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 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: Hali Flickinger, USA – One of the most versatile female swimmers in the world, Flickinger won a third straight major medal in the women’s 200 fly at the 2022 World Championships, earning silver while clocking 2:05.90 to finish the year ranked second behind Summer McIntosh (2:05.20). After winning bronze in the 400 IM at the Tokyo Olympics, Flickinger placed third at U.S. Trials last year and missed a spot on the Worlds team in the event, though she did post a time of 4:36.46 at the Pro Swim Series stop in Westmont that ranked her eighth in the world for the year. The 28-year-old then won gold in the 400 IM and silver in the 200 fly at Short Course Worlds, and given the strength of her training group right now at ASU, it’s hard to deny she’s got a ton of momentum in both of her primary events leading into this year’s World Championships.
#19: Alex Walsh, USA – One on hand, it feels as though Walsh’s incredibly versatile skillset in short course has been wasted a bit in long course, with her only really factoring into one race, the 200 IM, internationally over the last two years. On the other hand, she won Olympic silver in the event in 2021 and then followed up by becoming the world champion in 2022, recording the fastest time we’ve seen since 2019 to become the #5 performer of all-time in 2:07.13. Now in her junior year at Virginia, Walsh will be the favorite to defend her world title in the 200 IM this year, though she may have to go head-to-head with UVA teammate Kate Douglass, who edged her for gold at Short Course Worlds in December. Walsh, 21, also placed sixth in the 200 free (1:57.82) and fifth in the 100 breast (1:07.59) at U.S. Trials last year, but many are curious as to whether or not she’ll tackle the 400 IM in long course, given the success she’s had in the NCAA. We’ll have to wait and see, but for now, she doesn’t have a secondary event in which she’s a podium contender.
#18: Kylie Masse, Canada – Few swimmers have been as consistent as Masse atop the international scene for the past six years, having won at least one individual medal at 12 consecutive major competitions. The 27-year-old has found a way to constantly improve since breaking out at the Rio Olympics in 2016, and has now broken 59 seconds in the 100 back a staggering 42 times. In 2021, when the bar was raised by Kaylee McKeown and Regan Smith, Masse responded by breaking 58 three times, clocking a PB of 57.70 at the Canadian Trials and then winning Olympic silver in 57.72. She also won silver in the 200 back in Tokyo, and then in 2022, became the world champion in the 50 back and added a runner-up finish in the 100 back. Masse finished the year ranked second worldwide in the 50 back (27.18), third in the 100 back (58.40) and ninth in the 200 back (2:07.66). Her 200 back has trailed off a tad over the last year, but her 50 has leveled up, so she remains a threat for double gold at the World Championships.
#17: Ruta Meilutyte, Lithuania – It was a storybook comeback year for Meilutyte in 2022, as the Lithuanian came out of a brief retirement to gold in the women’s 50 breast at the Long Course World Championships, Short Course World Championships and European Championships, setting a new SCM world record (28.37) while producing the fourth-fastest swim ever in LCM (29.44). As a result, she finished the year ranked #1 in the 50, and Meilutyte also won bronze in the 100 breast at both LC Worlds and Euros, ranking eighth in the world in that event (1:06.02). The 25-year-old will be a force to be reckoned with this year in the 50, where it’s hard to deny she’s the favorite to repeat as world champion. In the 100, we expect to see the rest of the world much quicker than last year, so Meilutyte will likely need to get back into 1:05-territory to contend for a medal. She’s been 1:04-mid three times, but hasn’t done so in nearly a decade.
#16: Claire Curzan, USA – As evidenced by her performance at Short Course Worlds, Curzan is extremely versatile across butterfly, freestyle and backstroke. Although she first broke onto the scene internationally in the 100 fly, making the 2021 U.S. Olympic team at 16, her biggest impact last year came in backstroke, as Curzan won bronze in the 100 back at the Long Course World Championships and then added a pair of silvers in the 50 and 200 back at SC Worlds. In Budapest, the 18-year-old made the final in all four of her individual events, placing fifth in the 50 and 100 fly and eighth in the 100 free in addition to her bronze in the 100 back. At year’s end, the Stanford freshman ranked third in the world in the 100 fly (56.35) and 100 back (58.39), seventh in the 50 free (24.43) and 50 fly (25.43), eighth in the 200 back (2:07.31) and 15th in the 100 free (53.58). At this point, Curzan won’t be favored to win any of these events at the World Championships, and the U.S. depth in women’s backstroke won’t make it easy to qualify there, but she could realistically win a medal in any of these races in Fukuoka.
