As another year of great swimming comes to a close, here is a rundown of the Top 50 Swimmers of 2011. There is no set criteria, but clearly the World Championships in Shanghai carried a big weight in the decision making process. That being said, outstanding achievements away from Shanghai were still acknowledged.
Here is the rundown from 31 to 22.
31. Natalie Coughlin – 2011 Highlight – Leading off the US 4 x 100 Medley relay at Duel in the Pool in an American record 55.97, setting up the US team to break the world record.
Coughlin’s year was highlighted more by her contribution to a historically good US women’s medley relay (both long course and short course) than her individual exploits. Things were almost different when she came close to winning the 100m Back final finishing 0.10 shy of gold. Having led the entire race, she eventually had to settle for bronze. A solid lead-off for the US silver medal freestyle relay gave Coughlin the role of team player in 2011.
30. Yulia Efimova – 2011 Highlight – Reaching new heights in the 200m Breast, taking silver in 2:22.22.
Efimova emerged in 2011 as possibly the only swimmer that can challenge Rebecca Soni in the 200m Breast. Efimova split 1.2 seconds faster than Soni on the second 100m of the final and continues to learn how to swim the event after focusing for years on the 100m. The speed is still there, as evidenced by her silver in the 50m Breast and 4th place in the 100m Breast (missing a medal by 0.04).
29. Ryosuke Irie – 2011 Highlight – Winning silver in the 200m Back in Shanghai (1:54.08).
There is no more consistent swimmer than Ryosuke Irie. He owns an incredible 6 of the fastest 7 swims this year in the 200m Back. Unfortunately he has to race a certain Ryan Lochte, but swimming his fastest time of the year in the world final was a step forward. He also owns 8 of the top 14 times in the 100m Back and picked up a bronze in Shanghai.
28. Sarah Sjöström – 2011 Highlight – Setting the new textile best time in the 100m Free in a time of 53.05.
Sjöström put behind her trio of 4th placed finishes in Shanghai (50m Fly, 100m Fly and 200m Free) to end the year with a bang. Her time of 53.05 in the 100m Free this month puts her well clear of the rest of the world this year and into the driving seat ahead of next year’s Olympics. No longer just a 100m Fly specialist, Sjöström is emerging as an extremely versatile swimmer who can do some damage in a number of events.
27. Ranomi Kromowidjojo – 2011 Highlight – Silver medal in the 50m Free at Worlds (24.27).
Another strong year for Kromowidjojo, although she saw a slight drop off from her dominant 2010. She would have hoped for more than a bronze in the 100m Free, but was able to play a key role in the 4 x 100m Free relay with the second fastest split for the Dutch team. She also had a strong end to the year both long course (3rd fastest time in the 50m Free in December) and short course (world leading time in the 100m Free at Duel in the Pool).
26. Femke Heemskerk – 2011 Highlight – A stunning 52.46 relay split to lead the Dutch 4 x 100 Free team to victory.
Make no mistake, Heemskerk won the 4 x 100 Free relay for the Dutch. She took over 0.3 seconds behind Dana Vollmer and just blew the American out of the water. Things didn’t go quite according to plan in her individual events with a 4th and 7th place in the 100m Free and 200m Free respectively. Those results don’t tell the whole story though; in the 200m Free semi final she posted an eye opening 1:55.54 (faster than Federica Pellegrini’s winning time). Heemskerk was quick all year long and even posted a 1:00.03 in the 100m Back in March.
25. Alicia Coutts – 2011 Highlight – Finishing 2nd in the 200m IM in Shanghai in 2:09.00, the 2nd fastest textile time and 7th all-time.
Coutts was Shanghai’s hard luck loser, she returned home with two silver medals and missed out on two golds by a combined 0.17 seconds. Just a fraction of a second quicker in both races would have vaulted her into the top 10 of this list. Both her 100m Fly and 200m IM ranked Coutts amongst the all-time top 10 performers. She also finished 6th in the 100m Free final.
24. Anastasia Zueva– 2011 Highlight – Missing gold in the 100m Back final by 0.01 seconds.
Tough to call missing gold by one hundredth of a second a highlight, but it was Zueva’s best swim of the year. Zueva is one of the few swimmers in the world who can break 60 seconds in the 100 Back with regularity and has 3 of the top 10 swims this year. Her gold in the 50m Back in a time of 27.79 was a nice bonus.
22= Aleksandra Herasimenia – 2011 Highlight – Causing the shock of the World Championships by claiming a joint gold in the 100m Free final with Jeanette Ottesen.
Swimming from lane 8 in the 100m Free final, Herasimenia caught everyone except Ottesen (swimming in lane 6) off guard. Taking down a loaded field including Kromowidjojo, Halsall, Heemskerk, Coutts, Vollmer and Coughlin is enough to get you to the lofty heights of 21st place on this list. She also finished 5th in the 50m Free final and was part of an unofficial world record as a member of the European 4 x 100m Free at Duel in the Pool.
22= Jeanette Ottesen - – 2011 Highlight – Causing the shock of the World Championships by claiming a joint gold in the 100m Free final with Aleksandra Herasimenia.
See above. Ottesen also finished 6th in the 50m Free and was part of the same unofficial world record as a member of the European 4 x 100m Free at Duel in the Pool. Had a strong SC season winning the 50m Fly and 100m Fly at Euro SC as well as helping the Danish team to the 4 x 50m Medley title.