SwimSwam’s Top 100 For 2024: Men’s #50-41

After the record-setting year that was 2023, we’re gearing up for another exciting year over here at SwimSwam, and part of that is releasing our fourth annual Top 100 list—check out last year’s rankings here.

Similar to 2023, we’ve taken a statistically driven approach reliant primarily upon world rankings and World Championship medals. We’ve also taken into account things such as potential, Olympic medal opportunities, injuries, and versatility. Long course is weighted more than short course, though performance potential in both formats is factored in.

We’ve also moved Russian and Belarusian swimmers way down this list because of their likely absence from the Olympics or either World Championship meet. While that doesn’t preclude them from swimming fast at domestic meets (including whatever Russia comes up with to replace the Olympics), those swims just won’t mean quite as much without the international spotlight.

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.

Braden Keith, Sophie Kaufman, Anya Pelshaw and Mark Wild contributed to this report.

Men’s Rankings:

#50: Pieter Coetze, South Africa – A prominent member of the burgeoning group of male backstrokers around the globe, Coetze was absent from the 2023 World Championships but still made his present felt with some sizzling swims at South African Nationals. In April, the now 19-year-old clocked 24.36 in the 50 back and 52.78 in the 100 back, swims that ranked 5th and 6th in the world last year, respectively. The 2022 world junior champion in the 200 back, Coetze went 1:56.32 in that event last year en route to winning it at the Athens stop of the World Cup circuit, just shy of his 1:56.05 PB. Coetze is on an impressive improvement curve that makes him a medal contender in both backstroke events at the Olympics (if it continues), and he’ll be in the hunt at the 2024 Worlds in Doha.

#49: Ryan Held, USA – Now a veteran of the American sprint group, Held’s presence was key at the 2023 World Championships, especially without fellow veteran Caeleb Dressel leading youngsters like Jack Alexy, Chris Guiliano, and Matt King. Alexy, Guiliano, King, and Held combined for a bronze medal in the men’s 4×100 free relay as Held led off in 48.16. The 28-year-old won the U.S. National title in the 50 free in a personal best time of 21.50 earlier in the summer, a time that ranked him #2 in the world for the year, but was slightly off of that at Worlds and took 5th (21.72). His 100 free time from the prelims at Nationals of 47.63 also cracked the world’s top 10, and he seems to have been revamped since joining Arizona State.

#48: Ksawery Masiuk, Poland – Masiuk essentially maintained in 2023 after a breakthrough 2022 that included five backstroke gold medals across the World and European Junior Championships and a senior medal in Budapest in the 50 back. While he was still 18, Masiuk was 4th in the 50 back and 6th in the 100 back at the Worlds in 2023, and showed some promise in the 100 free with a 47.8 relay split. Although he didn’t drop in the sprints, the Polish native did put up a 1:56.48 best time in the 200 back in November, and also went his fastest-ever flat-start 100 free in 48.62. The backstroke events are weaker as we stand due to the absence of Russian stars, and Masiuk is a prime candidate to take a step forward in 2024 and win an Olympic medal. His best time stands at 52.58 in the 100 back, and his top swim of 2023 (52.81) ranked 8th.

#47: Elijah Winnington, Australia – The 2022 world champion in the 400 free (3:41.22), Winnington was usurped by Sam Short as Australia’s premier threat in the event in 2023, as Short stormed his way to the world title while Winnington fell to 7th in the final (3:44.26) after swimming the world’s #4 time (3:43.48) at Trials. Winnington, still just 23, is no longer the man to beat in the 400 free, and perhaps shedding some of the weight of that pressure will do him good in 2024. In 2021, he was the fastest swimmer in the world (3:42.65) but finished 7th in the Olympic final.

#46: Matt Fallon, USA – After not competing at the 2022 U.S. Trials due to an academic conflict, Fallon didn’t compete at NCAAs last March but he returned with a vengeance at U.S. Nationals in June, dropping a time of 2:07.71 to win the 200 breast and qualify for the World Championships. He also went sub-2:08 in the summer of 2022, and followed up with two more 2:07s in Fukuoka, going on to win bronze in 2:07.74. The 21-year-old Penn junior would have to be regarded as the favorite for bronze in Paris behind world champion Qin Haiyang and defending Olympic champion Zac Stubblety-Cook.

#45: Gregorio Paltrinieri, Italy – Paltrinieri has been a prominent fixture in men’s distance swimming for the last decade now and will look to rebound in 2024 after withdrawing from the 2023 World Championships due to missing out on training with “physical problems.” With the distance scene on fire, a bounce-back and healthy year will be key for the Rio Olympic champion in the 1500 free, especially after dealing with mono right before the Tokyo Olympics where he ultimately finished 4th in the 1500 free and won silver in the 800 free. After what Ahmed Hafnaoui and Bobby Finke did at the 2023 World Championships, going the 2nd and 3rd-fastest swims ever in the 1500 with 14:31s, it’s easy to forget that Paltrinieri went 14:32.80 en route to dominating the championships just one year earlier.

#44: Diogo Ribeiro, Portugal – After being in a motorcycle accident in 2021, Ribeiro had a breakout 2022 and continued his momentum into 2023. The World Junior Record holder in the 50 butterfly (LC) made new history this year, becoming Portugal’s first medalist at a World Championship after he won silver in the 50 fly in July, breaking his own National Record in the process. In terms of Olympic events, the 19-year-old is a triple threat with lifetime bests of 21.87 in the 50 free (#25 in the world in 2023), 47.98 in the 100 free (#24) and 51.45 in the 100 fly (#29). He’ll need to drop time to vie for an Olympic medal, but given his age and rapid rise of late that’s well within the realm of possibility. Additionally, he’ll be in the hunt in the 50/100 of free and fly in Doha.

