Top 10 Swimming Performances at the 2024 World Aquatics Championships

2024 WORLD AQUATIC CHAMPIONSHIPS

After the dust settled at the 2024 World Aquatics Championships, the result was a lot of very good swims. Maybe not the depth of a typical World Championship, but it wasn’t hard to find 10 really outstanding swims to make a Top Performances List.

10. Erika Fairweather, New Zealand – 400 Free, 3:59.44

In spite of her upward trajectory, Erika Fairweather is probably not going to be one of the global swimming stars of this summer’s Olympic Games. That’s because she’s running headlong into the generational trio of Katie Ledecky, Summer McIntosh, and Ariarne Titmus.

The logjam ahead of her isn’t really fair to how good she’s getting into this 400 free. It’s like being the third American in the women’s 100 backstroke.

If the 20-year-old can find her way onto a podium in this 400 free (against all three of those swimmers), she’ll be a national swimming hero forever. That might be true even if she doesn’t.

9. Cam McEvoy, Australia – 50 Free, 21.13 (Prelims)

Agnostic of the moment, this swim would probably be higher on the list. The fact that his best round was in prelims and he didn’t finish it with gold knocks it down a few pegs.

That being said, he’s still the heavy favorite for Paris. In post-race interviews, McEvoy said that going all-out for three rounds was a plan, a test, to see what would happen, and now he knows. That prelims swim, though, was a thing of beauty.

8. Tang Qianting, China – 100 Breast, 1:05.27

Coming into this meet, there were three weaknesses holding China back in the women’s medley relay. Basically, they had Zhang Yufei, and they needed help everywhere else.

They solved at least one of those problems when Tang took .05 seconds off the Chinese Record that was set in 2009 in a polyurethane super suit. That swim was a full second better than she was on a rolling start in last year’s medley relay, and at only 19, she’s quickly climbing toward gold medal contention.

She also smashed the Asian Record in the 50 breaststroke, another very good swim, but this 100 was more important for me.

7. Claire Curzan, USA – 100 Back, 58.29

Curzan’s huge rebound year has been well-told by now. After being hospitalized days before US Trials and missing the team, this year she swept the backstroke events at Worlds, went best times in all three backstroke distances, and took silver in the 100 fly. This time in the 100 back is just .04 seconds away from Katharine Berkoff’s time for bronze at last year’s World Championships.

The magnitude of her rebound is what put this swim on the list for me.

6. Kate Douglass, USA – 50 Free, 23.91

Douglass had a ripper of a meet, becoming the #6 performer in history in the 200 IM and the #8 performer in history in the 50 free.

I picked this 50 free because it was an American Record, a top-class sprint result in an event where the American women feel so far behind the Australians, and if nothing else, because that “23” just feels so fast.

5. Angelina Koehler, Germany – 100 Fly, 56.11 (Semifinals)/56.28 (Finals)

Maybe the most out-of-nowhere performance at this meet, Koehler’s German Records in prelims and semis were an early marker that this meet was, in fact, one worth watching – driven home by her tears on the podium after winning gold.

Koehler entered the meet with a best of 57.05 (done twice in Fukuoka at Worlds last year). She’s now almost a second better and is a clear-shot medal contender at the Olympics.

4. Sarah Sjostrom, Sweden – 50 Free, 23.69

The highest FINA points swim of the meet (tied with Wiffen’s 1500), Sjostrom pulled way back on her schedule, “wasn’t greedy,” and went big in this 50 free. Now in the twilight of her career, she isn’t as versatile as she once was, but she’s as good in this event still as anyone – that time was only .08 seconds away from her World Record done at last year’s World Championships.

While the top time wasn’t as good, Sjostrom did a better job at this meet of playing the rounds and getting faster in each cycle.

3. Marrit Steenbergen, Netherlands – 100 Free, 52.26

Truly one of the great stories in swimming of the last few years, Steenbergen has finished her return to the trajectory she was undoubtedly on as a junior – serving as a great reminder that a bad season or two doesn’t have to be the end of a teenager’s trajectory.

Breaking not only a Dutch Record, but a Dutch Record in the event almost synonymous with Dutch swimming, the women’s 100 free, is a massive milestone. But not only did she break it, she broke it in semis, and then smashed it in finals, in total taking .43 seconds off Femke Heemskerk’s 52.69 record from 2015.

It’s going to be fun seeing a Dutch woman again contending for gold in this event at the Olympics.

2. Daniel Wiffen, Ireland – 1500 Free, 14:34.07

Okay so let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room: Wiffen’s meet didn’t start off great. He was 7th in the 400 free (4:46.65 in the final). But after winning the 800 in 7:40.94, he settled in big time for his finale, the 800 free, where he crushed the field by 10 seconds and won in 14:34.07.

That swim makes him the #5 performer of all-time, moves him about three seconds away from the World Record, was the largest margin of victory in the men’s 1500 at Worlds since 2001 when Grant Hackett won by 24 seconds. More importantly, with many of his main contenders like Ahmed Hafnaoui, Florian Wellbrock, Gregorio Paltrinieri, and Mykhalo Romanchuk in attendance, this gives him a psychological edge headed toward Paris – in a race where psychology is so important, with swimmers like GP charging early, and Bobby Finke lurking late.

This swim moves Wiffen, already the SCM World Record holder, from the peripheral vision of this race to the main focus alongside Finke and Sam Short of Australia.

1. Pan Zhanle, China – 100 free, 46.80 (Relay Leadoff)

Pan put a lot of narratives to bed with his 46.80 in the 100 freestyle, including that he can’t swim fast outside of China (based on a single data point last year, where China’s most important meet was hosted in China). Basically the same age as David Popovici, the swimmer who’s record he broke, Pan is now the new front-runner in this marquee event headed towards the Paris Olympics. The most exciting news is that we get a decade of this rivalry.