#15: Zhang Yufei, China – After an incredible Olympic performance in Tokyo that saw her win four medals including an individual gold in the 200 fly (where she produced the fastest time we’d seen in 12 years), 2022 might’ve felt like a bit of a ‘down’ year for Zhang. She was so dominant in the 200 fly at the Olympics that it looked as though she would be unbeatable in the event for a few years, and although that proved not to be the case, the Chinese native was still one of the world’s best fliers last year. She won bronze in all three fly events at the World Championships and placed fifth in the 50 free, ranking third in the 50 fly (25.32) and 200 fly (2:06.32), sixth in the 100 fly (56.41) and 12th in the 50 free (24.57) in 2022. The 24-year-old will be a medal contender in all four events in Fukuoka this year, and if she can return to the 200 fly form she showed in Tokyo (2:03.86), she’ll be the favorite for gold.
#14: Katie Grimes, USA – Grimes is spearheading the next wave of U.S. women’s swimming. At 15, she placed fourth at the Olympics in the 800 freestyle, and then last year, finished second to Katie Ledecky in the 1500 free at the World Championships while also going head-to-head with Summer McIntosh in the 400 IM, finishing six-tenths shy of the victory to claim a second silver. The now 17-year-old Grimes ranked second in the world last year in the 1500 free (15:44.89), third in the 400 IM (4:32.67), seventh in the 800 free (8:21.26) and 13th in the 400 free (4:05.77). At her current level, Grimes appears to be a lock to win medals in Fukuoka in the 1500 free and 400 IM, with a definite chance in the 800 free, depending on if she can take down Leah Smith and teammate Bella Sims at U.S. Trials. But Grimes has been improving at an incredible rate, so there’s no telling what she has in store this year. The Sandpipers of Nevada product clocked 4:35.9 in the 400 IM at the Pro Swim Series stop in Knoxville in January, and also won the 200 fly in a time of 2:09.58. Similar to Sims, she’s got versatility for days, but has the high-level ability to compete for world titles right now. With Ledecky in the 1500 free and McIntosh in the 400 IM, it will be a tall order for Grimes to win either event in Fukuoka, but she’s the clear #2 in the world in both events.
#13: Kate Douglass, USA – She’s never won a major international long course gold medal, but many would pencil in Douglass as the favorite for gold in Fukuoka in the women’s 200 breaststroke and a near-lock for the podium in the 200 IM. Douglass won Olympic bronze in the 200 IM in Tokyo, swimming what remains her best time of 2:09.04, and then finished in the same position in the 200 breast at the 2022 World Championships. That came after she opted to race the 50 free over the 200 IM at U.S. Trials, ending up finishing fifth in 24.67—just 15 one-hundredths shy of making the team. Her time of 24.59 from the prelims ranked her 13th in the world last year, but it’s clear she has a much smoother path to the top in the 200 IM. She won the short course world title in December with the second-fastest swim ever (2:02.12), and her main competition comes in the form of Virginia training partner Alex Walsh, last year’s clear #1 who rolled to the world title in 2:07.13. Behind Walsh, Kaylee McKeown (2:08.57) and Summer McIntosh (2:08.70) ranked #2 and #3 in the world, and the 200 IM is far from the top of their priority list. The only other swimmer sub-2:10 was breakout American age group star Leah Hayes (2:08.91), who Douglass will have to overcome at Trials if she’s to vie for the world title. With Douglass’ talent and an all-in approach on the 200 IM in long course, 2:07 seems like an accurate projection this summer. In the 200 breast, Douglass ranked second in the world last year behind fellow American Lilly King, with Douglass clocking 2:21.43 at U.S. Trials. Annie Lazor (2:21.91) was also sub-2:22 in Greensboro, showing how elite the U.S. is in this event, as the third-place time at Trials was faster than what King went (2:22.41) to win the world title. Douglass was a bit off but still won bronze in Budapest (2:23.20), and with an extra year of experience under her belt in the event, she could be pushing the 2:20 marker soon.