#43: Thomas Heilman, USA – An age group phenom, Heilman qualified for his first senior-level international World Championship representing the U.S. at last summer’s World Championships. He broke Michael Phelps’ historic 15-16 NAG record in the 200 fly at Nationals (1:54.54) and went even faster at Worlds where he finished just off of the podium with a 4th place finish (1:53.82). With the potential return of Caeleb Dressel to top form, in addition to Dare Rose, Shaine Casas and Michael Andrew—who have all been 50-point—Heilman will likely need to go sub-51 in the 100 fly to make the Olympic team, but no one’s doubting him after he went 51.19 last year. In the 200 fly, he’s an Olympic medal contender.

#42: Ilya Kharun, Canada – One of many teenagers in this tier of the ranking, Kharun tied Thomas Heilman for 4th in the 200 butterfly at the 2023 World Championships. What makes Kharun so impressive is his rapid improvement over the last three years, dropping from 2:01 to 1:53 in the 200 fly in a relatively short order. The Arizona State freshman has already been scaring the NCAA record in the SCY version of the event and his continued progress bodes well for more improvement in the Olympic year. He’s also got an easier path to Olympic qualification than his American counterparts, and could realistically find himself in the 100 fly Olympic final as well given his 51.22 swim from the 2023 World semi-finals.

#41: Kliment Kolesnikov, Russia – During the World Championships last year, Kolesnikov set a new world record in the men’s 50 back while competing in Russia, clocking a time, 23.55, that would have won the world title by half a second. Kolesnikov also produced the 2nd-fastest 100 back time in history (51.82) and ranked in the world’s top 20 in the 50 free (21.76) and 100 free (47.88) in 2023 domestic competition. There’s an opportunity for Russians to compete in Paris as neutrals, but Kolesnikov has been outspoken that he won’t participate. That hurts his rankings as the versatile sprinter, who is still just 23, won two individual medals in Tokyo and would be among the 100 back favorites in Paris if he was in the field.

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2 months ago

This is a fascinating group. As the comments show, you can make arguments to raise or lower a lot of these folks. Heilman, Held, and Fallon could all medal in Paris – or not even make the US team. Paltrineiri and Winnington could both medal or not final depending on how their years go, and it is really hard to say what to do with Kolesnikov. An end of year ranking showing where these folks ended up would be really interesting.

Reply to  96Swim
2 months ago

Yes. And I think Milak will either win the 200 fly or not even swim in Paris – nothing in between. I don’t see him going if he’s not confident of winning that event – and if he does go, he’ll at least final in the 100 fly. Therefore, based on the criteria used in the rankings, me could be anywhere from top 10 to below 70.

2 months ago

Shocked how low Kharun is

2 months ago

I expected Kharun to be ranked a bit more highly.

for sure not another junior
2 months ago

blud is a junior in hs and top 43 in the world thats literally wild

Scuncan Dott V2
2 months ago

Fallon being like 20 places ahead of Peaty is ridiculous. They both have solid chances at 1 individual Breaststroke medal at Paris. But unlike Fallon, Peaty will also be contending for relay medals with GB in the Men’s/Mixed medley and will also race in Doha.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Scuncan Dott V2
2 months ago

I think Peaty’s floor is way lower.

At the right odds I’d put money on him missing the 100 breast final.

Joshua Liendo-Edwards-Smith
2 months ago

These lists are really dragging out this year.

Usually it’s 76-100 and 51-75 bunched together, but they’ve split them all out this year. Making 20 articles of 10 really means the first half of the articles aren’t very interesting.

Will be very interesting to see who makes top 20 as there are so many men that are similar quality and you could make arguments for about 30 men to be in the top 20.

Reply to  Joshua Liendo-Edwards-Smith
2 months ago

I like the current system. It gives more chance/time to dissect each swimmer.

Beginner Swimmer at 25
2 months ago

I think this list should be 33% previous year accomplishments 33% outlook into next year and 33% subjective criteria

Joshua Liendo-Edwards-Smith
Reply to  Beginner Swimmer at 25
2 months ago

Isn’t that what it mostly is? Very rarely is the best performer of the year given #1, it’s almost always the one with the most potential

2 months ago

Kolesnikov dropped from #6 to #41, despite breaking 50 back world record and swimming 2nd fastest 100 back time in history last year, only because he’s not going to the Olympics. I don’t know if I agree with this criteria.

Reply to  rhode
2 months ago

the criteria of the largest meet of the year mattering the most?

Reply to  jeff
2 months ago

Also, there are THREE important meets this year where Kolesnikov won’t participate in:

Doha (world LC), Paris (Olympics), Budapest (world SC)

Reply to  jeff
2 months ago

Ok, but it’s not like there is an easy choice and pathway for him to compete. Imagine the hated American athletes would have gotten in 2004 if the only way for them to compete was to do so as neutrals because of the illegal invasion of Iraq. Even if you want to ding his ranking, drop him down 10 spots, not 35.

Reply to  oxyswim
2 months ago

“…hated American athletes…” In 2004? Really?

Reply to  rhode
2 months ago

This ranking does seem pretty arbitrary. Is the idea that without competing at the Olympics he will likely not get around to swimming his best at any point in 2024? Or is it that he will swim fast but it won’t matter if it’s not at the Olympics?

Reply to  Swamtoday
2 months ago

Maybe he will swim fast, maybe he won’t.

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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