SwimSwam’s Top 100 For 2024: Women’s #10-1

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.

Women’s Rankings:

#10: Siobhan Haughey, Hong Kong – Haughey only won one medal, silver in the 100 free, at Worlds last year. But she has double gold medal potential in the 100 and the 200 free in Paris. Mollie O’Callaghan stands in her way, though Haughey feels like she’s just one perfect meet away from being the best swimmer in the world. The 26-year-old Hong Kong native is also the top seed in both the 100 and 200 free heading into Doha, where she could be a double world champion, and is also in position to fight for a medal in the 100 breast. Last year, she ranked #1 in the world in the 100 free (52.02), #4 in the 200 free (1:53.96) and #9 in the 50 free (24.30) in addition to sitting 11th in the 100 breast and 12th in the 400 free. She also has five individual medals, including three gold and back-to-back titles in the 200 free, over the last two Short Course World Championships, so look for Haughey to do some damage at the end of the year in Budapest.

#9: Zhang Yufei, China – The defending Olympic champion in the 200 fly, Zhang appeared as though she was shifting her focus away from the event after scratching it last year at the World Championships, but she came back with an elite 2:05.57 showing at the Asian Games that ranked #4 in the world. She’s probably the Olympic favorite in the 100 fly after winning the world title last year—she was the only swimmer under 56 seconds in 2023—and is in the mix for another medal in the 50 free after picking up bronze in Fukuoka in a blistering 24.15. As for the 200 fly, the 25-year-old still owns history’s third-fastest swim ever from Tokyo (2:03.86), and will need to be in that vicinity to challenge for gold, and maybe back under 2:05 to even medal.

#8: Sarah Sjostrom, Sweden – At 30, Sjostrom just keeps going. She broke the world record in the 50 free last year in 23.61, with no one else on the planet under 24 seconds. She has pared down her event schedule since Tokyo in the lead-up to Paris, following in the footsteps of Sweden’s last legendary swimmer, Therese Alshammar. Sjostrom’s 50 free alone puts her firmly inside the top 10, but she’s also entered in the 50 fly and 100 free in Doha, giving her a chance at winning three more world titles. In Paris, she seems to be past the 100 fly, but was #3 in the world last year in the 100 free (52.24) and will likely aim for the sprint double.

#7: Kate Douglass, USA – It feels like cheating to use KD’s 2:19.30 in the 200 breast from January 13 in these rankings, but her collegiate “can’t miss, every meet” approach is now bleeding over into her long course racing. She is also arguably the United States’ most important relay piece. She has to be the favorite in the 200 IM (though not without serious challengers), and unless Chikunova gets neutral status she might become the favorite in the 200 breast as well. Then it’s just a matter of how many relay medals she can pull in. Could the 50 free, 100 free or 100 fly factor into her event schedule as well? Douglass, 22, also owns six entries in Doha, including the top seed in the 200 breast and 200 IM.

#6: Ariarne Titmus, Australia – A world record gold medal in the 400 free and a near-world record silver medal in the 200 free last year shows that Titmus’ approach since Tokyo that has seen her take some time away from competition hasn’t hurt her results. We saw her pull off some Olympic magic three years ago, and she could realistically defend both the 200 and 400 titles this year if her 1:53.01/3:55.38 performances in Fukuoka were just the appetizer for the Paris main course. The level she’s reached in the 800, going 8:13, is probably underrated given Ledecky’s dominance.

#5: Regan Smith, USA – If you put together the entirety of Smith’s 2023, it was amazing, especially that 200 fly, where she dropped the #4 swim of all-time in 2:03.87. But she didn’t get any individual gold medals at the World Championships. Bob Bowman hasn’t missed much lately, so in Year 2, it’s hard to bet against her. Except for the fact that in her best events, she’s going to run headlong into the top two swimmers on this list (McIntosh and McKeown). If she gets any individual golds at the Olympics, she’s going to earn them big time. Along with being #1 in the 200 fly, Smith was #2 to McKeown in the 100 back (57.68) and 200 back (2:03.80) last year going away. She was also 6th in both the 100 fly and 200 IM.

