SwimSwam’s Top 100 For 2023: Women’s #40-31

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.

Women’s Rankings:

#40: Meg Harris, Australia – After winning a pair of relay medals in Tokyo, Harris emerged as one of the world’s top 50 freestylers last year, winning bronze at the World Championships (24.38) and silver at the Commonwealth Games (24.32) to finish the year ranked fifth in the world. The 20-year-old also owns a best time of 52.92 in the 100 free, but was locked out of earning an individual spot for Australia at Worlds after placing third at the Trials in 53.09. Harris may not have had the opportunity to race for an individual medal in the 50 free in Budapest had Emma McKeon opted to compete, and the stacked nature of Australia’s sprint core will be the lone potential roadblock for her heading into 2023. On the flip side, that depth has helped Harris win 10 relay medals across the Olympics, LC Worlds and SC Worlds, a trend that will surely continue.

#39: Tang Muhan, China – After playing a pivotal role on China’s world record-breaking 800 free relay at the Tokyo Olympics (splitting 1:55 flat), Tang had an individual breakthrough at the World Championships by winning bronze in the 200 free in a time of 1:56.25. The now 19-year-old has also made consecutive major finals in the 400 free, placing fifth in Tokyo and eighth in Budapest, and the ability to consistently be a 200 free medalist and 400 free top-five threat is there. It could also be a big year for her and all of China’s swimmers as they get the opportunity to compete on home soil at the Asian Games in the fall.

#38: Reona Aoki, Japan – Aoki will turn 28 in February, and she’s still yet to have won a medal at an Olympics or World Championships. However, she did finish 2022 as the world’s fastest woman in the 100 breaststroke, having set a new Asian Record of 1:05.19 at the Japanse Selection Meet in March. She also set a Continental record in the 50 breast (30.27) at that same meet, but missed the medals at Worlds by placing fifth in the 100 (1:06.38) and 11th in the 50 (30.71). The Tokyo native followed with a strong short course season that included a new Japanese Record in the 100 breast (1:04.01) and a sixth-place finish at Worlds. The event is seemingly pretty wide open this year, but as 2022’s fastest, Aoki projects to be a factor for the gold medal in the 100 breast at Worlds.

#37: Katharine Berkoff, USA – Over a six-week stretch last spring, Berkoff won an NCAA title and became the first woman sub-49 in the 100-yard back (48.74), and then broke the American Record in the LCM 50 back at the U.S. Trials in a time of 27.12. That swim ranked her #1 for the year, as she went on to win silver in the event at the World Championships, but a 58.61 swim in the 100, which ranked her sixth in the world in 2022, was only good enough for fourth at U.S. Trials. Berkoff, who will turn 22 on Jan. 28, will be among the favorites to win the world title in the 50 back this year, but will need to overcome the loaded field in the U.S. to earn qualification in the 100 back. However, if she does, she’s got a great chance at a medal.

#36: Marrit Steenbergen, Netherlands – Steenbergen had a breakout 2022 that saw her win seven medals at the European Championships, including a pair of individual golds in the women’s 100 free (53.24) and 200 free (1:56.36). The 23-year-old Dutch native then won gold at the Short Course World Championships in the 100 IM (57.53), and added a pair of bronzes in the 100 free (51.25) and 200 free (1:52.28). Steenbergen emerged as one of the top female swimmers in Europe last year and managed to seamlessly fill the shoes of Ranomi Kromowidjojo and Femke Heemskerk as the go-to swimmer on the Dutch relays, including splitting 52.2 on the medley at Euros. Despite the medal haul, Steenbergen still only ranked ninth (100 free), 11th (200 IM) and 14th (200 free) last year in long course, and while her short course performances seem to suggest she’s got more drops on the way, she’s still an outside meal threat at LC Worlds. However, she should rack up plenty of hardware at SC Euros.

