Friday, 28 December 2012

Top 50 Swimmers of 2012 - 50 to 41

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 were not valued highly, however race-changing relay contributions were.

Thanks for reading Speed Endurance in 2012, we look forward to welcoming you back next year. Let's get this list started...

50. Brendan Hansen - 2012 Highlight - Exacting revenge on long-time arch rival Kosuke Kitajima to win bronze in the 100 breaststroke in London

While some of his breaststroke rivals were under-performing in London, Hansen saved the best swim of his superb comeback to the sport for the Olympic final. Hansen's bronze medal winning time, 59.49, was the exact same time that Cameron van der Burgh (who will feature higher up this list) swam in Shanghai at Worlds last year to also win bronze. Repetitive numbers were a theme for Hansen this year as his wife gave birth to a baby girl on 12-12-12. Hansen also swam a sharp 59.19 breaststroke relay leg as part of the gold medal winning USA medley relay team.

49. Oussama Mellouli - 2012 Highlight - For the sake of this list (pool accomplishments only), Mellouli's highlight was his hard earned bronze medal in the 1500 freestyle in London.

Despite losing his Olympic crown to Sun Yang, Mellouli actually swam faster in London than he did in Beijing four years earlier. Finishing a full 10 seconds ahead of fourth placed Park Tae Hwan, Mellouli confirmed his status as one of the great distance freestyle swimmers the sport has seen. Had he taken part in the 400 freestyle, he would have had a great shot at the bronze medal... and a sizeable jump up this list.

48. Yulia Efimova - 2012 Highlight - Winning bronze in the Olympic 200 breaststroke final, the fastest women's 200 breaststroke final of all-time.

Efimova, along with Satomi Suzuki (silver), made the 200 breaststroke final a lot closer than many had expected it to be. While Rebecca Soni was setting a new world record, Efimova had the fastest closing 50m leg of the entire final to win bronze and set a new European record of 2:20.92. Efimova's closing 50m was enough to just push Denmark's Rikke Moller Pedersen, 4th in London and World SC champion, out of the Top 50 and onto the bubble. A disappointing 7th in the 100 breaststroke halted Efimova's rise further up the list.

47. Aya Terakawa - 2012 Highlight -  Securing the bronze medal in the 100 backstroke in London, one of the most hotly contested finals on the women's side

At the age of 28, Terakawa finally won a medal at a major global championships. A model of consistent swimming for years, she was able to save her fastest swim of the year for when it mattered the most. Swimming 59.3 or quicker 6 times in 2012, she also set up the Japanese women's bronze medal winning 4x100 Medley relay team with a great lead-off leg.

46. Cesar Cielo - 2012 Highlight - 21.38 in the 50 freestyle at the Maria Lenk Trophy in April. A new textile best time for the Brazilan superstar.

I've chosen Cielo's highlight of the year as his lightning fast swim from the Maria Lenk Trophy, rather than his bronze medal in the 50 free in London. Although the medal was one of only two Brazilian medals from London, Cielo would have hoped for a shinier colour. Having been the dominant sprinter for the last Olympic cycle, he didn't get it right in the Olympic final finishing in 21.59. He does end the year ranked second in the world, just 0.04 behind Florent Manaudou's textile best time from London. Cielo will need to produce something special in 2013 to regain his sprint dominance with Manaudou (and if Istanbul is anything to go by, Morozov) ready to take over. Cesão will turn 26 in January, he's got a lot of years left in the tank. The emerging competition in the men's 50 free makes it one of the most fascinating events in swimming right now.

45. Yevgeny Korotyshkin - 2012 Highlight - From lane 8 in the 100 butterfly final, finishing with a joint second place finish with Chad le Clos

During the 100 fly final in London, all eyes were focused on lanes 4 and 5 (Phelps and le Clos), with some added spice coming from early leader Milorad Cavic (lane 6) and Tyler McGill (lane 3). After qualifying eighth for the 100 fly final, Korotyshkin executed his race perfectly. He turned in fourth, ahead of Phelps and le Clos, but as the rest of the field dropped back, the Russian showed great strength on the final 50m. Only Phelps got past the veteran Russian flyer. Undoubtedly McGill and Cavic underperformed in the final, but when you are just 0.23 seconds behind Michael Phelps, and tie with Chad le Clos, both of whom will feature much higher in this list, you've done well. Korotyshkin finished the year by becoming European SC champion in the 100 fly.