#4: Katie Ledecky, USA – Ledecky is still automatic in the 800 and the 1500. Can the U.S. get her an 800 free relay title too, recapturing the magic from 2022 Worlds? That remains to be seen in getting past an incredible Australian relay. Ledecky would probably need to win the 400 free, which is well within the realm of reason but she’s surely an underdog, to climb this list.

#3: Mollie O’Callaghan, Australia – After breaking Federica Pellegrini‘s historic world record in the 200 free last year (1:52.85), O’Callaghan has already been 1:54.36 in 2024 at the Queensland Championships. After what we saw from her in 2023 after that pre-Worlds knee injury…imagine how fast she might be at full health. In the 100 free, O’Callaghan has been clutch winning consecutive world titles, and is slated for a good battle with Haughey as both women aim to join the sub-52 club in 2024. The 100 free, 200 free and relays will more than likely be her focus in Paris, but we can’t forget how versatile O’Callaghan is, having ranked 5th in the world in the 100 back (58.42) last year while also being elite in the 50 free and 200 back.

#2: Kaylee McKeown, Australia – The 2023 Swimmer of the Year, McKeown does it in short course and long course, at World Championships and World Cups. The Australian dynamo swept the backstroke events in Fukuoka, setting world records in all three events over the course of the year, and could’ve won the world title in the 200 IM if she hadn’t been disqualified in the semis. In almost any other year, she’d be the clear #1 on this list, but we’re in a golden era of women’s swimming, so here we are.

#1: Summer McIntosh, Canada – The top four could really go in any order and it’s pretty defensible. Among the top two, the conversation comes down to this: Both McIntosh and McKeown are favored to win two gold medals in Paris. Both have multiple world record chances. McIntosh is younger and has a better shot at a fourth individual medal compared to McKeown, depending on event selection. The two of them essentially cancel each other out in the 200 IM, where either could win. McIntosh has a higher ceiling and a clearer path to her first two gold medals (200 fly/400 IM). But McKeown has a better shot at a relay gold medal in the 400 medley. If McKeown wins three golds, given who she has to beat, hers will likely be regarded as being more impressive. It’s a coin toss, but McIntosh’s momentum, age, and ceiling breaks that tie. We also can’t discount McIntosh’s world record in the 400 free last year and the determination she’ll have to right the wrong from Fukuoka when she missed the podium.

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Troyy
20 days ago

Summer (8:11.39) just beat Ledecky by 6 seconds in the 800 free !! Definitely the right choice to put her at #1.

Robbos
Reply to  Troyy
20 days ago

More infor please?

The unoriginal Tim
21 days ago

I am most excited about what MOC does and the 2IM.

Andy Hardt
21 days ago

As a thought experiment, let’s consider an alternate two-part criterion. Rank by a) and then by b).

a) What is the maximum number of individual Olympic gold medals this swimmer could in a subjectively “perfect” meet without being “unrealistic” (call this 95th percentile or something)
b) What is their chance of winning that many?

I am emphatically not saying that this is the best way to rank the top 10, and also not saying that this was SwimSwam’s main criterion (they clearly looked at many factors). But the reason I bring this up is that the ranking actually tracks SwimSwam’s very closely. So it’s an interesting metric for that reason.

Here’s my (very subjective) ranking based on this criterion… Read more »

ooo
Reply to  Andy Hardt
21 days ago

Why only 4 for McIntosh, The gold over 200 seems more likely for her than the gold over 800 for Titmus ?

Bryant V
Reply to  ooo
21 days ago

She may not even swim 200 free. The final of 200 free is in the same session as 400 IM.

ooo
Reply to  Bryant V
21 days ago

Good point. But what means “perfect” meet, a meet without scheduling conflicts or the best possible results taking the known schedule into account? (I assumed no conflicts)

tea rex
21 days ago

This just seems relevant. Number of individual Olympic Golds that went to the defending World Champ:

  • 2021: 5/14 men, 3/14 women
  • 2016: 2/13 men, 6/13 women
  • 2012: 4/13 men, 5/13 women
  • 2008: 7/13 men, 3/13 women
  • 2004: 10/13 men, 6/13 women
commonwombat
22 days ago

Zero issues with the composition of this top 10 and will actually fully subscribe to the sentence The top four could really go in any order and it’s pretty defensible.” However, until we get to Zhang & Haughey at 9 & 10, placings 5-8 are pretty contentious.

