Like any sport, swimming has made several athletes popular thanks to their talent and know-how in the field. As dominant as they are from their physical beauty, their journey is also very laden with awards and titles. Who are the best swimmers of all time? The top 13 here will give us ample information on the issue.
13. Janet Evans, 7 medals
- Surname and first names: Janet Evans
- Date of birth: August 28, 1971
Janet Beth Evans is an American swimmer who has trained in distance freestyle events. Evans was a top swimmer, world champion and world record holder. She had a total of four gold medals at the Olympics from 1988 to 1992.
It all started in 1987, when she broke the world records for the 400 meters, 800 meters and 1,500 meters freestyle. At the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, she excelled in her performance and won three individual gold medals.
She became the first swimmer to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals in any event.
By the end of Evans’ swimming career, she held a total of seven world records, five Olympic medals, and 45 US national titles. She well deserves her place in our list of the greatest swimmers of all time.
12. Krisztina Egerszegi, 22 medals
- Surname and first names: Krisztina Egerszegi
- Date of birth: August 16, 1974
Egerszegi is a Hungarian swimmer born in 1974. This world record holder is one of the greatest Olympic champions of the modern era in her country.
She is a five-time Olympic champion. Krisztina is one of the most successful female swimmers of all time.
She is the only swimmer to have won five individual Olympic gold medals. On the long course of the 200m backstroke, she held the record for almost 17 years.
In 2001, she was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame and has repeatedly received honors such as World Swimmer of the Year . She has totaled 22 medals throughout her career.
11. Kristin Otto, 26 medals
- Surname and first names: Kristin Otto
- Date of birth: February 7, 1966
This German Olympic champion is famous for her swimming skills and her distinctions. Her stardom also hinges on being the first woman to win six gold medals in a single Olympic tournament.
She did it at the Seoul Olympics in 1988. Otto was also the first woman to cover the short course 100m backstroke in less than a minute. She did so at a 1983 World Short Course Meet at Indiana University. Freestyle , butterfly and backstroke were his specialties.
Otto started swimming when he was 12 years old. At 16, she participated in her first world championship. This swimmer remains one of the biggest names in women’s swimming history and one of the richest female swimmers of all time.
10. Dara Torres, 27 medals
- Surname and first names: Dara Torres
- Date of birth: April 15, 1967
Dara Torres is a former American swimmer. She is a 12-time Olympic medalist and holds a world record in three events during her career. Torres is the first swimmer to serve for the United States in five different Olympic Games, including 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000 and 2008.
She also became the oldest swimmer at the age of 41 to represent the United States at the Olympics. This brave athlete broke the record held by Britain’s William Robinson to become the oldest swimmer to win a medal at the Olympic Games.
Torres won the silver medal for all the events she entered (50 m freestyle, 4 × 100 m medley relay and 4 × 100 m freestyle relay). She picked up a total of five medals at the 2000 Summer Olympics. Torres is also a swimmer who has won at least one medal at every Olympics she has attended throughout her career.
He is one of the most renowned swimmers in the history of the Olympic Games. She was named one of the “Best Female Athletes of the Decade” by Sports Illustrated . Without the presence of this swimmer in our ranking, the list of the best swimmers of all time would be incomplete.
9. Mark Spitz, 33 medals
- Surname and first names: Mark Andrew Spitz
- Date of birth: February 10, 1950
Spitz, born in 1950, is known by his nickname Mark The Shark . He is a retired American swimmer who won seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Between 1968 and 1972, Spitz won nine Olympic gold medals, as well as a silver and a bronze. He also won five Pan American gold medals, 31 US Amateur Athletic Union titles and eight US National Collegiate Athletic Association titles.
This swimmer therefore set 33 world records during these years. Spitz was named world swimmer of the year in 1969, 1971 and 1972. Without a doubt, Spitz deserves a place among the greatest swimmers of all time.
8. Grant Hackett, 33 medals
- Surname and first names: Grant George Hackett
- Date of birth: May 9, 1980
Hackett, born in 1980, is a famous Australian former swimmer. He is best known for winning the men’s 1500m freestyle at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney and the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.
George thus became the greatest long-distance swimmer in history. A gold medalist, he achieved it in Sydney for swimming in the heats of the 4x 200 m freestyle relay .
He is the world record holder for the 1500m and formerly the 800m freestyle. In addition, this swimmer obtained respectively the 2nd and the 4th position in the 400 m and 200 m freestyle.
In addition, for the past decade he has reigned in the 1500m event undefeated in the World Aquatics Championship final. In total, Hackett has won 10 world championship gold medals . He is among the best swimmers of all time.
7. Matt Biondi, 40 medals
- Surname and first names: Matthew Nicholas Biondi
- Date of birth: October 8, 1965
Matt Biondi is a former American swimming champion. He was born in 1965 and is an eleven-time Olympic champion. The latter also held world records in five events.
Matt competed in the Summer Olympics in 1984, 1988, and 1992. During his career, he set four individual world records in the 100 m freestyle and three individual world records in the 50 m freestyle .
