League Of Olympic Swim Legends: Gould & Egerszegi Share Gold With Evans/Ledecky Snap

The League of Legends Overall Podium: snap for gold with Shane Gould and Krisztina Egerszegi, snap for bronze, with Janet Evans and Katie Ledecky - Image courtesy: SwimSketch

Last week, Swimming World Editors Craig Lord and John Lohn put together an event-by-event League of Olympic Swim Legends in which we considered the impact of the likes of Shane Gould, Krisztina Egerszegi, Katie Ledecky, Janet Evans, Dawn Fraser, Mary T. Meagher, Tracy Caulkins and many other pioneers and pace-setters.

The rest of the SW team, Liz Byrnes, Ian Hanson, Matt de George and Andy Ross, aided by the watchful eye of Dan D’Addona compiled our Tokyo2020 Visions, following the Tokyo 2020 competition schedule, with previews that take races up to the closing metres of battle but not beyond. The Olympic future is a year away

Yesterday we summed up with overall and stroke podiums for the men, introducing measures that recognise multi-medal-winning efforts on one stroke or more. Today, Women:

If the men’s race was won by the most decorated Olympian of all-time, Michael Phelps, by a massive margin that reflected the 16 solo medals in the mix of  his 23 gold atop 28 medals  in all over four Games, the women’s race was a much closer affair. Indeed, the top slots were split by just six points, while 6 points off the podium was Dawn Fraser.

The imperfection and ultimate impossibility of such exercises is seen in the scores of the likes of Mary T Meagher: is it likely that she would have won the 100 and 200m butterfly titles at Moscow 1980 without boycott? Yes. Do we know? No.

The thought ripples out to very many athletes for related reasons. No boycott, no GDR doping? What might Sippy Woodhead have achieved? Where would the count of measure of Tracy Caulkins have reached? To them and many other women whose sporting lives were shaped and framed by decision-making processes and criminality beyond their control, a nod of respect.

Shane Gould & Krisztina Egerszegi Share The Crown


Shane Gould – a Living National Treasure in Australia – Photo Courtesy: Swimming World Archives

Based on what did unfold, following the rules and points scores we set for our virtual exercise, our League of Legends overall and stroke virtual podiums for women celebrate the towering achievements of swimmers who stood out in a crowded pantheon of excellence.

In our event-by-event lists, Shane Gould made one podium: the 1500m freestyle, courtesy of the more subjective measures  that had to be applied to the 1500m freestyle for women, given that the event will make its Olympic debut at Tokyo202One. That she did not make the podiums in the 200 and 400m freestyle reflected the bright shooting-star nature of her career.

Look at swimming history from the wider perspective and Gould’s Munich 1972 campaign amounts to one of the most outstanding and spectacular moments in Olympic history – all sports: at one Games – five solo medals, three gold in World-record times, freestyle and medley as a reflection of versatility and skill in her element – a unique achievement by “die goldfisch” from Australia that remains a record almost half a century on.


Krisztina Egerszegi – Photo Courtesy: Arena/Hungarian Swimming Federation

Krisztina Egerszegi has a five-medals record that remains unmatched, too: with one in 1988, three in 1992 and one in 1996, the Hungarian is the only woman ever to claim five solo gold medals. Three of the golds were won over 200m backstroke, granting Egerszegi membership of the Triple Crown club formed by Australian Dawn Fraser (100m freestyle, 1956, 1960, 1964).

Janet Evans came close, with four golds, 400 and 800m freestyle and that Gouldian nod of versatility in her 400IM victory of 1988. Yana Klochkova came close, too: double medley gold in 2000 and 2004, plus silver over 800m freestyle in 2000. There there are the queens of the ‘What If’ sorority of women swimmers harmed by the years of State Plan 14:25, damage exacerbated by a boycott imposed by their own country: Tracy Caulkins and Mary T. Meagher – would it have been double gold on medley and ‘fly at Moscow 1980 in a parallel fairer world of Olympic sport? Probably – but we will never know.

