SwimSwam’s Top 100 For 2023: Women’s #50-41

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:

#50: Leah Hayes, USA – Hayes had a massive breakout in the 200 IM last year, first becoming the youngest American sub-2:10 at the U.S. Trials in 2:09.99, and then at the World Championships a few months later, getting all the way down to 2:08.91 to win the bronze medal at 16. Hayes also emerged as one of the top 400 IMers the U.S. has to offer, clocking 4:39.65 in April, and that might be the event in which she has the best chance to make the World Championship team this year if both Alex Walsh and Kate Douglass are racing the 200 IM.

#49: Anastasia Gorbenko, Israel – Gorbenko is a true all-around talent, memorably winning an upset gold medal in the women’s 200 IM at the 2020 European Championships in an Israeli Record of 2:09.99, ending Katinka Hosszu‘s run of five straight titles at the age of 17. Gorbenko then made the Olympic final in the 100 back (59.30), won short course world titles in the 50 breast (29.34) and 100 IM (57.80) to end 2021, and then this year, defended her European title in the 200 IM while also placing fifth at the World Championships. Now 19, Gorbenko also hit bests of 1:06.6 in the 100 breast, 2:10.8 in the 200 back and 54.3/1:58.6 in the 100 and 200 free last year. Narrowing her focus down to just a few events, which will seemingly be the 200 IM and sprint breaststrokes, will go a long way in pushing her to the next level.

#48: Erika Fairweather, New Zealand – After winning the World Junior title in the 200 free in 2019, Fairweather really broke through on the senior international scene at the Tokyo Olympics, as, at 17, she dropped four seconds in the 400 free prelims (4:02.28) to qualify fourth into the final while lowering a nine-year-old New Zealand National Record (placing eighth in the final). Fairweather, who turned 19 on Dec. 31, continued her upward trajectory last year, finishing sixth in the 400 free (4:04.73) and 11th in the 200 free (1:57.43) at the World Championships, and then narrowly missed the medals by taking fourth in the 400 (4:03.84) and fifth in the 200 (1:57.08) at the Commonwealth Games. Continuing to accrue international experience, the Kiwi went on to win a pair of silver medals at SC Worlds in the 400 free (3:56.00) and 800 free (8:10.41), showing impressive range.

#47: Louise Hansson, Sweden – Hansson has been an elite swimmer for some time, but she really exploded at the 2021 Short Course World Championships, playing a major role as Sweden won four relay medals (including two gold) while also winning individual gold in the 100 back, silver in the 100 fly and bronze in the 50 back. She followed that up with a strong long course season in 2022, taking fourth in the 100 fly at the World Championships (56.48) and then winning the European title (56.66) a few months later, finishing the year ranked seventh worldwide. The 26-year-old then raced 17 times in six days at SC Worlds, winning bronze medals in the 100 fly (54.87) and 100 IM (57.68) while also taking fifth in the 50 back and 100 back. Hansson is one of the most versatile sprinters in the world in short course meters, but her stock takes a small hit as she seems to only have the 100 fly in long course as a potential medal event.

#46: Kiah Melverton, Australia – Melverton had a big year in the pool in 2022, winning silver in the 800 free at the World Championships in a best time of 8:18.77 while also placing seventh in the 400 free. She then won three individual medals at the Commonwealth Games, resetting her best times in the 400 free (4:03.12) and 800 free (8:16.79) while also having a big breakthrough showing to take second in the 400 IM (4:36.78). The now 26-year-old also reeled off a 1:55.40 split to help the Aussies set a new world record in the 800 free relay. Melverton’s primary events are getting increasingly competitive at the top, both in Australia and internationally, but she’s still in the medal hunt after finishing 2022 ranked third in the world in the 800 free, sixth in the 400 free and 12th in the 400 IM.

#45: Anna Elendt, Germany – After breaking through and becoming just the fifth woman sub-57 in the 100-yard breaststroke during her sophomore season at the University of Texas, Elendt showed she was a force to be reckoned with in long course just a few weeks after the NCAA Championships. At the Pro Swim Series stop in San Antonio, Elendt broke German Records in the 100 breast (1:05.58) and 200 breast (2:24.63), with her 100 swim ranking fourth in the world for the year. The now 21-year-old followed that up by winning silver at the World Championships in the 100 breast, and has now been sub-1:06 five times in the event. She sat out of the European Championships, but did perform well at Short Course Worlds, winning bronze in the 100 breast and placing fifth in the 50 breast, and will be a medal contender in both events this year.

