wang is directly in that mix. It should be noted that her personal best times would’ve both made the podium in Tokyo.
#34: Annie Lazor, USA – Lazor was one of the sport’s feel-good stories of the summer, qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team and then winning bronze in Tokyo in the women’s 200 breaststroke shortly after her father unexpectedly passed away. A relative late-bloomer, Lazor started to make a name for herself on the international stage in 2018, winning the SC World title in the 200 breast, and then ranked #2 in the world in 2019 after clocking 2:20.77 in the LCM 200 breast at the Bloomington PSS. Going on to sweep the breaststroke events at Pan Ams in 2019, with the U.S. World Championship team selected one year earlier, Lazor came through and won the event at the Olympic Trials before claiming bronze in Tokyo in 2:20.84. The 27-year-old finished the year ranked fourth in the world in both the 100 and 200 breast, having missed an Olympic spot in the 100 at Trials behind Lydia Jacoby and Lilly King despite posting an elite 1:05.37. Lazor is also a 100-point scorer in the ISL, and should figure into the medal conversation in the 200 breast over the next two and a half years leading into Paris. Though King and Jacoby look like a formidable 1-2 in the 100, Lazor could also get on the Worlds team there and challenge for a medal if one of them slips up.
#33: Louise Hansson, Sweden – Hansson has been a high-end performer on the global stage for years, but she took things to a new level in 2021. The Swede brought her lifetime best in the LCM 100 fly down to an elite 56.22, taking fifth in an Olympic final that saw the top four swimmers all post one of the 10-fastest times in history. Hansson then had a standout showing in the ISL for the Toronto Titans, ranking 16th in the league with 258.25 points, leading into what was a phenomenal showing at SC Worlds. The 25-year-old was an upset winner in the 100 back, becoming the fifth-fastest performer of all-time in 55.20, and added individual medals in the 100 fly (silver) and 50 back (bronze). Overall, Hansson won seven medals at the meet, helping Sweden tie the world record in the women’s 200 medley relay and break the European Record in the 400 medley relay, winning gold in both. She’s evolved into one of the world’s better short course swimmers, and has continuously improved in LC, with World Championship medals not far from her grasp.
#32: Abbie Wood, Great Britain – Wood has an enormous amount of versatility, having finished 2021 ranked sixth in the world in the 200 IM (2:09.15) and 200 breast (2:21.69), while also being a very capable freestyler (53.2 100 free relay split, 1:57.4 200 flat-start). The 22-year-old Brit was the runner-up in the 200 IM at Euros and then took fourth in Tokyo, .11 off of winning a medal. She also made the Olympic final in the 200 breast, placing seventh, and was undoubtedly the MVP for the NY Breakers in the ISL, ranking sixth leaguewide (prior to the playoffs) with 212.5 points and eight event wins. At 22, she’s just entering her prime, and projects to be a legitimate gold medal threat in the 200 IM at LC Worlds while also being in the 200 breast conversation.
#31: Emma Weyant, USA – Weyant emerged as a future medal contender in the women’s 400 IM at the U.S. Championships in the summer of 2019, putting up a time of 4:35.47 which ranked sixth in the world for the year and would’ve been fourth in the World Championship final. Weyant carried that momentum through into the postponed Olympic year, winning a tight battle in the 400 IM at Trials in 4:33.81 before hitting back-to-back best times at the Games, culminating with a silver medal in 4:32.76. The 20-year-old, who is currently in her freshman year at Virginia, continued to pick up international experience at SC Worlds in Abu Dhabi, placing fourth in the 400 IM, seventh in the 800 free and adding a gold medal after swimming the prelims of the 4×200 free relay. Weyant has emerged as a gold medal contender in the 400 IM on the big stage, but it’s currently the only event she has at that level, at least for the time being.