#35: Madison Wilson, Australia – Wilson is an elite, versatile swimmer who has narrowed her focus toward the freestyle events in recent years, making her a reliable option for the Australian relays at major championship meets. The 28-year-old ranked sixth in the world last year in the 200 free (1:55.86), seventh in the 100 free (52.99), and she was also up at 15th in the 50 free (24.62). The likes of Emma McKeon, Ariarne Titmus, Mollie O’Callaghan and Shayna Jack have made it difficult for Wilson to earn individual swims at major competitions like the World Championships, but she did earn bronze at the Commonwealth Games in the 200 free and placed fourth in the 100 free at SC Worlds while also firing off several blistering relay splits in Melbourne. Individual qualification in one of the freestyle events for the 2023 World Championships looks unlikely, but it’s possible given her abilities and consistency.

#34: Penny Oleksiak, Canada – Oleksiak has a penchant for stepping up when it counts the most. The 22-year-old is Canada’s most decorated Olympian with seven medals across the Rio and Tokyo Games, including three of those coming individually. However, she has still yet to win an individual medal at the World Championships, having placed fourth in the women’s 100 free last year (52.98) while being disqualified for a false start in the semi-finals of the 200 free—the event in which she won bronze in Tokyo. She finished the year ranked sixth in the world in the 100 free, and we didn’t get to see her deliver her best 200 free swim at Worlds (1:57.01 from the Canadian Trials ranked 22nd in the world), though she did split 1:55.8 on the 800 free relay in Budapest. Her personal best of 1:54.70 from Tokyo keeps her in the medal conversation. But Oleksiak is coming off of meniscus surgery in late August—which forced her out of the Commonwealth Games—and we have yet to see her race since. She’s clearly a swimmer whose sole focus is the Olympics, so while Oleksiak will be a factor in Fukuoka, it will just be a stepping stone on her road to Paris.

#33: Kasia Wasick, Poland – Wasick has incredibly been dropping time despite being one of the older female swimmers at the top of the sport. The 30-year-old, who will turn 31 in March, is coming off the best year of her career, winning silver in the women’s 50 free at the Long Course World Championships (24.18), Short Course World Championships (23.55), and European Championships (24.20). The Polish native has now produced the 14 fastest 50 free swims (LCM) of her career over the last two years, and her personal best of 24.11 from the Budapest semi-finals ranked her third in the world behind only Sarah Sjostrom and Emma McKeon. At least in long course, Wasick is essentially all-in on the 50 free. As long as she continues to drop 24-lows, she’ll more than likely continue making trips to the podium.

#32: Phoebe Bacon, USA – We don’t need to keep reiterating the depth of U.S. women’s backstroke, and although it will still take an optimal swim at the Trials to qualify for Fukuoka, Bacon has established herself as the top 200 backstroker in the country after nearly upsetting Kaylee McKeown for the World Championship title last year. Bacon, currently in her junior year at Wisconsin, finished the year ranked #2 in the world in the event after winning the U.S. Trials in a best time of 2:05.08, and then in Budapest, she led through 150 meters in the final before getting out-touched by McKeown by .04, 2:05.08 to 2:05.12. Having gone 2:05 three times last year, it’s tough to bet against Bacon representing the U.S. in Fukuoka, though Rhyan White has also been consistent, Regan Smith appears to be back on top form in the event and Claire Curzan has recently emerged as someone to watch internationally in backstroke as well. In 2022, behind McKeown’s 2:04.64, Bacon (2:05.08), White (2:05.13) and Smith (2:05.28) ranked second, third and fourth in the world, and then fifth was nearly two seconds back at 2:07.13.

#31: Tang Qianting, China – Tang stunned the field to win the short course world title in the women’s 100 breast as an unknown at the end of 2021, and although she has no major medals to show for her efforts in 2022, it was a solid year. The 18-year-old produced back-to-back sub-1:06 swims in the 100 breast at the World Championships, leading the heats (1:05.99) and qualifying third out of the semis (1:05.97) before placing seventh in 1:06.41. The Chinese native also took fourth in the 50 breast, setting a new Asian Record of 30.10, as she finished the year ranked sixth worldwide in the 100 breast and ninth in the 50. With all eyes on Lilly KingRuta Meilutyte and Benedetta Pilato in the sprint breaststroke events over the next year and a half, Tang is flying under the radar and poised to make a serious impact.