#44: Yu Yiting, China – After a breakout 2021, last year was a very quiet one for Yu. She had kicked off 2021 by going 4:35.94 in the 400 IM, and then after placing fifth in the 200 IM at the Tokyo Olympics, all prior to her 16th birthday, Yu was dynamite at the Short Course World Championships, claiming silver in the 200 IM with a new World Junior and Chinese Record of 2:04.48. But in 2022, she was left off China’s roster for LC Worlds, and then after setting a new National Record in the 100 IM (58.27) in October, was forced to withdraw from SC Worlds after COVID went through the Chinese team. There’s a lot of unknown with Yu heading into 2023, but there’s no doubt her potential is sky-high.

#43: Mio Narita, Japan – In March 2022 while she was 15, Narita dropped a time of 4:36.71 in the women’s 400 IM at the Japanese Selection Trials, an incredible swim that ended up ranking her 10th worldwide at the end of the year. Narita then dominated the international junior scene, sweeping the girls’ 200 and 400 IM at both the Junior Pan Pacs and World Junior Championships in a two-week span at the end of the summer. That included the Japanese native clocking 2:11.22 in the 200 IM to rank 16th in the world, and she also won silver at Junior Pan Pacs in the 200 back with a time of 2:09.67. With Yui Ohashi off form last year and Rika Omoto retiring, the door is open for Narita to become Japan’s next elite medley swimmer.

#42: Leah Smith, USA – Smith bounced back in a big way last year after missing the Olympic team in 2021, qualifying to represent the U.S. individually at the World Championships in the 200, 400 and 800 free. The 27-year-old went on to win her third straight medal in the 400 free at Worlds, clocking 4:02.08 to rank fourth in the world for the year, and she also placed fourth in the 800 free (8:20.04), ninth in the 200 free (1:56.90), and split 1:56.47 to help the Americans win gold and set a Championship Record in the 800 free relay. Smith then recorded impressive times in the 200 IM (2:11.67) and 400 IM (4:36.66) at Summer Nationals, and finished the year out with an individual bronze in the 400 free at SC Worlds. The next generation may be coming in the U.S., led by the Sandpipers of Nevada trio (Grimes, Sims and Weinstein), but Smith is strong in so many events she’ll have a good chance of getting back on the U.S. World Championship team this year. If she does, she could very well find her way onto the podium once again.

#41: Marie Wattel, France – 2022 was an impressive year for Wattel, who showed career-best form at the World Championships, winning silver in the 100 fly in 56.14, ranking her second in the world for the year. The French native also placed seventh in the 50 fly and 100 free, and followed up by winning silver in both the 50 fly (25.33) and 100 fly (56.80) at the European Championships. Although she’s been a bit up and down in her freestyle performances in the past, Wattel has an ability to consistently perform when the lights are on in the 100 fly. It’s a crowded event internationally right now, with Maggie MacNeil and Emma McKeon notably not racing it at the World Championships, but Wattel remains a medal contender and is also elite in the 50 fly and strong in the 100 free.

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Swimfan27
5 days ago

In my opinion, Leah Hayes has the upper hand in the LCM 200 IM compared to Kate Douglass. Kate is still FANTASTIC, but she doesn’t have the strength of her underwaters as much in the big pool.

Sub13
5 days ago

I was actually expecting to see Harris here so it’s a pleasant surprise that she’s in the top 40, especially after being criminally underrated at 95 last year.

Springfield's #1 Athlete
Reply to  Sub13
5 days ago

Harris and Wilson will probably be right next to each other, though Harris has slightly better individual prospects. Jack and Pallister in the top 30. We still have no clue if C1 will race this year or if she is all in on Olympic Trials.

commonwombat
Reply to  Springfield's #1 Athlete
5 days ago

I would have Harris & Jack effectively on-par as regards individual selection prospects; namely both have the 50free with the 100free most likely shut out by McKeon & MOC.

Jack has the better PB but Harris the international runs on the board. Harris has a LC World medal in that event but both would realistically need a “slow edition” in order to medal against a full strength field.

Both have better individual selection prospects but 2022 relays probably made a case for Wilson being the more important cog in relays, especially over 100. Whilst it probably mitiagates against SS’s ranking criteria; on overall value to the team I would be very tempted to rank Wilson above both Harris and… Read more »

Springfield's #1 Athlete
Reply to  commonwombat
5 days ago

Wilson is certainly most valuable in overall returns of medal contributions of the three.
But we know she has virtually zero chance of racing outside of relays again, 2022 was an anomaly. Jack’s 50 PB is a noticeable step ahead of everyone but McKeon, who is basically 2 steps ahead of her.
Pallister does have enough upside to go another step above, but the caution is how close Melverton is to her in the 400/800. Melverton is probably a safe bet for a 400IM berth with Pallister safe in the 1500.

