Top 51 Swimmer of 2011 - 51 to 42
Top 51 Swimmer of 2011 - 41 to 32
Top 51 Swimmer of 2011 - 31 to 22
Top 51 Swimmer of 2011 - 21 to 11
The wait is over, here are the Top 10 Swimmers of 2011
10. Rebecca Adlington – 2011 Highlight – Victory in the 800m Free in Shanghai in a time of 8:17.51.
Winning another global title in the 800m Free was a great way for Adlington to regain her self-belief going into 2012, and she did it in style. After tracking Lotte Friis for the entire race, she put on the burners in the last 50m with a split of 28.91. She also made a step forward in the 400m with a time of 4:02.84 at British Nationals. While she wasn’t able to reproduce that time in the 400 final, she still swam well enough to win the silver medal. Adlington still needs to find a second to get down to Pellegrini’s winning time from Shanghai in the 400 Free, but all signs are pointing in the right direction ahead of a home Olympics.
9. Dana Vollmer – 2011 Highlight – New textile best time in the 100m Fly semi in Shanghai (56.47)
Vollmer's 56.47 was one of swimming's most unexpected performances of 2011. It was not that she was unfancied to win the 100m Fly, but to swim the 5th fastest time ever and give a seemingly untouchable world record a scare certainly did come as a shock. Vollmer dropped a clue back in April when she swam 57.5 untapered. The American also had a great year as part of a dominant USA 4 x 100 Medley team that shook the LC world record and broke the record SC. She also had a strong anchor leg in the 4 x 100 Free relay and would have won gold for the USA, had she not come up against Femke Heemskerk on top form.
8. Federica Pellegrini – 2011 Highlight – Utter dominance in the second half of the women’s 400m Free final (4:01.97)
In the Shanghai 400m Free final, Pellegrini swam a tactically perfect race. By keeping pace with the field until 200m (turned 5th in 2:02.30) and then unleashing an incredible 1:59.67 last 200m split she nullified all her opponents weapons and played to all of her strengths. The performance was so good, that if she swims the exact same race this summer you couldn't see anyone getting past her. She then backed up her 400 win with a victory in the 200m Free with another tactical masterclass. This time she didn't panic when Femke Heemskerk went out in world record pace, instead she put in her burst between 100m and 150m. The Italian is going to have company in the form of Missy Franklin in the 200m Free and may struggle to win the double in London, but 2011 was a masterclass in middle distance Freestyle from Pellegrini.
7. Rebecca Soni – 2011 Highlight – Clear victory in the 100m Breast at Worlds (1:05.05), just missing the textile best time she set in the semi final (1:04.91)
After Soni's incredible 2010, her two victories in Shanghai were fully expected. That doesn't take anything away from the swims though. Her semi final and final efforts in the 100m Breast were the 3rd and 6th fastest swims in history respecively. Her 200m Breast was the 11th fastest swim in history, albeit slightly down on her time from 2010. Like Vollmer, she also gets a bump for being part of the US 4 x 100 Medley team. A word of warning though, Soni was slower in both finals than the semis. With Hardy and Efimova seemingly closing the gap on Soni, she will need to be at her best when it matters in London.
6. Alexander Dale Oen – 2011 Highlight – His emotion charged win in the 100m Breast final in Shanghai (58.71)
Dale Oen's 100m Breast win was arguably swimming’s highlight of the year. After the tragic events in his native Norway, this was the definitive example of swimming for your country. Dale Oen had been in fine form just before Worlds with a unshaved sub-60 second effort, but getting within 0.13 seconds of the world record was truly stunning. How charged up was Dale Oen for the final? He split 27.20 at 50m, faster than his effort in the 50m and would have missed a medal in the 50m Breast by just 0.01. He may not have had the multiple medals of some of the other swimmers behind him on the list, but his one moment was enough to vault him this high up on the list. Clear favourite for this event in London, it might take a WR to beat him.
5. Michael Phelps – 2011 Highlight – Setting a new personal best in the 200 IM, just 0.16 shy of Lochte.
It speaks volumes about the quality of swimming this year that Phelps, who won four golds, two silvers and a bronze in Shanghai, only makes it to 5 on this list. He won his two Fly events with ease, played his part in two relay victories and finished behind only Ryan Lochte in the 200m Free and 200m IM. However, given the standards that we expect from the man, this year felt like at best a return to form, most likely a transition year, and at worst a down year. The highlight of his year came in a non-winning swim in the 200m IM, clearly Lochte was in better shape than Phelps, but MP was still able to push himself on to a new best time in the event. That swim spoke of two things, his focus on speed is helping his 200 events and that his competitive nature will ensure that he will be much improved in 2012. For anyone that believes Lochte is a lock in the 200 Free and 200 IM next year, watch out.
