25 Best Female Swimmers of 2015

Katinka Hosszu world-championships

By Andrew Ross, Swimming World College Intern

I’ve always wondered what and how swimmers would be rated if there was a swimming video game. ESPN has been doing NBA rankings the last four years where they rate all the players on a scale of 1-10 and rank their score to get an accurate depiction of who the best players are. Golf also has individual player rankings determined by a specific formula.

I’ve wanted to see what a list for swimming would look like so I scored the individual world rankings (top 24) like a championship meet to get as close to an accurate ranking system as possible. First place gets 32 points with a world record counting as double points. I also only accounted for Olympic events so the 50s were not scored. Sure, it has flaws but that’s the point of rankings, right? I also did the same to the 2014 world rankings to give a comparison on what swimmers are improving and which ones aren’t.

I released the Top 25 Male Swimmers of 2015 a couple weeks back. But today, we’re highlighting the 25 Best Female Swimmers of 2015:

  1. Katinka Hosszu HUN    192     Age: 26           5’8”     123LB

katinka-hosszu-world-championships-2015 (1)

Photo Courtesy: Maria Dobysheva

2014 rank: 1

200 IM: 2:06.12, 1st (WR), 400 IM: 4:30.39, 1st, 200 Back: 2:06.18, 2nd, 100 Back: 58.78, 3rd, 200 Free: 1:55.89, 7th, 400 Free: 4:05.75, 10th, 200 Fly: 2:08.00, 16th

Iron Lady. It’s hard to believe she doesn’t have an Olympic medal of any color. That should change next year as she had three medals from Kazan. She also got her first world record this year in the 200 IM. I still think she has more in the tank in the 400 IM and the backstroke events so she may leave Rio with four or more medals.

  1. Sarah Sjostrom SWE    158     Age: 22           6’0”     150LB


Photo Courtesy: R-Sport / Mia Rossiya Segodnaya

2014 rank: 3

100 Fly: 55.64, 1st (WR), 200 Free: 1:54.31, 1st, 50 Free: 24.20, 3rd, 100 Free: 52.70, 4th, 100 Back: 59.98, 19th

Sjostrom is a beast. That’s really all you need to know about her. She proved that in Kazan with a WR in the 100 fly and a 1:54 in the 200 free. She could be one of the busiest swimmers in Rio as she is in line to win seven medals including relays. I hope she decides to swim the 200 free also because that could be one of the most epic races at the Olympics. I also don’t think Sjostrom has reached her peak which is scary to think about.

  1. Katie Ledecky USA     122     Age: 18           5’11”  155LB

FINA World Championships Katie Ledecky

Photo Courtesy: R-Sport / MIA Rossiya Segodnya

2014 rank: 2

800 Free: 8:07.39, 1st (WR), 400 Free: 3:59.13, 1st, 200 Free: 1:55.16, 4th

The top three on this list could really be in any order. Ledecky proved she is one of the greatest freestylers of all time with her 800 and 1500 performances in Kazan. But they might as well write those world records in pencil. She has one more year to train with Bruce Gemmell before she heads off to Stanford or professional swimming life after the Olympics. She has never lost a race in a major meet and don’t count on that trend to change at the Olympics.

  1. Missy Franklin USA     95       Age: 20           6’1”     165LB

FINA World Championships Missy Franklin

Photo Courtesy: R-Sport / MIA Rossiya Segodnya

2014 rank: 5

200 Back: 2:06.34, 3rd, 200 Free: 1:55.49, 5th, 100 Back: 59.40, 7th, 100 Free: 53.68, 9th

She is still getting used to life as a professional swimmer but she still managed to get four medals in Kazan. She did not win any individual gold medals but I don’t think Franklin will take that lying down. She moved back home to Colorado to train with longtime coach Todd Schmitz in preparation for a second Olympic berth and she definitely will not be playing around come this summer.

  1. Emily Seebohm AUS     89       Age: 23           5’11”  141LB

emily-seebohm-2015-world-cup-singapore (1)

Photo Courtesy: Singapore Swimming Association

2014 rank: 9

100 Back: 58.26, 1st, 200 Back: 2:05.81, 1st, 200 IM: 2:11.37, 14th, 100 Free: 53.92, 17th

Seebohm got her first individual gold in a major meet when she won the 100 back in Kazan and followed that up with a relatively surprising gold in the 200 back. The target is now on her back going into the Olympics, but she has the experience and she looks unbeatable after the World Championships.

