After the action-packed year that was 2022, we’re gearing up for another exciting year over here at SwimSwam, and part of that is releasing our third annual Top 100 list—check out last year’s rankings here.
We’ve taken a more statistically-driven approach this year, while also taking into account things such as potential, World Championship medal opportunities, injuries, and versatility. Long course is weighted significantly more than short course, though performance potential in both formats is taken into account.
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.
- #100 – #76
- #75 – #51
- #50 – #41
- #40 – #31
- #30 – #21
- #20 – #11
- #10 – #1
#20: Hwang Sunwoo, South Korea – Alongside David Popovici, Hwang represents the next generation of male freestyle swimming. At 18, he dropped a World Junior Record of 1:44.62 in the prelims of the Tokyo Olympics, and then showed he’s not afraid to put all of his chips on the table in the final, leading the field by more than seven-tenths through the 150 before fading and placing seventh. Hwang also finished fifth in the 100 free in his Olympic debut, clocking an Asian Record of 47.56 in the semis, and then at the 2022 World Championships, made good on the experience he accrued in Tokyo by winning silver in the 200 free in a PB of 1:44.47. The South Korean native wasn’t at his best in the 100 free and missed the final in 11th, finishing the year ranked 18th in the world (48.07) while sitting second in the 200 free behind Popovici. Now 19, Hwang closed the year off with a bang at the Short Course World Championships in December, winning gold in the 200 free with the third-fastest time ever, 1:39.72. Although Popovici’s the clear #1 in the 200 free, Hwang has established himself as the second-best in the world, and he’s also capable of being in the mix in the 100 free.
#19: Florian Wellbrock, Germany – Wellbrock failed to win gold in either the 800 or 1500 free at the 2022 World Championships, but did show signs of improvement as the ultra-elite men’s distance scene continues to get faster. The German native, who won the 2019 world title in the 1500 and then claimed bronze in the event in Tokyo, swam 14:36-something in the mile for the fourth time in Budapest, claiming bronze as Gregorio Paltrinieri delivered the second-fastest swim in history for gold (14:32.80). In the 800 free, Wellbrock dropped more than two seconds to earn silver in Budapest behind Bobby Finke, clocking 7:39.63 to become the eighth man sub-7:40 in the event’s history. Wellbrock, 25, could realistically win gold in the 800 and 1500 free at Worlds this year. He could also miss the podium in both, that’s how close he, Paltrinieri, Finke, Mykhailo Romanchuk and maybe even Lukas Martens are right now. Wellbrock is also one of the world’s best open water swimmers, winning 10k gold in Tokyo and then claiming the 5k in Budapest.
#18: Duncan Scott, Great Britain – It was a quiet 2022 for Scott, as he pulled out of the World Championships after coming down with COVID and having difficulty bouncing back quickly, and he also sat out of the European Championships. The 25-year-old Scottish native did put on an impressive display at the Commonwealth Games, racing 13 times over six days and walking away with six medals. That included individual gold in the 200 free (1:45.02) and 200 IM (1:56.88), as he finished the year ranked fifth in the world in the former, and in the latter, he swam a time of 1:56.08 at the British Trials in April to rank fourth. Scott also set a British Record of 4:09.18 in the 400 IM early in the year, good for sixth in the world. Amidst the heavy workload at the Commonwealth Games, Scott was able to pull out a 1:44.4 200 free relay split to help put Scotland on the podium. While some may have written Scott off after the emergence of David Popovici and Leon Marchand last year, he’s still a medal contender in at least two, probably three events at the World Championships. The fact that he ranked in the world’s top-six last year in three races despite withdrawing from Budapest speaks volumes.
#17: Nic Fink, USA – Fink has been on fire for the last two years, and after lighting things up in short course meters in late 2021, his momentum carried over into the long course pool last year as he won four medals in Budapest. That included snagging individual gold in the 50 breast in an American Record of 26.45, and he also claimed bronze in the 100 breast, with his time of 58.37 ranking him #2 in the world for the year. The 29-year-old also dropped a pair of 57.86 relay splits in Budapest, and finished fifth in the 200 breast (2:09.05). After the 200 was the event in which he qualified for the U.S. Olympic team in 2021, Fink has trended more towards the sprints in the time since—at least in long course, as he only ranked 13th in the world last year in the 200. In short course, Fink successfully defended his world title in the 50 breast in Melbourne adding another gold in the 100 breast and taking second to Daiya Seto with a PB of 2:01.60 in the 200 breast. Fink also had sub-25 and sub-55 relay splits for the U.S., showing unmatched value. Given what he did in Melbourne, there appears to be no slowing down this late-career resurgence from Fink, who will be in the gold medal conversation in two events in Fukuoka.