Katie Ledecky and Janet Evans – Photo Courtesy: Jeff Commings

What we do know is this: there is another four-gold winner who is still very much active.  At Tokyo 202One, Katie Ledecky has a big shot at becoming the greatest female swimmer all-time on measures of medals  and World records and outstanding pioneering. Heading into her third Games, Ledecky is already on our overall and freestyle podiums among all-time greats.

It is when we look at Ledecky and many others at a variety of stages of their careers and consider that part of Olympic history that poured poison in the pool that we understand why the Olympic swim meet of the Tokyo 202One Games should go ahead spectators or non, in Tokyo or elsewhere. Their moment is now. Never to be had again. It should not be a case of now or never.

League of Legends – Women


Krisztina Egerszegi, left, and Shane Gould – Image Courtesy: SwimSketch

Overall – Gold For Gould & Egerszegi

  1. Shane Gould (AUS)/ Krisztina Egerszegi (HUN); 2. Janet Evans (USA)/ Katie Ledecky (USA)

League of Legends Stroke Podiums

The tightness of competition measuring medals, world records and related aspects of pioneering, distance and stroke spectrum and impact of campaigns was significant – and most noticeable in our overall freestyle podium below, where we award joint gold to four women who scored within 1 point of each other on a scale note far from that point reflecting a percentage point – and therefore too close to call.



Dawn Fraser – SwimSketch


Overall: 1. Dawn Fraser (AUS)/Shane Gould (AUS)/ Janet Evans (USA)/ Katie Ledecky (USA)

Winners of the distance spectrum:

Sprint: Dawn Fraser (AUS). Distance*: Janet Evans (USA)

(* to the question why Evans tops Gould and Ledecky on distance freestyle when they are all matched overall: Gould’s achievement includes medals over 100 and 200m; Ledecky’s achievement includes a medal over 200m)


Krisztina Egerszegi


1-Krisztina Egerszegi (HUN)

2-Kirsty Coventry (ZIM)

3-Natalie Coughlin (USA)

Leisel Jones from Australia swims her women's 100m breaststroke qualifying heat at the Athens Olympic Aquatic Centre Sunday 15 August 2004. (Photo by Patrick B. Kraemer / MAGICPBK)

Leisel Jones SwimSketch


1. Leisel Jones (AUS)

2. Rebecca Soni (USA)

3. Galina Prozumenshikova (URS)


Mary T. Meagher


1-Mary T. Meagher (USA);

2-Susie O’Neill (AUS);

3=Ada Kok (NED)/ Petria Thomas (AUS)


Yana Klochkova – SwimSketch


  • Yana Klochkova (UKR)
  • Tracy Caulkins (USA)
  • Claudia Kolb (USA)*

League of Legends: Our Day-By-Day Coverage


Ian Thorpe – SwimSketch

Day 1

European Junior Champion Matt Richards On Michael Phelps, Cafe Encounters And Moving To Bath

League Of Olympic Swim Legends: Ian Thorpe Tops 400 Free Podium With Rose & Salnikov

League Of Olympic Swim Legends: Yana Klochkova Tops 400IM Podium With De Varona and Caulkins


Janet Evans – SwimSketch

Day 2

League of Olympic Swim Legends: Mary T. Meagher Tops 100 ‘Fly Podium With Sjöstrom & De Bruijn

League of Olympic Swim Legends: Kosuke Kitajima Tops 100m Breaststroke Podium With Hencken & Peaty

League of Olympic Swim Legends: Janet Evans Tops 400 Free Podium With Norelius, Meyer & Ledecky


Roland Matthes – SwimSketch

Day 3

League Of Olympic Swim Legends: Ian Thorpe Tops 200m Free Podium With Schollander & A Snap For Hoogie & Gross

League Of Olympic Swim Legends: Natalie Coughlin Tops the 100m Backstroke Podium With Egerszegi & Muir

League Of Olympic Swim Legends: Roland Matthes Tops The 100m Backstroke Podium With Peirsol & Kealoha