  1. Mireia Belmonte ESP     80       Age: 24           5’6”     132LB

Mireia Belmonte Garcia Doha 2014 200 Fly World Record

Photo Courtesy: FINA Doha 2014

2014 rank: 4

200 Fly: 2:05.86, 4th, 400 Free: 4:04.99, 7th, 400 IM: 4:36.14, 9th, 800 Free: 8:28.53, 16th

An injury kept her from competing in Kazan altogether. She had a huge World Short Course Championships in December and she was looking for possibly four individual medals in Kazan but alas she could not compete. She shocked the world in London with two silver medals but the world will not be overlooking her next year at the Olympics, that is for sure.

  1. Kanako Watanabe JPN      79.5    Age: 18           5’5”     119LB


Photo Courtesy: R-Sport / MIA Rossiya Segodnya

2014 rank: 8

200 IM: 2:08.45, 2nd, 200 Breast: 2:20.90, 2nd, 100 Breast: 1:06.43, 6th

Watanabe is almost the best-kept secret in the world of swimming but the secret is out. She picked up a gold medal in Kazan in the 200 breast and a silver in the 200 IM. She is looking pretty good for a multi-medal haul in Rio if she keeps improving like she has.

  1. Emma McKeon AUS     78       Age: 21           5’10”  128LB


Photo Courtesy: Swimming Australia

2014 rank: 10

100 Fly: 57.31, 4th, 200 Free: 1:55.88, 6th, 100 Free: 53.32, 6th, 50 Free: 24.83, 21st

McKeon had a breakthrough 2014 at the Commonwealth Games. Her 2015 was not as successful with only two relay medals at the World Championships. She was another swimmer who swam faster in-season rather than at the preferred World Championships, but she has the experience under her belt. She will be another valuable relay asset for Australia, but can she pick up an individual medal?

  1. Femke Heemskerk NED    71.5    Age: 28           5’11”  150LB

Femke Heemskerk Doha 2014

Photo Courtesy: FINA Doha 2014

2014 rank: 6

100 Free: 52.69, 2nd, 200 Free: 1:54.68, 2nd, 50 Free: 24.57, 11th

Heemskerk could be considered the Jenny Thompson of Europe. She has more relay medals than almost anyone in the world, but can never seem to put it together individually. She swam her best times in April in Eindhoven but couldn’t do the same in Kazan, fading to 5th in the 100 and 8th in the 200. She will still be a favorite in Rio because of what we know she is capable of doing. It is just a matter of doing it in the big moment.

  1. Maya Dirado USA 70       Age: 22           5’9”     143LB

maya-dirado-world-championships-2015 (2)

Photo Courtesy: Maria Dobysheva

2014 rank: 12

400 IM: 4:31.71, 2nd, 200 IM: 2:08.99, 4th

Dirado has been steadily improving since she finished 4th in both IMs at Trials in 2012. She burst onto the world scene where she got the silver medal in the 400 IM in Kazan finishing pretty close to Hosszu. She is still improving and could be a gold medal spoiler in Rio.

  1. Jazz Carlin GBR 66       Age: 25           5’10”  126LB

Jazz Carlin

2014 rank: 18

800 Free: 8:18.15, 3rd, 400 Free: 4:03.51, 4th, 200 Free: 1:56.88, 14th

Carlin is one of the best closers in the world. It just so happens she has to compete against the greatest freestyler in the world. She has also had a knack for swimming better in the National meet rather than the big international meet, but we will see if that trend changes in the Olympic year.

  1. Bronte Campbell AUS 60       Age: 21           5’10”  128LB


Photo Courtesy: R-Sport / MIA Rossiya Segodnya

2014 rank: 22

100 Free: 52.52, 1st, 50 Free: 24.12, 2nd

Bronte finally got over the hump and beat her sister Cate for the first time in a major international final, and she did it twice. She should be able to carry that momentum into the Olympic year and it will be interesting to see if she can follow up her three gold medals from Kazan.