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giatech
3 hours ago

Medi Harris🇬🇧 should be in this list of 100

giatech
12 hours ago

My predictions for coming:

30. Hali flickinger
29. Shayna Jack
28. Arabella sims
27. Simona quadarella
26. Yan junxuan
25. Chikunova
24 Lani pallister
23. Claire curzan
22. Zhang yufei
21. tatjana Schoenmaker

20. Siobhan haughey
19. Katie grimes
18. Lara van Niekerk
17. Li binjie
16. Kylie masse
15. Benedetta pilato
14. Lilly King
13. Alex Walsh
12. Regan Smith
11. Sarah sjostrom

10. Kate douglass
9. Mollie o callaghan
8. Torri huske
7. Ruta melytuite
6. Kaylee Mckeown
5. Maggie mcneil
4. Emma Mckeon
3. Ariarne titmus
2. Summer mcintosh
1. Katie ledecky

Sub13
Reply to  giatech
11 hours ago

Interesting!

What’s the reasoning for Walsh over King? Walsh swims one event and probably isn’t even the favourite anymore. King has medal potential in 3 individual events.

Also Douglass ahead of Sjostrom surprises me. She did really well in SCM but really hasn’t quite got there in LCM for me (despite an Olympic medal)

giatech
Reply to  Sub13
10 hours ago

maybe walsh should be behind king, but given the difference in their category and the breaststroke is very stacked.
As for Douglass, I think he has a good chance of two golds 200 breast and 200 im, sjostrom less with the arrival of mckeon.

liemse
Reply to  giatech
9 hours ago

Even with McKeon coming back, Sjostrom is still a much better gold medal bet in 50 fly than Douglass in any event.

200 breast
Tatjana Schoenmaker is also coming back. I’m surprised people write off the world record holder so quickly just after one year that she took off.
Chikunova was the world leader in 200 breast in both long course and short course last year. If Russians were allowed back to competition, I see her as a bigger challenger than Douglass too.

200 IM
Douglass is not even locked for a spot in this event. People seem to take it for granted that it will be Leah Hayes who gets left off the team despite the… Read more »

2Fat4Speed
Reply to  Sub13
9 hours ago

Douglass to me seems to be on a massive upswing. Momentum in swimming can be powerful. Sjostrom On the other hand has been competing and training less while also dealing with some injuries.(she is amazing though and I have so much respect for her)

2Fat4Speed
Reply to  giatech
9 hours ago

I might shift a few people on your list up or down a spot or two, but overall a very solid list here!

giatech
Reply to  2Fat4Speed
9 hours ago

Having said this, many of this list can be exchanged, it is the subjectivity of each one, but this is a well-deserved top 30. Thank you!!

Rafael
Reply to  giatech
9 hours ago

Considering medal potential Mcintosh should be number one (Can win Both IM, Win 200 fly and medal on 200/400 free) While Ledecky wins 800/1500, medal on 400 and outside chance on 200 free..

bubble bubble bubble
Reply to  giatech
3 hours ago

Sjostrom’s 50m fly is another level compared to others. I’m not going to say that she locks that gold but I would say it’s more possible than for example Emma taking gold in 100m free cuz she’s facing someone like MOC who best her last year. Of course it’s much harder for Sjostrom to produce surprise than youngsters but I think she should be in top 10 as she’s very likely to get one gold in 50m fly plus one medal at least in 50m free.

Last edited 3 hours ago by bubble bubble bubble
liemse
18 hours ago

So the top 30 are (in no particular order) Ledecky, Kaylee Mckeown, Mollie O, Titmus, McIntosh, Emma Mcken, Yufei, Schoenmaker, MacNeil, Haughey, Sjostrom, Regan S, King, Masse, Flickinger, Walsh, Douglass, Quadarella, Huske, Chikunova, Bingjie, Pilato, Curzan, Junxuan, Grimes, van Niekerk, Pallister, Meilutyte, Jack, and?

liemse
Reply to  liemse
18 hours ago

Maybe Bella Sims.

