Names like Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Aaron Peirsol, and others have absolutely dominated the talk of the sport over the last 10-odd years, but now the torch is finally being passed to a new age of swimming.
The Rio 2016 Olympic Games were special, having only two repeat winners in individual events, Michael Phelps in the 200m IM and Katie Ledecky in the 800m freestyle.
This allowed for many first-time Olympians to step up and earn their spot in the limelight. Of those who managed to get on the podium were several first time Olympians who have now established themselves as major players in the sport. Many of them are young, with plenty of progression still to be had as we usher in the new age of swimming.
Lilly King (19)
Lilly King had all Americans on her side when she called out Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova for her previous doping violations, and then beat her in order to win gold. The 19-year-old Indiana swimmer broke the Olympic record with a time of 1:04.93 in order to take home the gold and establish herself as the fastest breststroker in the world. A relatively unknown name among even most swimming circles prior to these games, King is now on the map as America’s breaststroker.
Pernille Blume (22)
If you asked anybody who would win the 50m freestyle prior to these Olympic Games, almost nobody would have said Pernille Blume from Denmark. Blume took plenty of time off the previous Danish record in the 50 to win the event in a time of 24.07. She beat the defending Olymipic champion, the favorite to win gold, and is now right in the mix as one of the best sprinters on the planet.
Penny Oleksiak (16)
Sixteen-year-old Penny Oleksiak dropped jaws this week at the Olympics by exceeding everyone’s expectations. She could very well be the next big thing in swimming after her performances at these games. The young Canadian earned four medals including two pieces of individual hardware. She finished second in the 10om fly and tied for first in the 100m freestyle, breaking both world junior records. Oleksiak is on the map as the biggest rising talent of this generation.
Simone Manuel (20)
Simone Manuel earned two individual medals at these games along with two relay medals bringing her total to two gold, two silver. Manuel tied with Oleksiak in the 100m freestyle to claim her first individual gold. She was also the first black woman to ever win an Olympic gold in swimming, breaking down stereotypes within our sport and inspiring the next generation of swimmers. Manuel also took silver in the 50m freestyle and looks to be one of the best sprinters in the world moving forward.
Dmitriy Balandin (21)
Dmitriy Balandin shocked the world in the 200m breaststroke, winning the race from an outside lane to win Kazakhstan’s first ever swimming medal. Balandin didn’t come into the Olympics as a nobody, sweeping the breaststrokes at the 2014 Asian Games. These were his first Olympics and the medal was his first piece of major international hardware.
Ryan Murphy (21)
Move over Aaron Peirsol, Ryan Murphy is the new king of backstroke. The young American managed to win both backstroke events at the Olympics, and took home a third gold as a member of the 4x100m medley relay. On the relay he broke the world record in the individual 100m backstroke with a time of 51.85, erasing the time Peirsol recorded in 2009.
Kyle Chalmers (18)
Australian Kyle Chalmers dropped out of school to focus on these Olympic Games and the result was an Olympic gold in swimming’s blue ribbon event, the 100m freestyle. Chalmers beat his fellow countrymen Cameron McEvoy who was favored to win gold, along with several other top level competitors. His impressive relay splits throughout the meet only furthered the fact that Chalmers, at just 18-years-old, is on the rise to being the undisputed best 100m freestyler in the world.
Joseph Schooling (21)
Joseph Schooling‘s fame stems from one race, the men’s 100m butterfly. In it, he took down Michael Phelps, and was the only man to be able to do so all week in Rio. Schooling won the event in a new textile best time of 50.39, erasing the 50.40 that Ian Crocker established back in 2005. Schooling won Singapore’s first swimming medal in the process and returned to his country a hero. The 50.39 puts Schooling into territory nobody has ever been in before.