#16: Arno Kamminga, Netherlands – Kamminga may lay claim to being the best all-around male breaststroker in the world right now. He’s one of the two men who have broken 58 seconds in the 100 breast, and one of just six who have been sub-2:07 in the 200 breast. That ability led Kamminga to a pair of silver medals at the Tokyo Olympic Games, but 2022 didn’t go as planned as the Dutchman dealt with a series of health issues. Kamminga still won silver in the 100 breast at the World Championships in 58.62, and was actually a bit faster at 58.52 in February to rank fourth in the world, but he pulled out of Budapest after the 200 breast prelims. However, his time of 2:08.22 from April still ranked him sixth in the world, and if he’s back at full strength, it’s hard not to slot him in as a favorite to medal in both the 100 and 200 in Fukuoka. Kamminga has already been 58.90 in the 100 breast this season, ranking first in the world by a full second for 2022-23, putting him back on track for a big year.
#15: Shaine Casas, USA – It’s a little bit hard to believe, but Casas ranked top-six in the world in five different events last year, and yet, he only qualified to swim one individual race at the 2022 World Championships. Casas won bronze in the 200 back in Budapest (1:55.35), but really exploded one month later at U.S. Nationals in Irvine, firing off a 1:55.24 200 IM to rank second in the world and 50.40 in the 100 fly to rank third. In the time between Worlds and Nationals, he also went 52.51 in the 100 back at a Sectionals meet in Austin, ranking him sixth in the world. The 23-year-old also blasted to a time of 24.00 in the 50 back at the U.S. Trials in April, a swim that ranked him #4 all-time, but #3 on the day behind new world record holder Hunter Armstrong and the now world champion Justin Ress. In the back half of the year, Casas tore up the FINA World Cup and then won four medals at SC Worlds. If he can narrow in his event focus this year, Casas should be able to make multiple trips to the podium in Fukuoka, but it remains to be seen which races he’ll drop and which he’ll key in on.
#14: Adam Peaty, Great Britain – An unstoppable force for six straight years, 2022 marked the first real setback in Peaty’s career since he broke out in 2015. After winning Olympic gold in 2016, Peaty became the first swimmer sub-26 in the 50 breast in 2017, completed “Project 56” by becoming the first man under 57 seconds in the 100 breast in 2019, and then successfully defended his Olympic title in 2021. Last year, a foot injury sidelined him from the World Championships, meaning his run of three consecutive world titles in the 50 and 100 came to an unceremonious end. The now 28-year-old Brit then showed up at the Commonwealth Games well off top form, shockingly missing the podium in the 100 breast before bouncing back and winning the 50 on home soil. Peaty still finished 2022 ranked fourth in the 100 breast (58.58) and seventh in the 50 breast (26.76) despite it being a relatively rough one for him, and he finished things out by getting on the podium at SC Worlds in the 100 breast. Seemingly as motivated as ever, no one would be surprised to see Peaty return to the top of the mountain in the 50 and 100 breast this summer.
#13: Nicolo Martinenghi, Italy – Martinenghi was the top male sprint breaststroker on the planet last year, winning the world title in Budapest in a time of 58.26, ranking him #1 in the world for 2022. The Italian then matched that time at the European Championships, showing impressive consistency as he broke 59 seconds a total of six times for the year. Martinenghi also ranked #1 in the world last year in the 50 breast, hitting a gold medal-winning time of 26.33 at Euros, though he was edged out by .03 and settled for silver at Worlds behind Nic Fink. Martinenghi continued his strong year at SC Worlds, taking silver in the 50 and 100, once again behind Fink. Given that he’s just 23, Martinenghi could have more time drops coming this year and will challenge for world titles in both the 50 and 100 breast. If Adam Peaty is on his game, the 100 breast is his, but in the 50, even if Peaty is firing on all cylinders, Martinenghi would still have an outside shot at gold. Ultimately, between Fink, Peaty and Martinenghi (and Arno Kamminga in the 100), the men’s 50/100 breaststroke landscape is tough to predict this year. It should be close, and as the world #1 in both races last year, Martinenghi leads the pack.