Sorry but cannot go with Smith at 5. I can certainly see a scenario where she may pick up 1 (both if she has a complete blockbuster meet) backstroke gold in Paris and a likely 4XMED gold but if we are going on what actual evidence we have to hand’ McKeown has “had her number” in backstroke races and she was well beaten by both McIntosh & Dekkers in 200fly at Fukuoka. … Read more »

Andy
Reply to  commonwombat
22 days ago

I honestly feel Zhang Yufei is more likely to win individual gold than Regan is.

Bryant V
Reply to  Andy
22 days ago

Absolutely

commonwombat
Reply to  Andy
22 days ago

A line of argument that I can increasingly go along with.

In all honesty, Smith could have been down as low as 10. Both Zhang and Haughey currently have stronger cases for favouritism/joint favouritism in 100fly & 100free respectively than Smith in any of her peak events. Zhang, arguably, adds significant value to a number of CHN relays; moreso than Smith is likely to.

However, this furry quadruped also recognises that the American reaction to me actually placing Smith this low would see a bounty placed on his furry hide …….. and rocketing up the Endangered Species List !

Alison England
Reply to  Andy
21 days ago

Me too.

Nick the biased Aussie
Reply to  commonwombat
21 days ago

Sjoestroem is a clear gold medal fav in the 60 free, Douglass isn’t in anything. Unrealistic to rank Douglass over Sjoestroem.

Summer Swim Fan
Reply to  Nick the biased Aussie
21 days ago

If Sjoestroem’s the only one swimming the 60 free, she should definitely be the gold medal favorite…

commonwombat
Reply to  Nick the biased Aussie
21 days ago

Sjostrom above Douglass ?? Your’s is a defensible argument in that Sarah is, indeed, a very clear favourite for the 50free where as Douglass’ claims for favouritism in 200IM (at least) is marginal at best. However with Chikunova most likely out of Paris, she is currently the probable favourite for 200BRS …. even if I still think Schoenmaker may prove troublesome.

In the end, her spread of potential events where she may be competitive plus her value as major hitter on a number of US relays was (just) enough for me to leave her ahead of Sarah. Not going to argue, however, with those who reversed that order ….. its a call that for mine could can go either way.

STRAIGHTBLACKLINE
22 days ago

The list looks about right to me. You can quibble that some swimmers are ranked a few places too high or too low(the consensus seems to be that the rankings of Smith and Titmus should be in reverse) but it will never settle anything. It’s an amazing list. I cannot remember women’s swimming being so deep in talent.

Swimdad
22 days ago

I’ll probably swap Douglas and Titmus. A fair ranking nonetheless.

Robbos
Reply to  Swimdad
22 days ago

Haha.

THEO
22 days ago

I’m reading all the banter about Regan’s placement but I mean it’s really not hard to see a world where they walk away from Paris with the same exact medal hardware. This isn’t a review of last year it’s a preview…

Regan could easily end up 1G 1S 1B + medley.

titmus 1G, 1S, 1B + 8free relay

Idk all I’m saying is it’s a toss up. Swimswam didn’t go way outta line here

Bryant V
Reply to  THEO
22 days ago

“Regan could easily end up 1G”

Regan easily win 1 individual gold in what event?

Based on the last 2 years and most recent results, I don’t see Regan Smith a strong favorite in any individual event.

THEO
Reply to  Bryant V
22 days ago

She beat Kaylee in medley lead off. 1back is a close race. I think there’s an outside chance for either 2fly or 2back, but like a solid 40% in 1back

Bryant V
Reply to  THEO
22 days ago

Regan Smith has not beaten Kaylee McKeown in individual races since 2019.

Kaylee McKeown has faster PBs in all backstroke events (50/100/200 LCM and SCM).

