Our Top 100 For 2022 series continues with the women’s 51st through 75th-ranked swimmers for the upcoming 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.
#50: Abbey Weitzeil, USA – Weitzeil had the best year of her career in 2021, setting best times in both the 50 (24.19) and 100 free (52.99) at the Tokyo Olympics, making the final in both events. The 25-year-old also had another impressive showing for the LA Current in the ISL, finishing Season 3 ranked 15th among women leaguewide with 237 points, and she finished the year by racking up six medals at SC Worlds, including an individual bronze in the 100 freestyle. Weitzeil has also consistently been a top relay performer, and we saw more of that in Abu Dhabi, with her fastest 50 and 100 free splits coming in at blistering times of 23.10 and 51.06, respectively.
#49: Anastasiya Shkurdai, Belarus – The best is yet to come for Shkurdai, who just turned 19 in early January, as she’s evolved from an up-and-coming butterflier into an all-around talent. The Belarusian went out and made the final of the women’s 100 fly at her first Olympic Games, placing eighth, and then made her third straight ISL appearance for Energy Standard, scoring over 200 points—including 43 in the league final—to help the club regain the championship title. Adding a silver in the 100 fly at SC Euros and then making a trio of finals at SC Worlds, Shkurdai finished out the year strong. The development we’ve seen of late in her backstroke—including hitting a 2:01.51 SCM 200 back in the ISL—gives her a broader range of events she could break through in long course in 2022.
#48: Madison Wilson, Australia – Wilson’s wide-ranging talent was on full display in 2021, as the 27-year-old Australian finished the year ranked inside the world’s top 10 in three long course events and had a standout short course season. Wilson made the Olympic final in the women’s 200 free, won five times during the ISL en route to scoring 189.5 points for the LA Current, and would’ve been a podium challenger had she competed at SC Worlds. In 2022, Wilson will remain a valuable ISL contributor, and is in the mix to be fighting for a podium spot in the 200 free at LC Worlds, and is also low-key dangerous in the 100 free and 50 back. The daunting Aussie women’s lineup in those events presents its own challenge at World Trials, however.
#47: Olivia Smoliga, USA – Smoliga’s 2021 was hampered by one swim, the women’s 100 backstroke final at the U.S. Olympic Trials, where she finished 12 one-hundredths shy of runner-up Rhyan White and therefore missed qualifying to race the event in Tokyo. Smoliga did get on the Olympic team in the 400 free relay, going on to earn a bronze medal after swimming the prelims at the Games, but missing that individual slot hurts. Smoliga was coming off of setting a best time in the event earlier in the year, clocking 58.31, which ranked her fifth worldwide at the end of 2021. The 27-year-old wasn’t the same force she was in the 2020 ISL campaign, but was still a 149.5-point scorer for the Cali Condors in Season 3, and is too talented to be counted out as we move into 2022. Not only is Smoliga a top-five 100 backstroker in long course, but she’s also the reigning 50 backstroke world champion from 2019, and the last time we saw her at SC Worlds (in 2018), she won a record eight gold medals.
#46: Kelsi Dahlia, USA – Dahlia’s story from 2021 largely mirrors that of Smoliga, with the main difference being that Dahlia turned things around after the Olympic disappointment and ended up breaking a world record. Dahlia wasn’t on poor form at the U.S. Olympic Trials—she actually swam the second-fastest 100 fly of her life in the prelims—but ended up finishing fourth in the final, missing the Olympic team. The 27-year-old came back and flipped the script for her year in the ISL, turning things into a positive as she had an unbelievable performance all season, culminating with her breaking the world record in the women’s 100 fly (54.59) in the league final. Dahlia finished as the seventh-highest scorer overall in the ISL, also ranking fourth in the world in the 200 fly (2:03.95) and fifth in the 50 fly (24.86), giving her a ton of momentum moving into 2022. It should be noted that, had Dahlia swum her PB in the 100 fly final at the Olympic Trials, she still would’ve missed the team. So she’ll have to be on career-best form to get on that U.S. World Championship team, but after what we saw during the short course season, that’s well within her grasp.
