Monday, 31 December 2012

Top 50 Swimmers of 2012 - 30 to 21

The second annual Speed Endurance Top 50 Swimmers of the Year is upon us. There is no set-in-stone criteria, but as you would expect, this year the Olympic Games carried the most weight in the decision making process. Other outstanding achievements away from London were also acknowledged, but it took an extraordinary feat to better an Olympic medallist. Also worth noting, relay medals alone were not valued highly, however race-changing relay contributions were.

 The third part of the list takes us from 30 to 21...

30. Satomi Suzuki - 2012 Highlight - Riding Rebecca Soni's waves in the 200 breast to win silver, equalling the Asian record of 2:20.72 in the process

Suzuki had her major international breakthrough this summer in London. Her bronze in the 100 breaststroke was a surprise, but her 200 breaststroke was the star making swim. Suzuki was never more than 0.75 seconds behind Soni for the first 150m and finished just 1.13 seconds back from Soni's world record breaking swim.  Still just 21 years of age, it will be fascinating to see what kind of progress the Japanese breaststroker can make at Worlds in 2013.

29. Alicia Coutts - 2012 Highlight - Swimming the sixth fastest 200 IM in history en route to a silver medal in London

Coutts came home from London with quite the medal haul. In individual events she collected silver in the 200 IM, and added a bronze in the 100 fly (moving to 8th on the all-time list). She also had some fine relay swims in each of the Aussie women's three relays collecting a further gold and two silvers. Coutts is becoming one of the most dependable swimmers in major championships having been a multiple medallist at Pan Pacs, Commonwealths, Worlds and now Olympics. The only medal missing from her collection is an individual gold from Worlds or Olympics.

28. Park Tae-Hwan - 2012 Highlight - Finishing equal second with Sun Yang in the Olympic 200 freestyle final

The Korean superstar didn't manage to equal the success he had in Beijing where he won gold and silver, but returning home with two silver medals was still a tremendous result.  After being reinstated after a false start disqualification was overturned in the 400 freestyle heats, he led the final for 300m, before Sun Yang turned on the afterburners in the final 100m. He swam a well paced 200 freestyle to finish behind Yannick Agnel, tied with Sun Yang and ahead of both Ryan Lochte and Paul Biedermann. Park also finished 4th in the 1500 final.

27. Emily Seebohm - 2012 Highlight - Getting within 0.11 of the 100 backstroke world record in the 100 backstroke heats in London

Gemma Spofforth's world record of 58.11 seemed like a mark that would last some time before Seebohm gave it an almighty rattle in her 100 back heat swim. Unfortunately she wasn't able to improve on her heat time and ended up with silver in the 100 back, silver in the 4x100 medley relay (as well as gold from her heat swim in the 4x100 freestyle relay). Seebohm may have been a victim of her own early speed. After the stunning heat swim, all attention in the 100 back shifted from Missy Franklin to Seebohm, and gave Franklin a rabbit to chase. Seebohm left London in the knowledge that her heat swim remained the fastest 100 back swam in London. The swimming world can look forward to a Franklin-Seebohm rematch at Worlds.

26. Mireia Belmonte Garcia - 2012 Highlight - Swimming a tactically brilliant 800 freestyle to win silver ahead of home favourite Rebecca Adlington

Belmonte Garcia was not expected to factor in the 800 free podium in London. That seemed to be the territory of Adlington, Katie Ledecky and Lotte Friis. Instead, the Spaniard crashed the party with her steady pacing. Running 5th all the way to 450m, she then moved up to 4th before taking 3rd from Friis at 600m. At 700m she picked off Adlington, finishing with the silver in a time of 8:18.76. Her other silver medal in the 200 fly was equally as impressive and also involved beating more fancied rivals. Her national record of 2:05.25 placed her ahead of Hoshi, Hershey, Adams, Lowe, Jakabos and Zige. Belmonte Garcia became the first Spanish swimmer to win two Olympic medals.

25. Michael Jamieson - 2012 Highlight - Just running out of pool as he closed down Daniel Gyurta in the 200 breaststroke

Jamieson was one of the revelations of the Olympics and finished with Britain's highest place of the Games. Qualifying fastest for the 200 breast final opened many peoples eyes, but the race was still expected to be between Gyurta and Kosuke Kitajima. Jamieson tracked Gyurta for the first 150m before taking half a second out of the Hungarian's lead on the final 50m. Ending up just 0.15 shy of Gyurta and his new world record, he became (at the time) the 4th fastest ever in the event and second fastest ever in textile. He also picked up silver in Istanbul at World SC in a loaded final, losing out to Gyurta once again.

