Here is the rundown from 40 to 31.
41. Brendan Hansen – 2011 Highlight – Beating world champion Daniel Gyurta at the Duel in the Pool.
Hansen makes the list not so much for his performances, which still put him in the world top 10, but for the fact that of all the comebacks during the last two years, his has been by far the most successful. To be under 2:10 in the 200m Breast at this stage of Hansen’s return is scary. Hansen v Kitajima v Gyurta should be a classic, Tomita, von Lehm and Shanteau will all try to crash the party.
40. Camille Muffat – 2011 Highlight – Missing out on two silver medals in Shanghai by a combined 0.10 seconds.
This selection may raise a few eyebrows, especially considering that Kylie Palmer who finished ahead of Muffat in the 200 Free in Shanghai missed out on the Top 50. Muffat’s inclusion was based on her impressive last 12 months. The Nice trained swimmer is a model of consistency in middle distance Freestyle. In the last year she has registered 7 of the top 25 performances in the 200m Free and 6 in the 400 Free (including 3 of the top 7). Her 4:03.23 400 Free effort at French nationals puts her in elite company with Federica Pellegrini and Rebecca Adlington.
39. Paul Biedermann – 2011 Highlight – Silencing some of his critics by taking two bronze medals in Shanghai in two of the deepest events on the men’s side.
Biedermann, like Muffat, came back from Shanghai with two bronze medals, but when you consider the swimmers he beat on his way to those medals, his place in the Top 50 should become clearer: Park Tae-Hwan, Yannick Agnel, Nikita Lobintsev, Ous Mellouli, Peter Vanderkaay, Ryan Cochrane. It is also worth remembering that Michael Phelps beat Biedermann by just 0.09 in the 200m Free. His time of 1:44.88 moved him ahead of Pieter van den Hoogenband to
38. Takeshi Matsuda – 2011 Highlight – Leading the 200m Fly at 150m on his way to silver and the sixth fastest textile time time recorded (1:54.01).
It would take a brave man to bet against Michael Phelps in his pet event next year in London, however, there is no doubt that Matsuda has closed the gap on the Baltimore bullet. He was a strong final 50m away from the world title this year and closed the year in fine form with a stunning 1:49.50 200m Fly at the Tokyo World Cup leg. At this stage it would be a huge surprise to not see Matsuda on the podium in London next year.
37. Jessica Hardy – 2011 Highlight – Crushing team-mate and rival Rebecca Soni in the 100m Breast at the Duel in the Pool.
2011 was certainly a good year for Hardy. In April it was decided that she would be eligible for the London Olympics, she then won the 50m Breast in Shanghai in dominating fashion. She finishes the year ranked second in the 100m Breast long course and wasn’t far away from the world short course record at the Duel. Hardy is starting to look like the only legitimate challenger to Soni in the 100m Breast next year.
36. Kosuke Kitajima – 2011 Highlight – Winning silver in the 200m Breast in Shanghai (2:08.63).
A strange year for the Japanese star. The silver medal was impressive, but not up to Kitajima’s usual high standards. His failure to medal in the 100m Breast final was a shock and he has a long way to go to catch up with Alexander Dale-Oen. That being said he swum 59.44 at Japanese Nationals, one of three sub-60 seconds efforts in 2011, to go alongside two sub 2:09 200m Breast efforts. His old coach believes he has developed some technical flaws and you can be sure he will do everything in his power to iron those out before he goes for his third double gold in succession in London.
35. Fabio Scozzoli – 2011 Highlight – Making his breakthrough onto the world scene with his silver medal winning performance in the 100m Breast in Shanghai.
Scozzoli was one of the surprise performers of this year’s world championships. After winning silver in the 100m Breast in a time of 59.42, he followed up with another silver in the 50m Breast (27.17). Like the rest of the world he will need to find something extra to challenge Dale-Oen, but he has speed to burn and real potential to take some major scalps next year.
34. Konrad Czerniak – 2011 Highlight – Finishing behind Michael Phelps to win silver in the 100m Fly in Shanghai (51.15)
Czerniak is a name to remember (
33. Belinda Hocking – 2011 Highlight – Finishing second in the 200m Back in Shanghai. The only swimmer that was able to stay close to Missy Franklin.
If there was no Missy Franklin, we would be talking a lot more about Belinda Hocking. Her time of 2:06.06 was the 7th fastest time ever (3rd in textile behind two of Franklin’s efforts). Hocking was consistently fast all year with 5 of the top 25 times in the world, and showed her class in the 100m Back with a 6th placed finish in Shanghai in an impressive 59.53.
32. Ellen Gandy – 2011 Highlight – Finishing a finger nail away from gold in the 200m Fly at Worlds (2:05.59).
Gandy had a consistently strong lead up to Worlds and was able to banish some demons after under-performing in previous major championships. The wall came just too quickly for her in the final of the 200m Fly as she closed in on the fast fading Jiao Liuyang. Gandy was 0.04 seconds away from being a lot higher on this list. She also added a 5th placed finish in the 100m Fly (57.55).