#45: Erika Fairweather, New Zealand – The 2019 world junior champion in the women’s 200 freestyle, Fairweather took a big step forward in realizing her vast potential in 2021, dropping more than four seconds in the 400 free prelims in Tokyo. Fairweather, who turned 18 on December 31, clocked 4:02.28 in her first Olympic race, qualifying fourth into the final while breaking a nine-year-old New Zealand Record. While she ended up falling to eighth in the final, Fairweather’s presence had been felt, and she followed up by resetting her PB in the 200 free in 1:57.26, qualifying for the semi-finals where she placed 16th. If she continues to improve, an individual medal at the LC World Championships seems imminent—the question then becomes if it will come this year.
#44: Anastasia Gorbenko, Israel – Gorbenko pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the year at the European Championships in May, winning the women’s 200 IM in a new Israeli Record of 2:09.99 to end Katinka Hosszu‘s run of five straight titles in the event. Gorbenko then made her first career Olympic final in Tokyo, placing eighth in the 100 back, and added a 10th-place showing in the 200 IM before continuing her gold rush during the short course season. The 18-year-old followed up her LC title in May by winning the European SC title in the 200 IM in November, and then at SC Worlds, she doubled up with world championship titles in the 50 breast and 100 IM. Gorbenko also scored 220 points for the LA Current in the ISL, and finished 2021 ranked inside the world’s top 10 in five different SCM events. Gorbenko’s improvement curve has been continuous, and she enters 2022 with a great chance to take yet another step and make her way onto a podium at the LC World Championships.
#43: Sophie Hansson, Sweden – It was a big 2021 for both of the Hansson sisters. Sophie, 23, pulled double duty, first keeping the family tradition intact by winning a pair of individual NCAA titles in the 100 and 200 breast in March before a trio of impressive international performances. Hansson won the LC European Championship title in the 100 breast in May, placed sixth in the event at the Tokyo Games, and then won five medals at SC Worlds in December. Hansson swam the breast leg as Sweden tied the world record in the 200 medley relay and broke the European Record in the 400 medley relay, and she added two individual medals in the 100 breast (silver) and 50 breast (bronze). Still racing in the NCAA as a senior with NC State, Hansson finished 2021 ranked in the top 10 worldwide in five of the six breaststroke races (across LCM and SCM), and that’s with part of her focus geared towards short course yards. Hansson has asserted herself as one of the world’s best female breaststrokers, regardless of course, and now finds herself not far off of becoming a sub-30, sub-1:05 long course swimmer.
#42: Margherita Panziera, Italy – A poor Olympic performance made Panziera the forgotten woman in the loaded backstroke events that we saw in Tokyo, as the Italian failed to advance out of the 200 back semis in ninth place. That came after she posted a time of 2:05.56 at the Italian Olympic Trials at the end of March, and then won the European title in May in 2:06.08. In Tokyo, she was well off of that form in 2:09.54, and in the 100 back, after taking second at Euros in 59.01, finished 11th in 59.75. Can we count on a bounce-back? She’s now 26, and did return to solid form at SC Euros, winning silver in the 200 back and then placing fifth in the event at SC Worlds. Coming out of 2021 as the third-fastest woman in the world, Panziera remains a medal contender in the 200 back at LC Worlds, but will need to be back at her 2:05 form to get there.
#41: Sarah Kohler, Germany – There’s a logjam of top contenders in the women’s distance freestyle events near the top of these rankings, and Germany’s Kohler finds herself clinging to a spot among the best with a host of youngsters nipping at her heels. Kohler was the silver medalist (with Katie Ledecky absent) in the women’s 1500 free at the 2019 World Championships, broke the world record in the SCM event later that year, and then dropped six seconds to win bronze in the women’s mile’s first-ever appearance at the Olympics in Tokyo. With names like Katie Grimes, Wang Jianjiahe, Anastasia Kirpichnikova and Erica Sullivan on the up and up in the women’s distance events, at 27, Kohler will be hard-pressed to keep her spot in the top-three at major international events moving forward. And given that she only raced a handful of times last year, it’s an easy decision to rank the aforementioned names ahead of her.