Kaylee McKeown has proven she delivered when the stake is at its highest and never complained about losing her father (she did lose her father a few months before Tokyo), COVID, changing coach (she did change coach after Tokyo), or mis-taper.

Kaylee McKeown is the defending 100/200 Olympics champion, she is the defending 50/100/200 World LC champion, she is the defending 100/200 World SCM champion.

She is the current WR holder in 50/100/200 back.

Kaylee 100 PB is 57.33 from a few months ago, Regan 100 PB is 57.57 from 5 years ago.

So,… Read more »

Last edited 22 days ago by Bryant V
Fast and Furious
Reply to  Bryant V
22 days ago

Hi relay names guy

Bryant V
Reply to  Fast and Furious
22 days ago

Relay names guy is a Greg Meehan’s hater.

I don’t hate Greg Meehan in the slightest bit.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Bryant V
21 days ago

Basically you are hoping for McKeown to have a bad day and Regan to have her best day ever.

It doesn’t have to be this big of a split.

Of the range of all possible times both of them might go in whatever event, there is some overlap.

Regan Smith has not beaten Kaylee McKeown in individual races since 2019.

This is also a weird qualifier when we’ve seen Smith finish ahead of McKeown, but just because they’re relays it somehow doesn’t count. Sorta goes to my point!

Bryant V
Reply to  Steve Nolan
21 days ago

“This is also a weird qualifier when we’ve seen Smith finish ahead of McKeown, but just because they’re relays it somehow doesn’t count. Sorta goes to my point!”

Being faster in relay doesn’t count nearly as much as being faster head to head in individual races.

Cate Campbell was always much faster in relay than Simone Manuel and Cate PB was faster than Simone until 2019, and yet in individual races, Simone beat Cate.

It’s because the pressure in individual race is much bigger, and swimmers who handle it best win.

As we saw in Fukuoka, Regan Smith crumbled when it mattered. She even got beat by Elizabeth Dekkers in 200 fly where she had the fastest season… Read more »

Last edited 21 days ago by Bryant V
Steve Nolan
Reply to  Bryant V
21 days ago

You can easily argue there’s more pressure on relays.

Bryant V
Reply to  Steve Nolan
21 days ago

For top swimmers, you can easily argue there’s more pressure on individual race.

Don’t believe me?

Just ask Regan Smith

BennyBD
Reply to  Bryant V
20 days ago

Cate actually did beat Simone in the 50 and 100 at 2018 Pan PACs. I think this is when she also did the fastest long course relay split. She also collected 5 gold medals. Her best swimming meet.

JoeB
Reply to  Steve Nolan
21 days ago

Let’s see. Medley relay. Final day of the meet. Smith out-touches McKeown on the opening leg. WOW! That’s genius. That’s the only qualifier that truly matters. Thank you, thank you, thank you for clarifying the confusion.

Troyy
Reply to  THEO
22 days ago

So not easily.

THEO
Reply to  Troyy
22 days ago

I said 40% chance and I’ll defend that claim

Bryant V
Reply to  THEO
22 days ago

This is what you wrote:

“Regan could easily end up 1G 1S 1B + medley.”

And I asked where did this one gold come from and you said 100 back.

So, it’s not easily.

It would be like claiming Ledecky could win 400 free gold easily.

Owlmando
Reply to  Bryant V
22 days ago

I think its a bit closer of a race than that

Bryant V
Reply to  Owlmando
22 days ago

Than what?

Owlmando
Reply to  Bryant V
21 days ago

Ledecky 400

Andy
Reply to  THEO
22 days ago

That’s like saying Cseh has lost every race to Phelps so far but he has a 40% chance of doing it the next time … your claim is based on no evidence other than your bad opinion

Owlmando
Reply to  Andy
22 days ago

The relay lead off means nothing? The ledecky and cseh analogies are in poor taste because the events cant be compared like that

Plus regan is within a couple tenths of kaylee in both the 1 and 2. Id call that more than a fighting chance

9 times out of ten lochte lost the 2IM to phelps internationally. Did that mean he was never going to beat phelps? With hindsight, that would have been a cold take. Gotta respect the underdog, they have a chance. Some better than others, and I’d say regan is fr in the hunt.