44. Katinka Hosszu - 2012 Highlight - Cashing in the $100,000 cheque for winning the Top Female award on the FINA World Cup circuit

Hosszu had a disappointing Olympic games. Her best result came in the 400 IM when she finished 4th, however the time she swam at the Indianapolis Grand Prix in March would have been good enough for bronze (the same could also be said for Hannah Miley and her time from GB trials). She then finished 8th in the 200 IM, 3 seconds adrift of the rest of the field and failed to qualify for the 200 butterfly final. The Olympics were an unfortunate aberration in an otherwise stupendous year. She was USC's star performer at NCAAs, a triple European LC and SC champion and the star of the World Cup meets. The pinnacle of her year came at the recent World SC when she set a new meet record of 2:02.20 in the 200 butterfly, beating Olympic champion Jiao Liuyang in the process.

43. Melanie Schlanger - 2012 Highlight - Anchoring Australia's gold medal winning 4x100 freestyle relay, holding off a fast charging Ranomi Kromowidjojo

This selection may raise some eyebrows given that Schlanger did not win any individual medals in London. Not that she didn't come close, just 0.03 seconds away from bronze in 100 free final. Schlanger makes this list for her three relay swims. As I mention above, relay medals alone won't get you a place in the Top 50, but outstanding relay performances will. In the 4x200 free relay Schlanger, a 100 specialist, had Australia's fastest split, and with the help of Bronte Barratt had the AUS team 0.6seconds ahead of USA after two legs.  They went on to win silver. In the 4x100 medley relay, another silver for Australia, Schlanger had the fastest freestyle split of the entire race. Finally, the 4x100 freestyle relay. Schlanger had a 1.36 second lead over the Netherlands when she took over, seemingly insurmountable, but then Ranomi Kromowidjojo split a sensational 51.93. Had Schlanger split 53.30 (faster than every USA relay split) Australia would have lost their only gold of the games, however Schlanger kept her cool and raced to a superb 52.65 final split. Kromowidjojo and Schlanger were the only two swimmers to break 53 seconds in the free relay.

42. Lu Ying - 2012 Highlight - Beating the more fancied Alicia Coutts and Sarah Sjostrom to win silver in the Olympic 100 butterfly final 

Lu Ying converted her World bronze medal from Shanghai into a silver in London. After a strong heat swim, followed by a less than convincing semi-final, she saved her best swim for the final to beat out Coutts for the silver 56.87 to 56.94. Lu Ying finished the year strongly with victory in the 50 butterfly at the World Short Course Championships in Istanbul (25.14), that came after she had crashed out of the 100 fly in the heats.

41. Vladimir Morozov - 2012 Highlight - Breaking out as the next sprint freestyle star at the World Short Course Championships

Morozov doesn't make the list for his Olympic exploits, although he was a part of Russia's bronze medal winning 4x100 freestyle relay. Instead he breaks into the Top 50 for his stunning 50 free (20.55), 100 free (45.65) double in Istanbul as well as an even faster relay lead off of 45.52. His sheer speed on top of the water is frightening, at the Euro SC and World SC he was swimming away from world class sprinters. 2013 should be an even brighter year for the 20 year old from Siberia, via Southern California.

On the bubble

Bronte Barratt, Natsumi Hoshi, Rikke Moller Pedersen, Ryo Tateishi, Laszlo Cseh, Clement Lefert, Kosuke Hagino, Caitlin Leverenz, Peter Vanderkaay, Brent Hayden, Yi Tang, Marleen Veldhuis, Li Xuanxu, Hannah Miley, Alia Atkinson, Olivia Smoliga, Mie Nielsen, Ilaria Bianchi

Interesting note - If last year is anything to go by, being in the 41-50 range is a great stepping stone for future success. Olympic champions included in this tier last year: Yannick Agnel, Cameron van der Burgh & Tyler Clary.


  1. Great, I was hoping you'd do one of these this year! So many people have had incredible seasons, I bet you're looking forward to that top 20. I can think of decent arguments for an American, Chinese or even French 1-2, not to mention the dominant Dutchwoman and some stunning South African swims... Good luck pleasing everyone!