Sub13
Reply to  commonwombat
5 days ago

I think you’re underselling Jack a bit. She swam a 24.14 this year which would have won bronze in Tokyo. She also swam a 52.60, only 0.11 off MOC’s PB. I think it’s silly to rule her out of an individual run in either the 50 or 100, and she has a faster PB than Harris in both.

I definitely see Pallister top 30 but top 20 might be pushing it.

My predicted top 20 (not in a specific order):
Ledecky
Sjostrom
McKeon
McKeown
MOC
R Smith
Huske
MacNeil
Zhang Yufei (she had an off year but she’s dangerous)
Schoenmaker
King
Meilutyte
Titmus
Sjostrom
Curzan… Read more »

Go Kamminga Go
Reply to  Sub13
5 days ago

Swimswam love Curzan, even if she has no individual medal from Olympics and LCM worlds

Reply to  Go Kamminga Go
5 days ago

She got bronze in the 1back at worlds last year…?

Troyy
Reply to  Yanyan Li
5 days ago

Best to just ignore the troll.

Springfield's #1 Athlete
Reply to  Go Kamminga Go
5 days ago

Curzan is a somewhat lesser MOC who can do fly, that is worthy of a lot of merit, even if she is spread too thin in the face of swimmers like Huske, the form backstrokers and the veteran freestylers. In general she is still running off the hype of her breaking NAG records for years on end, but she could very well miss an individual medal at Paris.

swimapologist
Reply to  Go Kamminga Go
5 days ago

I know you think you’re funny, but nobody likes your bit. Not even your Commonwealth brethren.

Maybe try just actually talking about swimming like a real person.

commonwombat
Reply to  Sub13
5 days ago

I’ll come straight out with it and state “I don’t really rate Jack”. Partly due to her “poor little persecuted me” carry-on ….. and the whitewashing by the media but moreso the reality that
Her best swims have all been at home.

Whilst she used to swim 200; she’s now much more a 50 optimised and wasn’t overly impresssive in her relay outings. Whilst she’s clearly going to be of value to 4X100; I’m not sure she’s a shoo-in for the finals quartet.

Unless McKeon & MOC suffer major illness/injury or MOC realigns towards backstroke; I think she’s shut out of 100 selection. 50 = she’s probably on par with Harris for 2nd spot but both would need… Read more »

Sub13
Reply to  commonwombat
5 days ago

You can dislike Jack as much as you like but that doesn’t change her potential to win medals. You’re right that she was noticeably slower in Budapest before her injury, but she put up internationally competitive times in Birmingham. Her 50 and 100 times in Birmingham would have both won bronze at worlds. Suggesting that she can only swim well at home is factually incorrect.

I have all 4 Aussies in the top 10. McKeon and Titmus are both pretty clearly top 5 (if we’re talking about potential 2023 performance) but will lose points for skipping LC Worlds. Tbh though with Emma’s performance at SCW I don’t see how you possibly put 5 swimmers ahead of her. Ledecky and MacNeil… Read more »

commonwombat
Reply to  Sub13
5 days ago

2022 Worlds (for her events) were the slowest since 2015; any other year her Birmingham times would not be threatening any World medals. WHEN she swims faster in international competition than she does domestically then I’ll pay her full credit for doing so but the cold reality is that her times in both events were, whilst by no means bad, more than a couple of tenths off her domestic level.

I could see all 4 in top 10 but could also see one of them slip just outside given different people may differ with their ranking criteria.

McKeon in SC Worlds mode was the most dominant but her limited LC season drops her down. I’d have her inside top… Read more »

Springfield's #1 Athlete
Reply to  commonwombat
4 days ago

Ledecky isn’t a shoe in for 1st this year. There are a few swimmers who could achieve more, so you have to consider what is the most likely outcome. I think Ledecky will win 2 gold, and minors in the 400 and 4×200. That is within range of a few swimmers to match or surpass, not to mention WR potential. The big 4 AUS females are top 10 and there is no valid argument against it.

Miss M
Reply to  Sub13
5 days ago

You’ve got Sjostrom twice, so I think A Walsh will get in there too!

Springfield's #1 Athlete
Reply to  Miss M
4 days ago

Haughey?

Sub13
Reply to  Miss M
4 days ago

Oh true! Didn’t realise that.

Not sure I’d go with Walsh though. She did win an individual gold, but she only swims one event and Douglass could easily challenge her in that.

I think I’d probably go Pallister over her. Or even Van Niekerk or Chikunova.