Fwiw cseh did equal phelps once which proves the point, it wasnt set in stone that he come behind phelps; maybe he… Read more »

Emily Se-Bom Lee
Reply to  Owlmando
22 days ago

The ledecky and cseh analogies are in poor taste because the events cant be compared like that

yet here you are comparing a relay to an individual event. the pressure faced in an individual final is much greater than in a relay final, to the point where they cannot be compared

Fwiw cseh did equal phelps once which proves the point

no it doesn’t, because the claim was that regan would easily beat mckeown. beating means that someone finishes in a higher place compared to another. if they tie, that literally doesn’t happen

Last edited 22 days ago by Emily Se-Bom Lee
Owlmando
Reply to  Emily Se-Bom Lee
21 days ago

Your whole gripe seems to hinge on the word easily, which ill grant you was maybe misused by op.

I think a better word would be realistically. Its definitely a possibility that she walks away with 1, if not 2 golds.

And he medal potential in other events is there, gold as well.

Youre harping too much on comparisons, i only resulted to analogies to demonstrate what a strawmans fallacy it is to compare regan and kaylee to these other swimmers- especially when some have had success despite being consistently the underdog

Theyre completely different situations, different events, regan has a solid chance to win

Caleb
Reply to  Owlmando
21 days ago

don’t waste your time arguing with these Aussie homers. Let’s just hope Ms. Smith’s bout with mono wasn’t too serious. If she’s healthy, of course she has a decent chance – in all 3 events, really.

wusalu32
Reply to  THEO
21 days ago

Regan Smith is super talented, no doubt. But she is a head case. Otherwise, how do you explain that she was beaten to third and failed to make the team in 200 bk (where she was the WR holder) in two important US trials (2020 olympics and 2022 WC)?

snailSpace
Reply to  Bryant V
22 days ago

And the thing is, while Regan hasn’t beaten her best times from 2019 Kaylee is constistently improving. That being said – by potential alone, which I think is a major factor in these rankings – she still has a shot in 3 events.

John26
Reply to  THEO
21 days ago

And if retired after Paris with these performances, Titmus will still be a double gold medalist and the only swimmer to beat Ledecky at the Olympics and Smith would still have zero individual golds

THEO
Reply to  THEO
21 days ago

I am genuinely surprised to see so many swim nerds view this sport as being so predictable and so mathematical as to assume that there isn’t even a 40% chance Regan beats kaylee in the 1bk. In the indy race she lost by .25, in the relay she won by .23.

Seriously. With that data in front of you, which the most recent/relevant we have to this prediction, and you think Mckeown is a HEAVY favorite??? haven’t you heard about currents? Bad nights of sleep? A particularly impactful splash!? The underlying randomness of the universe!!??? 😂

If your position is kaylee is more likely to win than not, I agree with you! But 40% chance on Regan seems reasonable to… Read more »

JoeB
Reply to  THEO
21 days ago

How many individual Olympic gold medals has Regan Smith won? How many times has Regan Smith won the 50, 100, 200 backstrokes in the same World Championships? When did Regan Smith simultaneously hold the world records in the 50, 100, 200 backstrokes? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Bryant V
Reply to  THEO
21 days ago

Regan Smith has not beaten Kaylee McKeown in individual races since 2019.

Kaylee McKeown has faster PBs in all backstroke events (50/100/200 LCM and SCM).

Kaylee McKeown has proven she delivered when the stake is at its highest and never complained about losing her father (she did lose her father a few months before Tokyo), COVID, changing coach (she did change coach after Tokyo), time zone, or mis-taper.

Kaylee McKeown is the defending 100/200 Olympics champion, she is the defending 50/100/200 World LC champion, she is the defending 100/200 World SCM champion.

She is the current WR holder in 50/100/200 back.

Kaylee 100 PB is 57.33 from a few months ago, Regan 100 PB is 57.57 from 5 years ago.… Read more »

Last edited 21 days ago by Bryant V

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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