There was no shortage of exciting swimming at the 2017 World Championships. The meet had it all: world records, comeback performances, and epic rivalries that were won in some cases by the ‘hero’ and in some cases by ‘the villain.’ In fact, in a non-Olympic year, we really couldn’t have asked for a better meet.
With so many great swims over the course of the meet, we’ve narrowed it down to the top 15 pool performers overall.
- Paltrinieri bowed to his training partner Gabriele Detti in the 800 free, but he swam a great race in the 1500 to hold off Mykhalio Romanchuk. Watching him and Detti battle, with the 800 now an Olympic event, to Tokyo will be a lot of fun.
14. Federica Pellegrini (ITA): 1st place 200 L Free – 1:54.73
- There were a handful of one-hit-wonders who could’ve occupied this space. Either of the Russian male champions Rylov or Chupkov, Chad le Clos, Camille Lacourt’s career-ending mic drop in the 50 free, Gabriele Detti’s 800 free European Record…but Pellegrini’s win was special. In the 200 free, she became the first person to ever beat Katie Ledecky in an international final, but Pellegrini doesn’t need any attachment for her spot in history. Yes, her World Record in the 200 free was aided by a rubber suit, but don’t let that fool you. She’s won 4 individual World Championships since that 2009 meet, and has medaled in the 200 free at a record 7 straight World Championships. She’s a first ballot Hall-of-Famer, and every time we try to forget that, she reminds us.
- And we were all excited about Canada’s performance at the Olympics. Enter: Kylie Masse, the next Canadian female superstar in the making. She broke the 100 backstroke World Record, and while she failed to medal in either of the other events, she has massive room for improvement potential. What’s more, Canada, when healthy and swimming well, can now challenge for medals in all three relays.
- This was a big moment for Matt Grevers, and at the tail end of his career he played the role of leader and captain beautifully. After missing the 2016 Olympic Team, and at 32-years old, he could’ve packed it in for his career, but he pushed through and reclaimed his seat at the top of American sprint backstroking.
- Efimova, testing positive twice for doping, has become a favored target for western swimmers. But, she did swim well at the meet, winning the 200 breaststroke and challenging World Records before falling to Lilly King in the shorter races.
- Sun, who has a positive doping test to his name, is always a lightning rod at big meets. He’s narrowed his focus to the 200 and 400, losing the distance races that were once his hallmark, but he stood tall and won his two new best races. For the first time in his career, he played the role of de-escelater after his race, showing some maturity that had escaped him earlier in his career.
- Kalisz is limited by the fact that he doesn’t contribute to the American relay efforts, but he took the torch of the American IMs from Phelps and Lochte and his times are approaching their rare air. His might have been the underrated performance of the meet.
- Simone Manuel has become a giant killer in the 100 free. Cate Campbell broke the World Record in the 100 free in 2016, then Manuel beat her in the Olympic final. Sarah Sjostrom broke the World Record on a relay leadoff in Budapest, then Manuel beat her in the World Championship final. She also had a massive anchor role on a lot of really fast relays.
- Peaty got a World Record in a semi-final, and like Ledecky, in his specialty, he has no competition but his own times. If Great Britain had a backstroker, he might have at least one more gold medal to his name.
- This was Hosszu’s big moment. The Hungarian fan-base showed up en force for all disciplines at the World Championships, and Hosszu and the Hungarian swimmers delivered an incredible, electric performance. No, she wasn’t as good as she was in Rio, but this was Hosszu’s victory lap – and she played the role of host splendidly.
- Lilly King doesn’t have as broad of a scope as the other swimmers in the top 5, but her sprint breaststroke performance, which included World Records in 4 of the 5 events that she was entered in, was indomitable. Even Adam Peaty, who is miles ahead of any other male breaststroker in the world, couldn’t touch that resume.
3. Katie Ledecky (US): 1st place 1500 L Free – 15:31.82, 1st place 400 L Free – 3:58.34, 1st place 800 L Free – 8:12.68; 2nd place 200 L Free – 1:55.18, 1st place 4×100 FR, 1st place 4×200 FR, fastest split by 1.44
- It’s easy to write off the performance of Ledecky, the most dominant female swimmer of her generation to this point, because she didn’t get super close to her best times, she didn’t break any records, and she lost the first international final of her career in the 200 free. But let’s be real. She raced to gold medals at every freestyle distance from 100 through 1500. She won 5 gold medals and a silver – without any mixed relay medals. That’s still an incredible performance.
- Sjostrom broke a World Record in the 50 free and 100 free, and the only blemish on her record individually was the silver medal in the 100 free – in spite of swimming the fastest time ever earlier in the meet. Even she said she feels ‘discomfort’ about that outcome. Had she won that race, that gold medal, this would have been a really, really hard decision to make between her and Dressel. But, when splitting hairs, that one silver is the narrowest of marks on her record.
1. Caeleb Dressel (US): 1st place 100 L Fly – 49.86, 1st place 100 L Free – 47.17, 1st place 50 L Free – 21.15, 1st place 4×100 FR, 1st place 4×100 MR, 1st place mixed 400×100 FR (WR), 1st place mixed 4×100 MR
- Caeleb Dressel was the dominant force at the World Championships. While his history-making medal counts were inflated somewhat by the new mixed medleys, and while he didn’t break any individual World Records, he took on a huge workload, was incredible in all of them, and at the end of the day – won a gold medal in all 7 of the 8 events that he was entered in. That’s an incredible effort in just 8 days of competition.