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.
#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.