League Of Olympic Swim Legends: Leisel Jones Tops 100 Breaststroke Podium With Heyns & King


Federica Pellegrini – Photo Courtesy: SwimSketch

Day 4

League Of Olympic Swim Legends: Federica Pellegrini Tops 200m Free Podium With Fraser & Babashoff

League Of Olympic Swim Legends: Michael Phelps Tops 200m Butterfly Podium With Spitz & Gross

League Of Olympic Swim Legends: Historic Three-Way Gold For Tracy Caulkins, Donna De Varona & Yana Klochkova

Tokyo Vision: Katie Ledecky Makes Inaugural 1500 Freestyle for Women a Coronation


Duke Kahanamoku -Image Courtesy: SwimSketch

Day 5

League Of Olympic Swim Legends: Ian Thorpe Tops 800 Podium With Salnikov, Holland & Hackett

League Of Olympic Swim Legends: Mike Barrowman Tops 200m Breaststroke Podium With Kitajima & Wilkie

League of Olympic Swim Legends: Mary T Meagher Tops 200 Butterfly Podium With Ada K and Susie O

League Of Olympic Swim Legends: Duke Kahanamoku Tops 100 Free Podium With Weissmuller & Popov


Rebecca Soni – SwimSketch

Day 6

League Of Olympic Swim Legends: Rebecca Soni Tops 200 Podium With Galina & Amanda

League of Olympic Swim Legends: Roland Matthes Tops 200 Back Podium With Peirsol & Naber

League of Olympic Swim Legends: Dawn Fraser Tops 100 Free Podium With Durack & De Bruijn

League of Olympic Swim Legends: Kieren Perkins Tops 1500 With Hackett & Salnikov


Katie Ledecky SwimSketch

Day 7

League of Olympic Swim Legends: Michael Phelps Tops 100 ‘Fly Podium With Spitz & Morales

League of Olympic Swim Legends: Krisztina Egerszegi Tops 200 Back Podium With Tanaka & Coventry

League Of Olympic Swim Legends: Katie Ledecky/ Janet Evans Top 800 Podium With Adlington/Meyer


Kieren Perkins – Image Courtesy: SwimSketch

Day 8

League of Olympic Swim Legends: Alex Popov Tops 50 Free With Hall Jr – Ervin, Biondi, Jager Snap For Bronze

League of Olympic Swim Legends: Inge De Bruijn Tops Podium With Steffen & Kromowidjojo

League of Olympic Swim Legends: Kieren Perkins Tops 1500 With Hackett & Salnikov


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3 years ago

Here is my question which I don’t know if it has ever been asked…..
How successful would Shane have been if she had NOT retired and still had the burning flame to keep going and get better? With the illegal doings by the DDR, would she have been able to step up and remained successful against the East Germans? Her 200 I.M. record went down nearly THREE SECONDS from Munich to Belgrade. I believe that Ender would have dominated the 100 free. No one would have been able to stay with her in that event – think Babashoff and Brigitha. BUT, would she have dominated Babashoff in the 200 and 400 and then eventually Thuemer? The 800 is questionable as perhaps she would have focused solely on the 200 and 400…..but we will never know. And lastly, Babashoff continued to steadily drop her best times from 1972 to 1976. Going from 2:04 to 2:00 in the 200 and 4:23 down to 4:10 in the 400. Would Shane have had the same remarkable drops in times? Fun to think about but useless in reality. Still, WHAT IF????????????

Craig Lord
3 years ago
Reply to  sebastian

As you say, Sebastian, we will never know… what we know is that Katie Ledecky 15 and Katie Ledecky 19 plus is a stronger, more experienced athlete … and we know the world is different, substantially so in terms of the help, support, guidance and athlete empowerment, not to mention the finances. We know Shane was an extraordinary talent who had a terrific endurance grounding with the Carliles. Shirley B and her coaches had three years to take on board what was happening in world women’s swimming… 1973 1975 worlds as the warning for 1976…. as you suggest, we’ll never know where Shane G might have got to over 200 and 400 etc; we can guess at the skills, the gain in strength, the coaching response in Australia, the spirit and guts of the girl. What would have been remarkable is the post-1972 journey void of the GDR. The dynamics would have change substantially, of course.

