Who were the 2021’s most dominant swimmers in their respective events?
Of course, the definition of “dominant” can be tricky. Swimming Stats’ Instagram page has published some lists, featuring swimmers who managed to set a high number of swims among the top 10 fastest performances of the year in long course meters.
View this post on Instagram
View this post on Instagram
Swimmers who appear with many swims among the fastest of the year typically are those who won the main titles and finished the year at #1, that is, very dominant swimmers.
Of course, there are a few exceptions. For example, in the women’s 100 butterfly, Zhang Yufei owns four of the ten fastest swims of the year. But it was Maggie MacNeil who won the Olympic gold medal and finished the year with the fastest time in the world – which was her only appearance among the top 10 fastest swims of 2021 in the event.
But this is a rare exception. Considering Olympic events, the most dominant swimmer in 2021 in terms of the number of swims among the 10-fastest performances is Katie Ledecky in the women’s 800 freestyle. She set eight of the 10 fastest swims of 2021, which is no surprise given she is undoubtedly one of the most dominant swimmers in history, undefeated in the event for over a decade, and the three-time Olympic champion.
If we also consider non-Olympic events, Benedetta Pilato set no less than nine of the 10 fastest swims of the year on the women’s 50 breaststroke, including setting the world record. However, many swimmers did not even race the 50m stroke events during 2021, opting to focus solely on Olympic events, so it’s not entirely fair to rank that as highly as Ledecky’s exploits, for example.
In five events, there were swimmers who registered seven of the 10 fastest swims of the year: Emma McKeon in the women’s 100 freestyle, Katie Ledecky in the women’s 800 freestyle, Zhang Yufei in the women’s 200 butterfly, Adam Peaty in the men’s 100 breast, and Kristóf Milák in the men’s 200 butterfly. It is worth noting that Peaty and Milák were probably the two most heavily favored to win Olympic gold medals in their events on the men’s side, and they were the only two swimmers who registered the seven fastest performances of the year in Olympic events — undisputed dominance.
Swimmers with the most swims in the 2021 top-10 fastest performances:
- Women’s 50 breaststroke: Benedetta Pilato, 9
- Women’s 800 freestyle: Katie Ledecky, 8
- Men’s 100 breaststroke: Adam Peaty, 7
- Men’s 200 butterfly: Kristof Milak, 7
- Women’s 100 freestyle: Emma McKeon, 7
- Women’s 1500 freestyle: Katie Ledecky, 7
- Women’s 200 butterfly: Zhang Yufei, 7
- Men’s 50 freestyle: Caeleb Dressel, 6
- Men’s 100 butterfly: Caeleb Dressel, 6
- Women’s 400 freestyle: Katie Ledecky 6
- Women’s 200 backstroke: Kaylee McKeown, 6
- Women’s 50 butterfly: Melanie Henique, 6