In 1988, Biondi won five gold medals at the Seoul Olympics and set world records in three relay events. He is a member of the United States Olympic Hall of Fame and the International Hall of Fame.
6. Ian Thorpe, 48 medals
- Surname and first names: Ian James Thorpe
- Date of birth: October 13, 1982
Thorpe is a retired Australian freestyle swimmer. His five Olympic gold medals made him the most-winning Australian. He is also the first person to win six gold medals in a world championship.
His first success came at the 2001 World Aquatic Championships. Ian Thorpe has won eleven World Championship gold medals , which is the second most of any swimmer.
Additionally, he was the first person to be named Swimming World’s Swimmer of the Year four times. Ian was Australia’s Swimmer of the Year from 1999 to 2003. His proven ability and sporting achievement made him one of Australia’s most popular athletes.
Apart from being one of the greatest swimmers of all time, Thorpe is also named as one of the fittest athletes.
5. Aleksandr Popov, 48 medals
- Surname and first names: Aleksandr Vladimirovich Popov
- Date of birth: November 16, 1971
Aleksandr Vladimirovich Popov, or simply Alexander Popov was born in 1971. This former Russian swimmer is a gold medal Olympian. He is considered one of the best freestyle sprint swimmers of all time.
One of his greatest accolades is that he is the only one in the history of male and female swimmers to have won four individual Olympic gold medals in freestyle events.
At the age of 8, Aleksandr started swimming at the sports school for children and adolescents at the sports complex of Fakel in Lesnoy. Ironically, he was afraid of water at that time. However, due to his father’s insistence, he continued the sport and stayed in it.
This swimmer started out as a backstroker, but switched to freestyle after joining Gennadi Touretski’s team. Popov then moved to Australia with his coach. He has several other medals and titles. During his career, Aleksandr won 31 gold medals, 12 silver medals and 5 bronze medals.
4. Johnny Weissmuller, 52 medals
- Surname and first names: Janos Péter Weissmüller
- Date of birth: June 2, 1904
Weissmüller was an American swimmer and actor of Austro-Hungarian descent. Having won five Olympic gold medals and a bronze medal , he was one of the best swimmers in the world in the 1920s. Weissmuller is also an all-time all-around swimmer.
Apart from his swimming career, he has also played many roles as an actor. Johnny showed his talent in twelve films.
Johnny died in 1984. But he still holds his place among the greatest swimmers of all time.
3. Natalie Coughlin, 72 medals
- First and last name: Natalie Coughlin
- Date of birth: August 23, 1982
Natalie Coughlin is an American competitive swimmer who is a twelve-time Olympic medalist. She became the first woman to swim the 100 meter backstroke (large pool) in less than a minute.
Nathalie rose to fame when she represented the first American female athlete in Olympic history to win six medals in a single Olympiad. She achieved this at the 2008 Summer Olympics. This swimmer also became the first woman to win a gold medal in the 100-meter backstroke at two consecutive Olympics.
At the 2012 Summer Olympics, she won a bronze medal in the 4×100 meter freestyle relay. Coughlin’s performance over the years has helped her win the World Swimmer of the Year award once and the USA Swimmer of the Year award three times in her career.
His medal tally shows his level of excellence in the field of swimming. She won a total of sixty medals in major international competitions, including twenty-five gold, twenty-two silver and thirteen bronze.
With a total of 12 Olympic medals, Coughlin is drawn with swimmers like Dara Torres and Jenny Thompson for the most decorated American Olympians.
2. Michael Phelps, 83 medals
- Surname and first names: Michael Fred Phelps
- Date of birth: June 30, 1985
Phelps is the American swimmer who won 28 Olympic medals including six gold and two bronze in Athens in 2004 and eight gold in Beijing in 2008 . Known by his nickname “The Baltimore Bullet”, he is a very proficient swimmer.
Phelps holds the record for most gold medals won in a single Olympics.
Michael Phelps has already stamped his name as the most successful Olympian of all time. Phelps had won World Swimmer of the Year six times and USA Swimmer of the Year eight times.
He won a total of fifty-nine medals in major international competitions.
1. Ryan Lochte, 90 medals
- Surname and first names: Ryan Steven Lochte
- Date of birth: August 3, 1984
Swimming superstar Ryan Lochte was born in 1982. He is an American competitive swimmer who has won 12 Olympic medals . The latter holds the world record for the 4x 200m freestyle relay with the American team.
Lochte also has seven individual Olympic medals, which rank near the top of the men’s swimming list. Ryan holds the individual world record in the 100m medley, 200m medley (long and short course) and 400m medley (short course).
He has received the USA Swimmer of the Year award and the World Swimmer of the Year award twice. Ryan has also received the FINA Swimmer of the Year honor three times.
He has 90 medals in major international swimming competitions, such as the Olympics, Pan Pacific, Pan American and World Championships.
We’re at the end of our list of the greatest swimmers of all time. Do you know any other top swimmers not on the list? Please mention them in the comments.