#12: Bobby Finke, USA – Some may not realize that Finke was actually significantly faster at the 2022 World Championships than he was the previous summer at the Olympic Games, it just felt as though he didn’t match the impossible high of winning two upset Olympic gold medals since he fell to silver in the 1500 free in Budapest. Finke dropped from 7:41.87 to 7:39.36 en route to winning the world title in the 800 free, out-dueling Florian Wellbrock for gold, while in the 1500, Gregorio Paltrinieri attacked the race from the get-go and opened up a big lead, roaring to gold with the second-fastest swim ever in 14:32.80. Finke once again out-kicked Wellbrock, claiming silver in 14:36.70 to mark a near three-second drop from his winning time in Tokyo (14:39.65). The 23-year-old will be a gold medal contender in both races for a long time, and he’s also elite in the 400 IM, ranking ninth in 2022 with his time of 4:10.57 from U.S. Trials. Paltrinieri got the better of him last year in the mile. We’ll see if Finke can answer this year. If and when Paltrinieri attacks early, can and/or will Finke go with him?
#11: Zac Stubblety-Cook, Australia – Stubblety-Cook is in the unique position of being incredibly dominant in one event, and yet, not really a threat to sniff the podium in any other races individually. Last year, the now 24-year-old Aussie broke the world record in the men’s 200 breaststroke (2:05.95) and won titles at the World Championships and Commonwealth Games. The second-fastest swimmer last year was nearly two seconds back of him, and in the World final, he added over a second to his world record from the month prior and still won by 1.31 seconds. In the 100 breast, Stubblety-Cook set a best time of 59.51 in Budapest, qualifying for the final where he ultimately placed seventh and ranked 14th in the world. Now the owner of three of the four-fastest swims ever, Stubblety-Cook is the man to beat in the 200 breast this year.
Milak vs Marchand really depends on what happens with Dressel imo. If Dressel is back in action then Marchand has the clear #1 spot imo but if not, I think I’d go Milak on top- no one is gonna catch him in either fly event while I don’t think it’s impossible that someone upsets Marchand in the 200 IM
If 100FR considered as the blue ribbon event no question it is Milak!
@Braden Keith and crew, I think once you guys finish this series of top 100 men’s and women’s swimmers, it’ll be interesting to share a summary of which swimming events were weighed more heavily when considering the worlds best swimmers, and whether it differs by gender. I’m sure there was a lot of debate amongst swimswam writers in coming up with the final rankings, so creating this summary would be an interesting reflection/post-Mortem of which events people view have more street credit in the current environment, and the general justifications. (Plus, I’m sure you guys will get tons of engagement from us as we share our thoughts and prejudices 🙂 )
Just seeing the number of posters… Read more »
FYI emphasis on “current environment” as I’m aware the weightings on events change over time. Though it would be interesting to talk about how the weightings of different events have changed in recent eras.
I favor Marchand because he could medal in multiple events. Milak is also likely to win medals in freestyle, but that’s not as secure as Marchand’s medal chance in 200 fly.
I think 100s, especially 100 free (plus 200 free), will always be the most important. They are the “blue ribbon” distance for each stroke and they are all relay legs. However, when you’re comparing individual medals I think they’re all essentially considered equal except for stroke 50s. I personally care less about IMs because I value being the best at one stroke higher than being overall best on average.
Outside of that, I think each person probably has their own order in terms of value. It I HAD TO assign value in an order it would be: 100 Free > 200 free > stroke 100s > stroke 200s > 50/400 free > IMs > distance free > stroke 50s
While I prefer and value the 200 free over the 100 free because it’s the middle ground for so many super stars, I’d agree with your ranking.
I would personally rate stroke 200s above stroke 100s just because it implies specialist skill, where as 100ers can still rely on sprint/fast twitch.
That said, I think you list is reflective of the wider population.
The 1500 are definitely above everything barring 100-200 free and on par with the 100s of other strokes.
It’s one of the most historically relevant races that produced some of the greatest swimmers
As an Aussie, I love me some Kyle Chalmers. But I am surprised to see him top 10. His relay prowess is unmatched but I weight relay performance essentially as a tiebreaker on lists like this. In my view, individual gold potential is the #1 criterion.
Both Chalmers and Foster don’t have a clear path to gold in any event, so it seems odd to rank them above ZSC who had a clean sweep of international medals this year plus broke the WR. I probably would have put Finke above them too.
Dressel being top 10 is surprising but I can understand it. In saying that, if he swims this year at all, it’s conceivable that he misses medals completely… Read more »
Chalmers deserves to be top 10 because of his relay prowess.
Relays matter little to the ranking of nearly all swimmers, but Chalmers is an exception.
He can take a weak relay and lift them far above what they should achieve, getting medals that frankly aren’t deserved. Someone like Dressel could theoretically be left out of a final and replaced by the #2 in his event, and usually the US would still get gold fairly comfortably. That is why Chalmers gets weighted heavily off his relay medal salvaging.
I agree. Over the years, Chalmers brought Australia from 7th when he dove in to bronze medal when he finished.