Springfield's #1 Athlete
Reply to  liemse
17 hours ago

True, and she really shouldn’t be top 30. Her 1:54.6 relay split hard carries her along with SCY conversion potential and doing good in the 200 free and broken 400/800 free at Duel in the Pool, trading blows with Pallister. Though I will continue to wonder why on earth Wilson didn’t race that 200.

Sub13
Reply to  liemse
17 hours ago

You could be right, just had a scan and she’s not in the list yet. However, she’s not even swam an individual event internationally so would be bizarre to have her above individual LCW medallists. But also would be strange to have her outside top 100… hmmm

Go Kamminga Go
Reply to  Sub13
13 hours ago

You forgot her most important accomplishment:

She’s AMERICAN 🇺🇲, so she deserves to be ranked higher than individual World medalists!

liemse
Reply to  Sub13
12 hours ago

I don’t agree with her being in top 30, but I can’t come up with other names.

giatech
Reply to  liemse
3 hours ago

Medi Harris 🇬🇧 should be in this top 100

Last edited 3 hours ago by giatech
The Cure > The Curz
Reply to  liemse
17 hours ago

Curzan doesn’t truly deserve to be ranked in the top 30. Her LC free and fly times have been stagnant for almost 2 years (her PBs in the 50/100 fly + 50 free were all set months prior to the Olympic trials), and her sole individual bronze medal in the 100 back at 2022 WCs were due to top performers like McKeown being absent (that won’t be the case in 2023). A case of hype and style over substance.

Virtus
Reply to  The Cure > The Curz
3 hours ago

Tbf she’s 19 so her potential is through the roof. Thts more of what this list is suggesting

Samuel Huntington
Reply to  Virtus
3 hours ago

Eh, as The Cure stated, Curzan has been pretty flat for 2 years.

Springfield's #1 Athlete
21 hours ago

All going to plan RE: AUS females, I don’t see Jack or Pallister cracking the top 20, they’re next, and there shouldn’t be any between 20-11.
Don’t have a clue what anyone sees in Qianting, breast is too stacked, Bacon should be higher without question. Wasick’s rank hurts with lack of relay potential for sure and how random 50 free can be. Penny will probably be quiet this year, she is a big game swimmer though her progression has seemingly vanished, and the world is starting to move on a bit, but she is still safe for her primary events.
I’ll be looking for Steenbergen to enter the 52/1:55 club.

commonwombat
Reply to  Springfield's #1 Athlete
20 hours ago

Largely agree with your general thrust.

Tang too high, maybe even belongs in the bracket below.

Bacon is probably about right. No doubting her quality but backstroke selection for US women is cut-throat.

Similarly, but for differing reasons, Steenbergen is probably accurately placed. Her Euros and SC Worlds earned her this ranking but in LC terms, she is still some way off contending.

Fair points re Wasick being hamstrung by being essentially a 1 event swimmer. However I do think she’s a better medal prospect in said event than Jack who I would’ve placed in this bracket rather than the one above.

Re AUS;

  • Jack would be upper end of 20s given her best times have all been
… Read more »

Springfield's #1 Athlete
Reply to  commonwombat
20 hours ago

I certainly agree that Wasick is a better 50 free swimmer than Jack, Jack gets the higher rank thanks to the complementary 4×100 free gold medal.
Bacon’s rank is fair, some around her are ranked too well. The ranking assessments are fair, I do expect SS to put one of the big 4 around 11-12 out of spite. Steenbergen’s rank is spot on.

Awsi Dooger
Reply to  commonwombat
18 hours ago

Your final point is what I was going to mention: Somebody who is considered a Top 10 talent is going to spill over into the second 10, via numbers alone. Off the top of my head and in no particular order…Ledecky, Titmus, McKeon, McIntosh, McKeown, Douglass, Sjostrom, MacNeil, O’Callaghan, Smith, King, Walsh, Haughey, Huske, Curzan.

That’s 15 right there and I probably left out a few.

Sub13
Reply to  Awsi Dooger
17 hours ago

Out of the 15 you mentioned, I think Walsh, Curzan, Haughey and Douglass are the obvious ones to leave out. I would have King, MOC and R Smith 9-11 (not sure which order). The other 8 are guaranteed top 10 quality in my mind.