#12: Siobhan Haughey, Hong Kong – Haughey called 2022 a “building year”, as after a standout 2021 that included two Olympic silver medals and a pair of short course world titles, she experienced numerous ups and downs throughout the last 13 months that included having to withdraw from the LC World Championships due to injury. The 25-year-old came back strong in the second half of the year, sweeping the women’s 100 and 200 free on the FINA World Cup circuit before repeating as the SC world champion in the 200 free and earning silver in the 100 free in Melbourne. Haughey’s swims in Tokyo were sensational, recording new Asian Records of 52.27 in the 100 free and 1:53.92 in the 200 free, and if she can return to that level this year, she’s a surefire medalist in both races.
#11: Lilly King, USA – A lot of these athletes are being ranked in part on what they might do this year based on what they’ve shown in the past, but there’s no “if she can build on this” or “if the stars align then X” with King—she’s been out there doing it for an extended period of time, and in dominant fashion. After winning the women’s 100 breast at the 2016 Olympics, 2017 World Championships and 2019 World Championships, her run came to an end in Tokyo, as she settled for bronze behind teammate Lydia Jacoby and South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker. Then, in the 200 breast, she stepped up with the fastest swim of her career by more than a second in 2:19.92, but fell to Schoenmaker’s world record effort. At the 2022 U.S. Trials, King fended off her challengers by sweeping the breaststroke events, and then despite coming off a recent bout with COVID, followed up a disappointing 100 breast by winning her first world title in the 200 in Budapest. The 25-year-old has had no shortage of challengers throughout her career, but has always managed to step up and deliver when it counts. After a few losses over the last couple of years, expect her to come back with her usual fire in 2023 and compete for world titles in all three breast events. Despite the ups and downs, she still finished 2022 ranked first in the world in the 200 breast (2:21.19), second in the 100 breast (1:05.32) and fourth in the 50 breast (29.76).
I think Chikunova should be on this list, not on the 23rd place, she showed the best result of the season in the world in both long and short, and if the Russians are allowed, she will be one of the favorites in the 200 breaststroke (together with Tatiana) and a finalist in the 100 breaststroke, perhaps even with a medal in Fukuoka. Moreover, she is only 18
I don’t know why everybody predicts Kate Douglass will win the 200 breast.
because she’s AR holder maybe…
Lol Chris/Christopher is the new Melanie. But instead of being obsessed with Claire Tuggle it’s Kate Douglass.
pretty much. However, I use facts in my decision making process, unlike you..
To your credit, Kate Douglass is at least an international level swimmer unlike Claire Tuggle.
However, I’m not sure you understand what the word “facts” means. You keep saying she’ll definitely win LCM 200 breast because she won SCM and broke an SCY record. That’s not how it works.
If she’s such a lock to win the 200 breast then why didn’t she win in Budapest? She got bronze when the WR holder wasn’t even there. She was beaten by a sick Lilly King and by Jenna Strauch who’s another 20 places down the list.
Sure, it’s a possibility she’ll win it in Fukuoka, just as anything is a possibility. But your attitude towards it is totally bizarre and… Read more »
The Regan Smith whiplash is real. Yesterday, most of the site wrote her off for Paris in her signature events, but now she’s in the top 10 for 2023 potential.
Flickinger: Maybe a tad high. Essentially zero chance of a gold medal barring Summer McIntosh having a complete fail of a year.
A Walsh: About right.
Masse: A tad low. Defending champion in the 50 back and potential to medal in all 3 backs.
Meilutyte: A tad low. Defending champ in the 50 breast, arguable contender for 100 breast gold as well.
