Who are the most popular swimmers on social media?
In these days, the most popular form of social media is Instagram. Almost every active swimmer has an Instagram account – more than Twitter, for example.
The swimmers’ popularity on social media, however, doesn’t always reflect their achievements in the pool. Instagram’s Swimming Stats page has published the list of the active swimmers with the most followers in Instagram.
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(Before you ask “what about Michael Phelps?”, we know he has more than 3 million followers. But he is now retired, and the list is about the active swimmers, mainly because it is very hard to track all retired swimmers. It is also hard to define a “retired swimmer”. There are many former swimmers who weren’t successful at international level who are very successful in other areas, and they have millions of followers. That’s why only active swimmers are considered on the list).
The most followed swimmer on Instagram is Australian Cody Simpson, who has 4 million followers. Of course we know he is also a very successful singer, and that’s why he has such a large following. But he is also a very good swimmer, having made the final in the men’s 100 butterfly at the Australian Olympic Trials, and has announced that he will try to make the Australian Olympic team in 2024.
The Italian swimming fans are among the most passionate in the world, so it’s no surprise that Federica Pellegrini has so many followers: 1.5 million.
Pellegrini is also a bit of a mainstream celebrity in Italy, so much so that she’s appeared as a judge on Italy’s Got Talent.
Ryan Lochte has 845K, and this is a curious case. Exactly one year ago, he had 881K, so he lost almost 40K followers, probably because he didn’t make the U.S. Olympic team and is not under the spotlight as he used to be few years ago.
Fourth place on the list might surprise you: Argentinian Delfina Pignatiello, with more than 800K followers. She is one of the most popular sports persons in Argentina, a three-time Pan-American champion and also a Youth Olympic gold medalist. She didn’t perform well at the Tokyo Olympics, and amazingly she continues gaining followers: almost 300K since August 2020.
But no one has gained more followers over the last year than Caeleb Dressel. This is certainly no surprise, since he was the best swimmer in the 2020 ISL season and the Tokyo Olympics, winning gold medals and world records at will. A year ago he had 259K followers, and now he has 703K.
Yusra Mardini has not won medals at the Olympics or World Championships, but she is one of the most famous swimmers in the world, which is reflected by her 416K followers. She gained popularity when she competed by the Refugee Olympic Team at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Malaysia’s Welson Sim is not a mainstream swimmer. But, in 2016, he became the first Malaysian swimmer ever to register a FINA ‘A’ Olympic cut. And today he is one of the most followed swimmers on Instagram with more than 300K followers – more than Olympic champions Nathan Adrian, Florent Manaudou, Sarah Sjostrom, Chad le Clos, and Simone Manuel.
Winning medals is good driver for popularity on social media, but it’s clearly not everything.