His relay prowess is unmatched and turned no medal into medal.
That’s a good point actually. He really does seem like the best relay performer ever potentially. I’m hesitant to give all the credit to Kyle because all 4 of them swam PB splits, but the WR at SCW was magical.
If he can somehow lead Australia to an LCM relay gold then I will eat my words. The medley and 200 both seem solidly out of reach but the 100 free relay is surprisingly achievable (albeit unlikely) if Dressel is hampered or out completely. Taking best times/splits from Kyle, Incerti, Temple and Cartwright gives a time that is 0.3 off US men in Budapest. Take Dressel out and replace him with the next best American and the Aussie boys actually… Read more »
If the Brits can get their sh-t together on the day I think they’re gonna be the team to beat in the 4×100. Both Dean and Scott capable of 46 split, Burras capable of 47 mid lead off and then Richard’s looks ready to break out this year after his PBs in SCM late last year.
Hopefully Southam and Cartwright can push down into the 47s before Paris.
That is a fantastic point. Unfortunately the GB men don’t seem to have been able to all fire at the same time in the last couple of years. It may very well be the UK who wins but US have been so dominant it still feels like they’re the ones to beat.
So realistically we need a 47 high lead off (both within the current capabilities of Temple and Cartwright), two 47 mid-lows (realistically achievable by Southam, Temple, Incerti or Cartwright with some improvement) and a 46 low-mid from Kyle to be in the gold conversation. Would need to drop another half second to be a favourite.
I think hoping for Southam to drop a 46 split by Paris… Read more »
We also need to remember that Southam’s 48.2 was in clean water. He was 48.5 while dealing with waves from the big boys.
This is true. Although, Comm Games was his first ever international team and he had another taper meet 3 weeks later that had much higher individual stakes for him. I wouldn’t necessarily conclude that he will struggle to swim best times against the big boys. He swam some very good, albeit not incredible, times at short course worlds.
But yes, he is still very much unproven on the senior international stage.
My money would be on GB for this relay in Paris.
This article is about the best individual swimmers and not the best team/relay. Top swimmers – like Milak or Popovici – coming from a small nation hardly have any chances to get medaled in relay event even though they produces a monster swimm ( eg Milak relay split of 46,8 in WC). Hence relay medal should not count, only the individual relay performance.
“As an Aussie, I love me some Kyle Chalmers.” Yes, I believe one of your quotes on here is “10/10 would bang” – no shade. Full support.
Look I don’t specifically remember writing that but I do use that phrase so that’s probably right. Hahaha.
I remember. It was in one of the Tokyo live recaps.
That was almost 2 years ago! How do you remember random SwimSwam comments from that long ago? Hahaha.
Glad I left an impression though
4 breastrokers out of 10 in this list. Meanwhile Winnington was in the previous list with a great chance of gold in the 400, plus a relay medal. And a possibility of a surprise medal in the 200. Doesn’t make sense considering there is no short course worlds this year so any short course results from Fink for example, don’t really count for much.
To be fair, Fink did still win a gold and bronze at LCM Worlds. However, against a full strength field, it is quite conceivable to see him out of individual medals altogether. Then again, he could win multiple medals. Men’s sprint breast is a bit of mess at the top at the moment with all the injuries and illness skewing results.
But do you agree that Winnington who swam third fastest 400 textile (after Thorpe and Sun Yang) and won individual gold at worlds is at #25, lower even than Michael Andrew and Martens?
Yeah, Winnington should definitely be higher. But I’m not sure Fink is the right target to make that argument. I think MA and Martens are better examples to use. I would have had Winnington top 20. Anyone with the best time in years in an Olympic event should trump all non-Olympic and SCM success.
Entirely agree. There are three 100BS specalists on that list and the one with the recent best time(Martineghi 58.26) is not as good as Winnington’s 3.41.22 which was the fastest 400FS in many years and only about one second off Ian Thorpe’s legendary textile best. Also, in their next best Olympic event, the 200BS, they wouldn’t get very far whereas Winnington’s 1.45.53 in the 200FS and 7.45.30 in the 800FS are pretty decent times.
For what it’s worth, I would just like to use this opportunity to voice my opinion on the ‘top 4’ sprint breastrokers in 2023.