    (side note, I reckon you could put Akihiro Yamaguchi pretty much anywhere in the next 30 spots with little complaint - didn't qualify for the Olympics, broke the WR, then beaten comfortably in Istanbul)

  2. The top 10 is likely to include
    Missy Franklin
    Rebecca Soni
    Michael Phelps
    Dana Vollmer
    Yannick Agnel
    Ranomi Kromowidjodjo
    Sun Yang
    Ye Shiwen
    Ryan Lochte/Allison Schmitt
    Camille Muffat
    ...not necessarily i that order

  3. can u post other list too? we are waiting to see it here.

  4. Your top 10 is pretty likely, but don't forget that Daniel Gyurta and Cameron van der Burgh, like Vollmer, won 1 individual Olympic gold in WR time, and Chad Le Clos beat Michael Phelps at 200 Fly. No one beats Michael Phelps at 200 Fly. (Also Gyurta and Le Clos have swum very well in other competitions this year, although it looks like they don't matter much, seeing as Katinka Hosszu is down in 44th)

  5. Vollmer also swam very well on the US medley relay. Gyurta and Leclos were phenomenal. However Cameron vanderburghs victory was controversial because of "illegal" underwater dolphin kicks...

  6. Yes I suppose, although apparently everyone does them. Look at 2:40 on this video of Yamaguchi's WR swim, for example

  7. I can’t imagine Sun Yang, Missy Franklin, and Michael Phelps not being placed in the top three.

    Sun has 4 medals: 2 golds (1 WR and 1 OR) and 1 silver in individual events, and 1 relay bronze.

    Franklin has 5 medals: 2 individual golds (1 WR), 2 golds (1 WR and 1 OR) and 1 bronze in relays.

    Phelps has 6 medals: 2 golds and 1 silver in individual events, 2 golds and 1 bronze in relays.

    Sun and Phelps both have the same highest number of individual medals among all swimmers in London. Sun broke 1 WR in the most striking fashion and came within a whisker of another WR. Phelps didn’t break any record but in the two individual events he won, he did it at 3 consecutive Olympics.

    Since relay medals are not valued highly, Franklin is at a slight disadvantage here. I’ll consider Phelps for the top spot from a historical perspective, but in the realm of annual performance, I give Sun Yang the nod.

  8. Based on last year's list, which ranked quality/importance of swims over quantity of medals, I'm backing Ranomi Kromowidjojo for a top 3 spot ahead of Phelps. 2 individual golds (both OR), 2 textile best times (her 52.75 earlier in the year was pretty remarkable), and a monstrous relay split which almost snatched a gold there too.

    Phelps won golds in times slower than he swam last year against a below-par Cavic and a tired Lochte. I'm not saying his achievements weren't fantastic, I'm just saying I rank her achievements THIS YEAR higher than his.

  9. Liked the comment posted on one of the blogs after Ranomi's 51.93 split on the relay.... "for those vying 4 gold in the women's 100m free, good luck with that....!" and she surely did win gold.. If Missy's failure to medal in the individual free events was a slight disappointment against a background of so much pre-games hype. She even failed to match her 1.55.06 best from 2011 which would have been good enogh for silver in London...

  10. This does not at all take away her fluent swim that destroyed the 200back WR and the "upset" she caused by beating Seebohm in the 100back final... Winning 5medals @ a debut olympics is phenomenal... Perhaps she was focussing on 100/200back and less on 100/200free

  11. I can see quality/importance of swmims is not in favor of Phelps. On that point, though, shouldn't Ye Shiwen be more deserving than Kromowidjojo? I am also resigned to the possibility that Franklin's versatility (by entering more individual events) can be used against her. The fact that she failed to medal in both 100 and 200 free is indeed a not-so-small disappointment, given the huge hype going into the games.

  12. Katinka Hosszu`s consistency is unbelievable when you look at the number of competitions, and races within these competitions, she has managed to go through during competitions. In some "secondary" competitions she has swum almost every event in offer.

    Her 100 IM at Istanbul is worth mentioning. She left behind names such as Herasimenia and Meilutyte. I think no one really specialize in 100 IM since it`s not an olympic event and cannot be swimmed in long course. From this point of view 100 IM is a good way to put swimmers in order. For example Herasimenia should be fast in the last leg but Hosszu easily beat her.

    Her boyfried or husband may find himself exhausted :)