It seems as though he’s had to sacrifice some of his range, though, to get there, as he wasn’t very good in the 200 free. Pan started his career as a distance freestyler, and has now come all the way down to the pure sprints. The fact that he hasn’t really even been focused on sprint and power for more than a few months makes this tantalizing.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Finlay Knox running down Carson Foster and Shaine Casas on the last leg of the 200 IM final
  • Kate Douglass new best time to win the 200 IM,
  • Tes Schouten‘s 200 breast win in a new Dutch Record, including beating Douglass (and making herself the favorite for the Olympics?)

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DutchinUSA
1 month ago

I’m not sure that talking about “ a bad season or two doesn’t have to be the end of a teenager’s trajectory” is accurate in the case of Steenbergen (it may be true in general, of course.). She concentrated on her education for 4-5 years, not swimming (where she would have to face the fact, that there would be hardly any major meets or challenges for her compensating her efforts, since Kromowidjojo and Heemskerk were still swimming.) That’s not really “bad seasons”, I think. So, waiting a few years to re-devote herself to swimming made sense. Luckily she’s now succeeding!

Swimswim
1 month ago

No Sjostrom 50 fly? I think it should definitely be up there

Steve Nolan
1 month ago

In post-race interviews, McEvoy said that going all-out for three rounds was a plan, a test, to see what would happen, and now he knows.

Oof, like. Come on. Going all out for a FIFTY takes it out of him??

Y’know, I’m calling absolute poppycock on that. He was 23.19, 23.21 and 23.08 in fly. Or is that what actually threw him off for free, the added stress of those 150m of a different stroke a couple days earlier.

I may have to use the Kobe “SOFT” gif for the first time for someone not scratching, jeezy petes.

Copium already strong with that one.

Last edited 1 month ago by Steve Nolan
Joel
Reply to  Steve Nolan
1 month ago

Pretty sure he said he made an error in the race (the final) – maybe wasn’t streamlined properly at the start. So as usual, you’d be wrong Steve.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Joel
1 month ago

So you’re correcting me by not remembering what he said? Cool cool cool ya I’m finding that as credible as what’s quoted here.

(A link would be useful, tysvm)

Last edited 1 month ago by Steve Nolan
Flippin Birds
Reply to  Steve Nolan
1 month ago

The quote doesn’t say it took it out of him physically…

But there’s a strong argument for leaving something in your back pocket, mentally.

Instead of going into the final knowing that you’ve gone all out twice, and a mistake will make you slower, you want to go into that final focusing on that little bit of room that you left yourself to be faster.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Flippin Birds
1 month ago

These are some wild excuses imo.

A mistake will always make you slower! Just because you’ve already gone slower in the rounds doesn’t make those mistakes less likely to happen or something.

Flippin Birds
Reply to  Steve Nolan
1 month ago

Your opinion seems unpopular given the ratio above…

The best swimmers put themselves in the best position to be their best at the best of all possible times. That’s in the final of the big championship meet.

Nobody cares if McEvoy goes all out in prelims. His focus is on winning the final, as it should be. Personally, I think showing all your cards in prelims can put you at a disadvantage, especially mentally, going into the next rounds.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Flippin Birds
1 month ago

His focus is on winning the final, as it should be. Personally, I think showing all your cards in prelims can put you at a disadvantage, especially mentally, going into the next rounds.

If you can’t go as fast as you can for three 50s in two days I dunno what to tell ya.

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PanMan
1 month ago

Pan’s stroke is so smooth, I love it.

Pan Fan
Reply to  PanMan
1 month ago

Very smooth and controlled.

flicker
1 month ago

how on earth is Sjostrom’s 24.63 50 fly not even an honourable mention when no one else has ever broken 25

Joshua Liendo-Edwards-Smith
Reply to  flicker
1 month ago

Yeah easily multiple swims it should rank over on this list

Outside Smoke
Reply to  flicker
1 month ago

A better-timed finish and it would’ve broken her unbeatable “wind-assisted” world record. Insane to not even be an honourable mention.

Aquajosh
1 month ago

I don’t know how you can call someone “in the twilight of their career” (Sjostrom) when they’re still breaking World Records. I would have also slotted Bukhov in there somewhere.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Aquajosh
1 month ago

She’s been going at this level for 15 years, you think she’s gonna go for 15 more?

(It’s not about how she’s swimming.)

ooo
Reply to  Steve Nolan
1 month ago

10 if she does a Dara

Steve Nolan
Reply to  ooo
1 month ago

But not continuously that entire time, if “doing a Dara.”

Aquajosh
Reply to  Steve Nolan
1 month ago

I think if she wanted to, she could absolutely win the 50 fly at Worlds for another decade, but I do think she will be in Los Angeles at the very least. If the stroke 50s ever get added to the Olympics, maybe longer than that.

kevin
1 month ago

Looking at from a age prospective Isona Anderson 17 years old getting silver in the 50/100 back and Jaclyn Barclay silver in the 200 back 18 years of age both first international meets incredible futures ahead of them

SNygans01
Reply to  kevin
1 month ago

Agreed – ’tis exciting.
(Though I think you have their respective ages swapped…)

Swemmer
1 month ago

I think that McCantPerformWhenRequired’s 21.13 should be a bit higher, at least considering that only Dressel has been that fast inconsistently.

Definitely should be higher than Kohler’s 56.11, more women have gone 55 in a textile suit than men have gone below 21.2 in a textile suit.

Joel
Reply to  Swemmer
1 month ago

Fukuoka anyone?

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Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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