Australian teen sensation Ian Thorpe was named the male “World Swimmer of the Year” for the second year in a row by Swimming World Magazine, the sport’s magazine of record. South Africa’s Penny Heyns won the female “World Swimmer” title, the second time she has been so honored. She also won in 1996.
Thorpe is featured on the cover of the December issue of Swimming World, which will be on newstands on Tuesday, December 7.
Thorpe’s selection marked the third straight year an Australian has been selected as the male World Swimmer of the Year, and the fourth time in the last six years. Michael Klim won in 1997, while Kieren Perkins was the winner in 1994.
In 1999, Thorpe, then 16, smashed what many experts believed to be the greatest record in the book, when he hacked nearly two seconds off Perkins’ 1994 world record in the 400 meter free with his 3:41.83. He also twice bettered the 200 meter freestyle mark, lowering it to 1:46.00.
Heyns set a total of 11 world records in a two-month spree that culminated with world marks at 50, 100 and 200 meter breaststroke at the Pan Pacific Championships in Sydney, Australia, in August.
Both the men’s and women’s selections boiled down to two-person races: Thorpe versus American Lenny Krayzelburg for the men, and Heyns versus American Jenny Thompson for the women. Krayzelburg slashed the global standards in all three men’s backstroke events while Thomposn broke the 18-year-old record in the women’s 100 meter butterfly held by the legenary Madame Butterfly, Mary T. Meagher.
“We expected the voting to be very close in both races,” said Dr. Phillip Whitten, editor-in-chief of Swimming World. “Many of the electors said how difficult it was to decide. Yet when the voting was done, the results were almost unanimous.
“For the men’s title, all but three of the electors chose Thorpe first and Krayzelburg second; those three chose Thorpe and Krayzelburg in a tie for first. “For the women, all the selectors chose Heyns first and Thompson second.”
Holland’s Pieter van den Hoogenband placed third among the men, while countrywoman Inge De Bruijn ranked third among the women.
“Both Thorpe and Krayzelburg had incredible years,” said Whitten. “The same is true of Heyns and Thompson. My guess is that we’re going to see more such years from these great swimmers–perhaps many more such years from Ian, who is barely 17. It was an agonizing choice choosing between them, but it is enouraging that all of our selectors, from many different parts of the world, independently came to the same decision.”
For regional honors, Krayzelburg and Thompson were named “American Swimmers of the Year.” Thorpe and Susie O’Neill earned “Pacific Rim Swimmers of the Year,” both for the second consecutive time. Van den Hoogenband and De Bruijn were the “European Swimmers of the Year.”