  1. Cate Campbell AUS 59.5    Age: 23           6’1”     148LB

cate-campbell-world-championships (2)

Photo Courtesy: Maria Dobysheva

2014 rank: 15

50 Free: 24.03, 1st, 100 Free: 52.69, 2nd

She has been consistently one of the best sprinters the last two years. However, it was her sister who stole her thunder in Kazan. It is a little hard to believe but she won her first Olympic medal when she was 16 in the Beijing Olympics. It is even harder to believe that she is only 23. One thing is for certain though– she will be very tough to beat in both sprint events in Rio.

  1. Siobhan O’Connor GBR 57       Age: 19           5’7”     130LB

Siobhan-Marie O'Connor

Photo Courtesy: British Swimming

2014 rank: 7

200 IM: 2:08.45, 2nd, 100 Free: 53.81, 10th, 200 Free: 1:57.23, 18th, 100 Fly: 58.15, 20th

She is one of the most underrated swimmers in the world. O’Connor had a breakout 2014 but could not quite replicate that in 2015. She did win a bronze in the 200 IM and that should give her confidence rolling into the Olympics.

  1. Hannah Miley GBR 54       Age: 26           5’5”     117LB

Hannah Miley Doha 2014

Photo Courtesy: FINA Doha 2014

2014 rank: 20

400 IM: 4:32.15, 3rd, 200 IM: 2:10.19, 6th, 200 Fly: 2:08.63, 23rd

Miley probably has the worst luck in the swimming world. She can never seem to medal at the Olympics or World Championships despite being apart of every major final since 2008. However, she is still capable of winning a medal in the Olympics next year so she should not be counted out.

  1. Jessica Ashwood AUS 53       Age: 22           5’8”     141LB

jessica-ashwood-2015 (2)

Photo Courtesy: Swimming Australia

2014 rank: 38

400 Free: 4:03.34, 3rd, 800 Free: 8:18.41, 4th

She had a breakout 2015 with a bronze in the 400. She could be the first Australian woman to medal at the Olympics in the distance events since Hayley Lewis in 1992.

  1. Natalie Coughlin USA 51.5    Age: 33           5’8”     139LB

Jul 17, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Natalie Coughlin of the United States poses with her bronze medal after the women's 50m freestyle final the 2015 Pan Am Games at Pan Am Aquatics UTS Centre and Field House. Mandatory Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Courtesy: Erich Schlegel/USA Today Sports Images

2014 rank: NR

100 Back: 59.20, 6th, 50 Free: 24.66, 14th, 100 Free: 53.85, 14th

She is one of the greatest female swimmers in history and she is back for more. Natalie Coughlin had a great Pan American Games and she put herself back in the conversation for an Olympic team spot. She will be vying for her fourth Olympic berth next year.

  1. Yuliya Efimova RUS 51       Age: 23           5’10”  141LB

FINA World Championships Yuliya Efimova

Photo Courtesy: R-Sport / MIA Rossiya Segodnya

2014 rank: NR

100 Breast: 1:05.60, 2nd, 200 Breast: 2:22.12, 7th

She returned from a doping suspension in 2015 and did not skip a beat. It’s hard to believe she is only 23 because she has been around for so long. Regardless, she will be a favorite to win a couple gold medals in the breast events at the Olympics.

  1. Ranomi Kromowidjojo NED 51       Age: 25           5’11”  148LB

ranomi-kromowidjojo-world-championships-2015 (2)

Photo Courtesy: Maria Dobysheva

2014 rank: 43

50 Free: 24.23, 4th, 100 Free: 53.17, 5th

The dual Olympic champion hasn’t won a major meet since 2013 but you can just never count her out in the sprint events. She is a great relay swimmer and she always rises to the occasion. She will be a huge contender for a medal in Rio.

  1. Brittany Elmslie AUS 51       Age: 21           5’10”  161LB

Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr

Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr

2014 rank: NR

100 Free: 53.66, 8th, 200 Free: 1:56.91, 16th, 50 Free: 24.80, 20th

She missed the World Championships due to an injury and Australia really missed her on their relays. She has been a great asset for them and if she is healthy at the Olympics, then Australia could turn some heads in the free relays.