Babydream on spring
Reply to  Sub13
12 hours ago

Pilato>Curzan

Babydream on spring
Reply to  Sub13
12 hours ago

Masse> Haughey

Go Kamminga Go
Reply to  Awsi Dooger
13 hours ago

Curzan and Walsh are most definitely not top 10 lol.

commonwombat
Reply to  Go Kamminga Go
11 hours ago

Whilst Curzan has an admirably wide skill set; as yet she is not the LC individual Gold contender that others in that top 15 are. Ditto Douglas, wonderful as her SC Worlds were.

Its now that it starts getting contentious. To my mind, McKeown’s 2022 was about “on par” with King’s so if King is in the “drop zone” then its should be extended to include McKeown. On strictly 2022 basis, Sjostrom is close to this territory but probably still has sufficient “credit in her account” !

On 2021, Haughey would be deep inside the top 10; judged purely off 2022 results where she was effectively unseen LCM; she’s on the outside.

Walsh is tricky; the possible excluding factor may… Read more »

Sub13
Reply to  Springfield's #1 Athlete
17 hours ago

Definitely agree re Aussies. Jack and Pallister will both be 21-30 and the other 4 will be top 10. Shouldn’t see any 11-20

Troyy
22 hours ago

With her pathway to an individual swim in the frees mostly blocked Madi might be able to earn herself a 100 back individual (and medley swim) if Mollie turns it down again but then she’ll have to deal with the 200 free/100 back double at trials.

Sub13
Reply to  Troyy
22 hours ago

How likely do you think this is? I don’t think Madi has swum backstroke competitively in years.

I’m still hoping that Atherton will regain her form but it really isn’t looking like she will.

flicker
Reply to  Sub13
21 hours ago

she beat Minna at Olympic trials and was 59.02 but idk if she’s really swum it since

Last edited 21 hours ago by flicker
commonwombat
Reply to  Sub13
21 hours ago

Did swim it at 2021 Trials. Finished 4th at 59low. Could notionally pursue this route given the 2nd spot has not been “nailed down” but suspect she will not given she’s starting from a position behind MOC in both cases and relay selection is the more assured route.

Sub13
Reply to  commonwombat
21 hours ago

Ah I didn’t realise she swam it for Tokyo. I guess that option is still on the table then. However, it seems pretty clear that she’s not in the medal conversation so she really would just be swimming it for the sake of having an individual event.

flicker
Reply to  Sub13
21 hours ago

she’s not in the medal conversation in the 200 free either but at least we’d have someone on the team that could swim the medley relay heats instead of kaylee/mollie and she’d still likely be used in the 4×2 either way, she loves being a relay swimmer so why shouldn’t she take the opportunity to be part of another one but who knows maybe barclay/whoever have a big PB and make the team

Springfield's #1 Athlete
Reply to  Troyy
21 hours ago

If only they swapped the 200 free/100 back order.
Nobody would object, outside of swimmers scared of MOC.

Torchbearer
1 day ago

I know the focus is on individual events, but worth noting Wilson broke 5 World Records (all relays) last year, that’s a bit more than just a ‘reliable’ relay swimmer, and has more WRs than other woman (equal with MOC).

Joel
Reply to  Torchbearer
1 day ago

You wrote exactly what I was about to.

Breezeway
Reply to  Torchbearer
22 hours ago

She “broke” or did the team break them

Samuel Huntington
1 day ago

Tang way too high.

Troyy
Reply to  Samuel Huntington
22 hours ago

Her PBs in the 200 (1:54.26) and 400 (4:01.95) free do demand some respect but it’s hard to know if last year was ruined by covid lockdowns or if she’ll be one of those Chinese swimmers that peak and then fade away.

SAMUEL HUNTINGTON
Reply to  Troyy
21 hours ago

Oh, I was talking about Tang Qianting. Don’t see a path to a medal with King/Lazor/Jacoby, Pilato, van Nierkek, and Meilutyte around. Not sure what SwimSwam sees with her. Doesn’t even make sense why she’s ahead of Aoki.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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