4. James Magnussen – 2011 Highlight – Shocking the world with his incredible 47.49 relay lead off in the 4 x 100m Free, dominating Michael Phelps and Alain Bernard in the process.
Like Dale Oen, Magnussen doesn't have the quantity of success as others below him on the list, but each time he swam the 100m Free in Shanghai, he was electric. He also single handedly changed the way people look at race pace in swimming's blue-ribbon event. During his textile best time of 47.49 he went out in 23.10 (compared to Cesar Cielo's 22.6 in the 100m Free final), Magnussen was then a man possessed on the way home splitting 24.39. The swim seemed to inspire his relay colleagues to raise their performance as they won gold from the French and the Americans. After the relay lead-off, he became the hot favourite for the 100m Free, and he did not disappoint winning by 0.32 seconds. While he wasn't able to catch Nathan Adrian in the 4 x 100m Medley relay, he came a lot closer than anyone could have expected with a 47.00 leg. Hot favourite for gold next year, although he does now have a target on his back and others will try to come up with a game plan to counter his second half surge.
3. Missy Franklin – 2011 Highlight – The 200m Back final in Shanghai, while she just missed the world record, it was a swim that announced to the world that she was a superstar.
Missy Franklin was a revelation in 2011. After a promising 2010, Franklin improved as many 15/16 year olds do, with the only difference being that Missy Franklin was already a world class swimmer before the huge improvements. The end results were as follows: a short course world record in the 200m Back, getting to within 0.29 of the long course world record, leading the world rankings in the 200m Free by half a second, being 0.13 seconds away from the world no.1 in the 100 Back despite not racing the event in Shanghai, 7th in the world in the 100m Free, . The list could go on and on including her impressive early and late year form. What are the odds that next year this number 3 place turns into number 1?
2. Ryan Lochte – 2011 Highlight – Setting the first long course WR since the suit ban in the 200m IM, holding off Phelps in the process.
On accomplishments alone, Lochte has the right to feel aggrieved at not being number one. He went undefeated in Shanghai. He won the 200m Free comfortably, the event most stacked with talent and stars on the men's side, he broke the first post-suits long course world record in the 200m IM, beating Michael Phelps in the process. He wasn't challenged in the 200m Back or the 400 IM and posted the fastest split in the 4 x 200m Free relay. Lochte is a star and will receive a lot of hype in the lead-up to the Olympics, however, he may have two potential stumbling blocks as he aims for Phelps-like adoration from general public in London. He needs to find a way to get on to the 100m relays and he needs to hold off an improving Phelps. After picking 49 swimmers, the decision for number 1 and 2 was by far the most difficult.
1. Sun Yang – 2011 Highlight – The last 50m of his record breaking 1500m Free. One of the most remarkable finishes to a race the sport has ever seen.
Sun Yang is your number 1 swimmer of 2011 for one reason, history. He did not win the golds that Lochte did, but Sun Yang had two historic swims during 2011. The first was his 1500m Free in Shanghai. Having been 2-3 seconds down on world record pace throughout the race, he started to increase his speed at 1400m, what happened between 1450m and 1500m will not be easily forgotten. Finishing in 25.94 with what looked like a jet engine on his back, he cleared Grant Hackett's 10 year old world record. That closing split was faster than Lochte, Phelps and any other man in the 200m Free final.
The second swim came in September when he rattled Paul Biedermann's 3:40.07 400m Free world record (and Ian Thorpe's 3:40.08 textile record) with a 3:40.29 effort. The 400m Free world record is one of the most emotive in the sport and for Sun Yang to get so close in a pair of jammers is incredible. There is an argument to be made that the 400 was a better swim even than his 1500 WR. Add in the fact that Sun Yang broke 1:45 in the 200m Free (there are reports he is capable of 48-low in the 100m Free) and you have a spectacular year.
The only black mark against Sun Yang was his 400m Free silver in Shanghai which he blamed on a lack of experience, something that he will be desperate to put right in London. Two world records are under threat, and if he adds the 200m Free to his schedule, we are going to be in store for some great racing in just over 200 days time.