  1. Madeline Groves AUS 51       Age: 20           5’10”  132LB

Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr

Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr

2014 rank: 28

200 Fly: 2:05.41, 2nd, 100 Fly: 57.44, 6th

She had a great National meet in April but couldn’t replicate that in the Worlds. The 200 fly is wide open right now for the gold medal and she should be a part of that final.

  1. Sharon Van Rouwendaal NED 50       Age: 22           5’7”     141LB

139 VAN ROUWENDAAL Sharon NED 10 Km Gold Medal Open Water 32nd LEN European Championships Swimming, Diving, Synchro, Open Water Berlin, Germany 2014 Aug.13 th - Aug. 24 th Day01 - Aug. 13 Photo A.Staccioli/Deepbluemedia/Insidefoto

2014 rank: 44

400 Free: 4:03.02, 2nd, 800 Free: 8:24.12, 8th

The race for second in the distance freestyle events is actually really exciting. Van Rouwendaal had a great 400 on the first day in Kazan and a disappointing 800. Van Rouwendaal also won a silver medal in the 10K Open Water in Kazan, so she definitely has the endurance. She is still improving and will be one to watch next year.

  1. Madison Wilson AUS 50       Age: 21           5’10”  134LB


Photo Courtesy: Swimming Australia

2014 rank: NR

100 Back: 58.75, 2nd, 200 Back: 2:08.27, 8th

She had a huge silver medal performance in Kazan behind teammate Seebohm that bodes well for the future of Australian backstroke. Only time will tell if she can keep the momentum going in 2016.

  1. Shi Jinglin CHN 49       Age: 22           5’9”     150LB


Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

2014 rank: 30

100 Breast: 1:06.28, 5th, 200 Breast: 2:22.08, 6th

She was one of the three bronze medalists in the 200 breast in Kazan. The breast events are wide open going into Rio and she could surprise a few people.

  1. Jeanette Ottesen DEN 49       Age: 27           5’11”  150LB

Swimming - Prudential Singapore Swim Stars 2014 - OCBC Aquatic Centre, Singapore Sports Hub, Singapore - 5/9/14 Women's 100m Butterfly - Jeanette Ottesen of Denmark in action Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Norman Ng Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY.

Photo Courtesy: Action Images / Norman Ng

2014 rank: 13

100 Fly: 57.04, 2nd, 50 Free: 24.47, 8th

An injury almost kept her out of the World Championships entirely. But she ended up winning a silver medal in her best event. She beat Sjostrom in the European Championships last year– can she do it again in Rio?


    • avatar
      Andy Ross


  1. avatar
    Y L

    That is the beauty of statistics. One can play with numbers any way to prove whatever he wants. I’m not sure what such kind of ranking is good for. It says more about author’s preferences than reveals something to think about. Anyway it is a nice recap of swimmers achievements in 2015.

    • avatar
      Steve Ruiter

      I suggest that a better ranking system would be to consider the power ranking (maybe ratio of best performance to WR at beginning of year) of a swimmer’s best few events (to approximate a weekend championship meet format). That takes into account new WRs and does a much better job of recognizing comparison with competition so that close differences in performance are not lost as is the case with your place-point system.
      I bet that Ledecky rates at the top under my proposed measures. Certainly her best single event scores highest this way. I estimate she would have the best average over 2 or 3 events, but Katinka would perhaps overtake her if more events are considered. But if you allow multiple performances per event (or even say an 800 split on the way to a 1500), I bet Ledecky would rate first over her top ten performances for the year.

  2. avatar

    The best swimmer should be the most versatile over many events and the swimmer that has more top times in different strokes. I think ledecky is not the best female swimmer but the best female freestyler. This article even mentions that she,s the best female freestyler and I think it,s spot on. The best female swimmer ( different strokes) is katinka hosszu.

  3. avatar

    Ledecky is arguably the world’s best female athlete right now, and by far the best female swimmer over the course of her three years of international competition. Hosszu is the best at travelling to FINA events in the Middle East and Far East, making money, and marketing herself at meets with only moderate competition. There is a reason that Ledecky has been female swimmer of the meet at the last two World Championship LC meets–she has been the world’s best swimmer this year and for the last three years, and winning the 200 M Free thru the 1500 M Free is versatile enough.