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.
#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 King, Ruta 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.