Jack
Reply to  Sub13
3 days ago

Here is my top 20.
Btw, this is the way I would choose it, not the way I think SwimSwam will.
Also, I am ranking solely based on 2022 performances. Even if a swimmer was Olympic Champion in 2021 but didn’t swim well in 2022, they will not be on my list. E.g. Shoenmaker.
In order:

  1. Mollie O’Callaghan – AUS
  2. Madi Wilson – AUS
  3. Emma McKeon – AUS
  4. Torri Huske – USA
  5. Maggie MacNeil – CAN
  6. Kate Douglass – USA
  7. Summer McIntosh – CAN
  8. Lilly King – USA
  9. Kaylee McKeown – AUS
  10. Meg Harris – AUS
  11. Katie Ledecky – USA
  12. Kylie Masse – CAN
  13. Claire Curzan – USA
  14. Alex Walsh – USA
  15. Erika Brown – USA
… Read more »

Troyy
Reply to  Jack
2 days ago

I see no bias at all.

HOO love
5 days ago

leah smith and leah hayes <3

Troyy
6 days ago

With Melverton’s path to team selection being so uncertain in the 400 and 800 I wonder if she’ll pick up the 1500 again? Boxall seems to prefer pushing his athletes towards mid-distance.

Miss M
Reply to  Troyy
5 days ago

The 400IM is actually the easiest event for her to qualify in an individual spot, especially if McKeown doesn’t swim. A relay spot on the 4×200 seems likely, but the 400/800 is much harder with Titmus and Pallister in the mix. Perhaps you’re right and she should chase the 1500 with Pallister too.

Laps
Reply to  Miss M
5 days ago

Qualifiying for th 1500m might still be hard with Moesha Johnson having the slightly better PB from when she came 4th at Budapest last year.

I agree that the 400IM is her best chance at an individual swim as McKeown is highly unlikely to swim it and Forrester has a similar PB.

Melverton should be able to go 1:56 low again which will be enough to be top 6 and make the 4×200 relay so she should be on the team regardless of whether she has an indivdual spot.

Swimfan
6 days ago

I thought the women’s 800 free relay only broke the championship record not world record?

Troyy
Reply to  James Sutherland
6 days ago

The 75-51 list also said it in Claire Weinstein’s write up.

BennyBD
Reply to  James Sutherland
5 days ago

I thought they broke the world record for the 200m free relay at the Commonwealth Games. I remember Ariane Titmus swimming an incredible anchor leg of 1.52 plus or are we talking about a different relay.

Torchbearer
Reply to  BennyBD
5 days ago

We all remember that anchor leg 🙂

Christopher DeBari
6 days ago

how you guys crunch the numbers and stats on the top 100 is mind boggling to me. Although some of this is subjective.

Obese Legend
6 days ago

Interesting that both Gorbenko and Yu are ahead of Hayes.

oxyswim
Reply to  Obese Legend
6 days ago

If Hayes make the worlds team, she’s definitely the better bet to medal, but she’s only for one event currently at that level, and it’s not hard to see a world where Walsh and Douglass bump her out of the 2IM worlds spot. She’s got a better best time than Douglass and with her improvement curve, she absolutely shouldn’t be counted out, but with Douglass dropping the second fastest SCM IM at worlds and Hayes not racing much makes it easier to think she could miss out.

commonwombat
Reply to  oxyswim
6 days ago

If anything, Hayes is maybe a little fortunate to have been placed in this bracket rather than the one below. Not taking anything away from her outstanding performance at Worlds but her path to continued selection in this event looks far from certain and I’m not certain (despite the author’s contention) that she’s quite at the front of the selection queue for the 400IM.

jeff
Reply to  commonwombat
5 days ago

yea itd probably be easier for her to medal in the 200 IM if there were no caps on how many swimmers per event each country could send than it is for her to make the team in the 200 IM at all if KD does swim that this year

commonwombat
Reply to  jeff
5 days ago

Unless she can get down below 2.08; I suspect it may be tough for her in any case to medal at 200 if Douglas (and especially McIntosh) pursue this event.

Obese Legend
Reply to  Obese Legend
5 days ago

I think people are underestimating her chance of being selected. Her LC PB is faster than Douglass’ and she’s much younger. And are we even sure Douglass will swim this event at trials?

Scotty
6 days ago

Yu Yiting?

Troyy
Reply to  Scotty
6 days ago

Set WJR in the 200 IM at Tokyo which has since been lowered by Hayes and then McIntosh. Still owns the WJR for the SCM version from winning silver at SC worlds in 2021.

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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