Curzan: Way too high. Yes, shes very versatile. However, she has essentially zero gold potential against a full strength field. She was fantastic at short course worlds but… Read more »
douglass just trashed the field in the 200 IM at worlds. I know it’s scm but she is clearly getting faster. Hee breaststroke is massively improving.
You should pay better attention to the facts before you comment.
She had one good meet in SCM and therefore that justifies her being top 15 in a year with no SCM?
I literally reference her performance at SCW in my comment you donkey.
You should develop some reading and critical reasoning skills before you comment.
For 2023, no 2022
One good meet? Did you miss Intl trials? Did you see the American record she just smashed in season? I’d say that makes her dangerous.
And come call me a donkey to my face. At least be a man about it.
Tell me where you live and I will
Grimes may be a few places too high and I will agree that she is realistically shut out of gold calculations. However, the remaining two podium places in her main events (800/1500 & potentially 400IM) are very open and she has to be seen as a very real chance of walking away from Fukuoka with 2-3 medals. Her placement in this bracket is at least quite defensible; moreso that 1-2 others.
Grimes is definitely too high.
With Ledecky and Pallister on form, Grimes probably would pick 1500 bronze, and no chance in 800 (Ledecky, Pallister, Titmus).
But hey, she is an American 🇺🇲, she gets bonus points in this list.
Whilst the nationality probably helps; I don’t see it as “black and white” as you portray. Mind you, I do think Pallister was slightly undergraded at #25.
Were this judged @ LC Worlds; I would grade the Grimes v Pallister as Adv Grimes and the 400IM is a significant plus. I will certainly grant Pallister looked like she’d taken a further step at SC Worlds and has the edge at the shorter free distances whereas Grimes currently appears more optimised in the longer races. I have them essentially on par as regards their prospects at 800/1500
Neither are currently true gold contenders but both look to have some real upside potential and could potentially walk away from major championships with… Read more »
Idk. Curzan and Douglass ahead of Walsh. I respectfully disagree.
The two that shocked me were Grimes that high and Douglass that low. No chance they should be only one spot apart. Grimes competes in very weak events while Douglass mixes it up with superstars. Just look at how many breaststrokers were very high in the rankings compared to distance swimmers. Someone of Douglass’ caliber would cakewalk to medals in those events. Grimes obviously has to concede to Ledecky and probably McIntosh, otherwise those lesser medals are wide open. Nothing is wide open in Douglass’ events.
Besides, why did all of these categories over the past month place undue emphasis on recent short course efforts, then all of a sudden Douglass doesn’t receive enough credit for short course? Her NCAAs… Read more »
I think it’s pretty inaccurate to say Douglass didn’t receive credit for short course. If you ignore short course worlds, she won a single bronze medal last year and that’s it… That doesn’t get you anywhere near the top 20 (see Meg Harris and Erika Brown).
She’s ranked way too high purely because of short course which is kind of the opposite of what you’re saying.
you’re going to eat your words when she medals in a minimum of 2 events in Paris.
Never said she can’t medal in two events. Everyone above her will probably medal in 2+ events as well but they’re more likely to get gold. At least 10 women ranked below her are more likely to get gold than she is.
It is also supposed that this is an evaluation for 2023, if it were not so and it was a summary of 2022, many changes would have to be made because what is Yan Juxuan (200 freestyle world champion) doing behind people like Siobhan haughey who just has not participated.
let’s also mention that she re broke her american record in Dec in the 200 brst IN SEASON. Hee improvements are massive as are gretchen
Fukuoka is LONG COURSE METER, and not SHORT COURSE YARD
Oh I see. You’re one of those crazy commenters who pick one swimmer and just comment aggressive rubbish about anyone who disagrees like Lisa or Melanie lol
Would say that 8 of this bracket of 10 are placed ‘about right’ (with the usual 1 up/1 down allowance).
Flickinger could have been in the previous bracket but its not an egregious misplacement. My question marks are:
#15: Zhang Yufei, China?? Wow. She should be higher. 11 or 12 at worst