24. Aliaksandra Herasimenia - 2012 Highlight - Racing to a national record of 24.28 in the 50 freestyle, picking up her second silver medal from London

The reigning co-world champion in the 100 free, Herasimenia proved that Shanghai was no fluke. Only Ranomi Kromowidjojo stood in her way in London as she picked up silvers in the 50 free and 100 free. In Kromowidjojo's absence she won the world short course title in the 50 free in Istanbul to complete a great year for the Belarussian. 2012 was the year that Herasimenia confirmed her status as one of the world's premier sprinters.

23. Akihiro Yamaguchi - 2012 Highlight - Shocking the world with his 2:07.01 world record in the 200 breaststroke at the Japan Open

Yamaguchi was a difficult man to place in this list. His ranking comes down to how highly you value world records. The 18-year-old missed out on a place in London, but made sure the world didn't forget about him by blowing away Daniel Gyurta's world record before the ink had even dried in the record book. He finished 4th in his first global final in Istanbul, just shy of Jamieson and Viatcheslav Sinkevich. The emergence of the young Japanese breaststroker has made the men's 200 breaststroke one of the must-see events in world swimming as we enter 2013.

22. James Magnussen - 2012 Highlight - Getting within touching distance of the 100 freestyle world record with his 47.10 from Australian Olympic Trials

Another of the most difficult swimmers to place in the top 50 list. He was 0.01 second away from being much higher in this list. Firstly, the positives. Magnussen's 47.10 swim is a strong candidate for swim of the year. It changed the world's image of what was possible in the 100 freestyle. London didn't go well for Magnussen though. Picking up silver in 47.53, just a hundredth of a second behind winner Nathan Adrian was not what the Missile would have expected. That final came after an underwhelming 48.03 lead-off in the 4x100 freestyle, where the hot-favourite Australian team had to settle for fourth. All in all a frustrating Olympics for Magnussen, but he still ends the year 0.42 clear of the rest of the world after that stunning 47.10 effort.

21. Tyler Clary - 2012 Highlight - Beating long-time rivals Ryan Lochte and Ryosuke Irie to win gold in the 200 backstroke in London

Clary missed out on Olympic qualification for the 400 IM, instead making the team in the 200 fly and 200 back. His fifth place in the 200 fly was solid, but he was well out of the medal hunt. Then came his 200 back final. The seemingly invincible Ryan Lochte led to 150m, but Clary never let his compatriot get away. Clary closed Lochte down for the entire second 100m of the race and eventually moved clear on the final length to record one of the biggest upsets of the Olympic Games. With Michael Phelps out of the picture in many of Clary's events, he should have his pick of races in 2013.

Top 50 so far...

50. Brendan Hansen
49. Oussama Mellouli
48. Yulia Efimova
47. Aya Terakawa
46. Cesar Cielo
45. Yevgeny Korotyshkin
44. Katinka Hosszu
43. Melanie Schlanger
42. Lu Ying
41. Vladimir Morozov
40. Nick Thoman
39. Thiago Pereira
38. Cullen Jones
37. Ryan Cochrane
36. Takeshi Matsuda
35. Christian Sprenger
34. Anastasia Zueva
33. Rebecca Adlington
32. Elizabeth Beisel
31. Ryosuke Irie
30. Satomi Suzuki
29. Alicia Coutts
28. Park Tae-Hwan
27. Emily Seebohm
26. Mireia Belmonte Garcia
25. Michael Jamieson
24. Aliaksandra Herasimenia
23. Akihiro Yamaguchi
22. James Magnussen
21. Tyler Clary


  1. Coutts should be way higher, she is at least top 20. She is definitely more impressive and successful than 21-29

  2. Coutts is a fantastic swimmer, but which of the 21 individual Olympic gold medallists does she deserve to be ahead of? Out of the 28 swimmers ahead of her, I would probably rank her ahead of Jamieson and Herasimenia, but it's very subjective there were quite simply a lot of top quality swims this year!

    Also @speed_endurance, you've made Coutts 30th and Suzuki 29th on your "Top 50 so far" list at the bottom, a slight oversight I'm assuming, not a change of heart!