Peaty – I agree with the general consensus that his best times are behind him. In particular if you look at his splits across 2022, the back end of his 100 is a concern. Motivation also appears somewhat intermittent and I think he is more than aware of his vulnerability now as the rest of the world is catching up whilst he is dropping back. That being said, if he can manage his decline and still post times in the 57:50 to 57:80 you would still expect him to take gold at the World’s –… Read more »
According to Cesare Butini (I think, I can’t remember for sure), the Italian national team head coach, martinenghi had some physical issues both before Worlds and Euros, it’s likely he would have been faster on the 100 under normal conditions
In Peaty’s defence, its worth pointing out that although he ‘only’ finished 3rd and 6th across the 100/50 SC World’s. If you exclude the two ISL meets one week apart in 2020 where he broke the world record twice, his times at the SC World’s were actually pretty consistent with his career average in a 25m pool. Perhaps he still has a bit more to give after all in 2023?
Its interesting to me that the concensus is peaty wont bounce back to the same dominance.
Hes not too far removed from that foot injury. Idk about yall but I tweaked my ankle a few months ago and it still bothers me. And that doesnt compare to the recovery peaty was/is making
Aa far as im concerned jury is still out on him. It takes time to rebuild and recover, I dont think we have seen the last of his dominance
I don’t think he will set another PB. I think that was a marketing move to sell more books. But I do believe that he will easily threepeat in Paris.
In anticipation of the top 10, I wanted to post some data relating to the top spot. My feeling is that Marchand will be ranked number 1 and Milak will be ranked number 2 or 3.
Both Milak and Marchand have one particularly strong event; for Milak, the 200fly, and for Marchand the 400 IM. What I want to point out is that Milak is far stronger in his event relative to the rest of the world.
Relative to Phelps:
Milak: 1.06% better; Marchand: 0.18% worse
Relative to nth all time (Milak; Marchand):
3rd: 1.98%; 0.37%
4th: 2.14%; 0.66%
5th: 2.14%; 0.72%
10th: 2.77%; 1.31%
This is a dramatic difference. Milak is further ahead of… Read more »
Milak’s 1/2 fr both have big potential as well. I believe he finished 3rd in 2022 for the 100.
Popovici is going to be #1. He’s literally won every swimming accolade bar none this year.
Milak should be #2
Voice of reason. He is younger than Marchand and Milak so the potential for 2023 is likely higher. Futhermore M&M are obviously great but 400IM and 200 fly are fringe events. Few people with a sane mind venture into those.
I want to say Hwang is too low. That number looks lower than I would subjectively assign to him. But then I remember how odd his 100 looked last year. Hitch in his stroke and no surge at any point. I’m not going to look it up but from memory I think he was the one who advanced to semifinals when Dressel quit. Then Hwang swam another dull race and failed to advance. Short course 200 is the way he should LeClos every race. I love that strategy and that we’re already seeing it in indoor track meets this year.
Idk. Finke below stubbley-cook seems like a pander to the Aussie Swimswam critics.
ZSC’s dominance in one event trumps finke’s possible not winning of both of his events.
Haha, World record holder in 1 event beats OK swimmer in 2 events methinks.
Some down votes here. Some facts here.
ZSC, world record holder, 7 swims in the top all time 25 best swims in the history of 200 Breast, including 3 in top 5 swims.
Bobby Finke 1 swim in top top all time 25 best swims in the history of 1500 free. Nothing in the 10.
Bobby Finke 1 swim in top top all time 25 best swims in the history of 800 free. Nothing in the top 5.
How many gold medals does S-C have?
How many world records does Finke have?
He has 1 less than Yui Ohashi, who has same as Finke & she is ranked 58th in the women’s.
I think the down votes are more for your description of a double gold medalist as an ‘ok swimmer’.
Ok, he’s a very good swimmer, just like Yui Ohashi, who also won 2 golds, but she like Finke didn’t approach World best times. Remember Gregorio Paltrinieri was sick in Tokyo.
Thorpe swam faster in than Finke in 2001 for 800 free, it wasn’t his event & wasn’t even an Olympic event, so never focus on it.
ZSC is the fastest of all time in his event.
Since when was Bobby Finke an “ok” swimmer in his events…?
Sorry he is better than OK, he’s very good, but as mentioned his 1500 times not in top 10 swims ever & his 800 is 7th best. ZSC has 3 of top 5 swims ever.
Since when Michael Andrew won individual gold at worlds and why is he ranked above Winnington?
I understand Swimswam give extra bonus points to America swimmers, but to be hypocrites is not ok
Fink dominated this year, should be higher than ZSC
ZSC beat Fink by 2 seconds at the 2022 WCs. That was the only time they swam against each other in 2022. Fink dominated at WSC, but ZSC wasn’t there.
That’s not true though, is it? He won one gold and one bronze in LCM, and both of those events were missing multiple top swimmers. Can’t really call that “dominating” unless you want to also say Lani Pallister “dominated” distance free this year.
Your username checks out again.