Saturday, 29 December 2012

Top 50 Swimmers of 2012 - 40 to 31

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 second part of the list takes us from 40 to 31...

40. Nick Thoman - 2012 Highlight - Being the '2' of the USA's 1-2 in the men's 100 backstroke final in London.

Thoman gets bonus points for having to come through a loaded US trials final to make the US Olympic team. David Plummer was sub-53 seconds in Omaha, with Ben Hesen 4th in 53.0, but Thoman's 52.86 booked his ticket. With his 52.92 swim in the Olympic final he took the silver medal getting the better of a some big name rivals including Ryosuke Irie, Camille Lacourt, Liam Tancock and Helge Meeuw. Thoman's year has undoubtedly been overshadowed by Matt Grevers, but he deserves his spot in the top 50.

39. Thiago Pereira - 2012 Highlight - Finishing as the highest placed Brazilian in London with his silver medal in the 400 IM.

Despite finishing behind Ryan Lochte by over three and a half seconds, Pereira was still good enough to pick up the silver medal ahead of the likes of Michael Phelps, Chad le Clos and Kosuke Hagino. Having finished 5th in the 200 IM in Athens and 4th in Beijing, Pereira's hard work payed off as he finally secured an Olympic medal at the third time of trying. His poor freestyle leg came back to haunt him in the 200 IM final as he turned 2nd at 150m, only to be passed by both Michael Phelps and Laszlo Cseh to drop him down to fourth.

38. Cullen Jones - 2012 Highlight - Getting his hand on the wall second in the hotly contested 50 freestyle final in London.

Florent Manaudou's heroics may have led some to overlook Cullen Jones' first Olympic medal in an individual event. Jones was able to match his semi-final time to finish 2nd in the final ahead of Cesar Cielo, Bruno Fratus, Anthony Ervin, Roland Schoeman, George Bovell and Eamon Sullivan. He also swam a fine 47.60 leg in the USA's silver medal winning 4x100 free relay. He showed good resilience to come back after he placed 16th in the 100 free semis.

37. Ryan Cochrane - 2012 Highlight - Staying with Sun Yang for 600m before finishing with silver in the 1500 freestyle in London

The 1500 was expected to be a formality for Sun Yang, but Ryan Cochrane kept the final interesting for 600m. Despite being dropped by the Chinese champion, he still held on valiantly for silver and became the fourth fastest 1500 swimmer in history (third fastest in textile). Along with Ous Mellouli, Cochrane ensured that the London podium was two thirds the same as in Beijing. Cochrane also just missed out on the 400 final by 0.01 seconds, finishing 9th after the heats.

36. Takeshi Matsuda - 2012 Highlight - Playing a big part in one of the most exciting races of London 2012 with his bronze in the 200 butterfly

Matsuda ran out of steam a couple of metres out from the wall, otherwise he might have been the man to take down Michael Phelps in his signature event. Instead he finished third in 1:53.21, the fourth fastest performance in textile. Matsuda's 51.20 fly leg (1.16 seconds faster than his individual 100 fly) in the 4x100 medley relay also gave Japan enough of a cushion over Australia and James Magnussen for them to hang on for silver.

35. Christian Sprenger - 2012 Highlight - Breaking 59 seconds in the 100 breaststroke to pick up an Olympic silver medal

Sprenger had looked strong in the heats (fastest qualifier) and semi (winning semi-final 2), but it still came as a big surprise to see the Australian break through 59 seconds to win silver behind Cameron van der Burgh's world record. In the two years after the tech-suits were banned, Sprenger hadn't been back under the minute barrier in the 100 breast, but in 2012 it all came good swimming under the mythical barrier 5 times. Sprenger split 59.05 in the 4x100 Medley relay for the bronze medal winning Australia, but was out-split by Kosuke Kitajima (58.64), with Japan taking silver.

34. Anastasia Zueva - 2012 Highlight - Bouncing back from 4th in the 100 backstroke to win silver in the 200 back

After finishing 4th and 5th in Beijing in the backstrokes and 4th in London in the 100 back, Zueva must have been cursing her Olympic luck, which made her silver medal in the 200 backstroke all the more impressive. After 150m of the final, the race for silver looked wide open, but Zueva mustered the fastest closing 50 of the race to finish behind Missy Franklin. She became only the second woman in history to dip under 2:06 in textile (the other being Franklin).

33. Rebecca Adlington - 2012 Highlight - Her hard fought bronze in the 400 freestyle in a time of 4:03.01

Adlington's double bronze performance in London confirmed her status as Britain's most successful ever Olympic swimmer and was a fine return. The only disappointment came from the fact that she had been faster in both the 400 and 800 free at British trials back in March, something that plighted most of the British team in London. Given the form of Camille Muffat and Allison Schmitt it would have been a tall order to improve on her bronze in the 400 free. In the 800 free the silver escaped her grasp, but the gold was always going to be difficult with the form of Katie Ledecky on the day. Post-Olympics Adlington cycled 450km through Zambia for charity, which unfortunately does not count towards this list.

32. Elizabeth Beisel - 2012 Highlight - Her silver medal in the 400 IM. It took Ye Shiwen's world record to beat her.

After her stunning 400 IM world title in Shanghai, Beisel was the heavy favourite going into London. Unfortunately she came up against Ye Shiwen and her incredible 4:28.43 world record. Beisel swam a tremendous race, leading at 300m by 0.8 seconds. She finished half a second faster than her winning time from Shanghai. She ends the year with 3 of the top 5 swims in the 400 IM. She also picked up a second individual medal with bronze in the 200 backstroke behind Franklin and Zueva. 

31. Ryosuke Irie - 2012 Highlight - Beating Ryan Lochte in the Olympic 200 backstroke final, ending up with the silver medal

After finishing 5th as an 18 year old in Beijing, Irie put together 4 tremendous years in the run up to London. Irie's consistency has been tremendous and he owns 5 of the top 10 200 back swims this year. In London he was able to save his fastest swim of the year for the Olympic final (1:53.78, the third fastest swim in textile). Going into the final he must have thought that if he beat Lochte, the gold would be his, but unfortunately Tyler Clary scuppered that for him. Irie also picked up bronze in the 100 back final with a sub-53 second swim and gave Japan a great launching pad in the 4x100 medley relay that won silver with a 52.92 lead-off (slightly faster than his individual final time).

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

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