Michael Ker
3 years ago

Another set of great choices! Thanks for doing this.

Carl R
Carl R
3 years ago

Please further explain your proprietary points system, and how an athlete (Gould) who participated in one Olympics in a chosen shortened career and makes the top of your virtual podiums in zero events can be placed “virtually” above Evans, Ledecky, Fraser, and others who participated and dominated over multiple Olympics. Understand empathy towards Gould, but you reward someone who–by her own words–left the sport over “life issues” and “expectations” over those who persevered?

Craig Lord
3 years ago
Reply to  Carl R

Hi Carl. We are not going to reveal the precise nature of our count – because it belongs to another project … but happy to explain this: Janet won 5 medals at 3 Games… Shane won 5 medals at one Games… Janet collected 4 golds, Shane 3, Janet ended up with a slight advantage over Shane on medal count; Shane had a lot more World records than Janet; Janet’s records last a lot longer (which is one reason she topped event podiums when Shane did not make the podium, for example) … ; Shane tops Janet on three other criteria we took into account, including the range of distances over which she medalled and the range of events and distances on which she held world records. In all, she topped Janet and Katie by just six points, as did Egerszegi, for other but similar reasons. On Shane and perseverance, important to make clear that she did not mean pressure or commitment in the pool – her “expectations” referred to those placed upon her by the controlling forces around her in terms of how they could market her, funnel her into an identity of their making – not hers… so nothing to do with sporting ‘perseverence’, particularly not in modern context. And we gave no points for perseverance … too many external controlling factors on that one… Regards, Craig

3 years ago
Reply to  Craig Lord

With all due respect you are wrong about Shane Gould, about her quitting having “nothing to do with sporting perseverance” or “commitment” and that the pressures/expectations were all external. Go back and read her autobiography, in which Gould writes–“I was thrilled to own these achievements. At the same time, I felt worn out.”
And, “I was 16 and very confused about whether or not I wanted to continue swimming, and about what future I was aiming for.”
And, “Back in the pool in Sydney in July 1973, I had no heart for training and did only about three sessions per week…Yes, I was too young and too good to quit, but I didn’t want to keep doing it.”
Perseverance, life choices, and behavior play a big role in Olympic swim legacy.

Craig Lord
3 years ago
Reply to  Coach

Coach, will all due respect in return, that book is more than 20 years old and your selective words do not get close to fully explaining ‘why’ the 16-year-old felt like she did. I have interviewed Shane over the course of many hours this year for specific reason. Life, legacy and perseverance are not just about singular moments and choices made at 16. Part of Gould’s legacy – and yes, Olympic legacy -because part of who she is and was is what happened in Munich in 1972 – is not just about the singular moments and certainly not about choices made at 16 – it is also about what happened next. And what happened next was a life of learning and coming to understand what it all meant and why she felt as she did. Shane’s understanding has evolved and developed as she had learned more and travelled the course of a much longer journey. Part of her Olympic legacy is indeed the moment that shines out – five solo medals (never repeated, and yes, we should recognise and value that just as much as recognising 5 medals won at 2 Games … and the fact that Janet won none at a third Games is not something that can be scored, not even in terms of perseverance unless we are then to go back and allocate points to Therese A for a much longer career than Inge DB and work out that two silvers was worth more than than three golds and so on and so further…). I don’t agree with what you say were Shane G’s ‘choices’: your reference is selective and falls shy of answering the question ‘why’. The word, however, that I seriously disagree with in the context of your argument is this: behaviour. It sounds like you would have me reduce Shane’s points because she made a ‘choice’ at 16. How many points would I then have to remove from Michael P and Ryan L for their choices? Or should we also regard Michael and Ryan in the fuller context of life and legacy and learning and the meaning of things like ‘what did Michael do with his life; what did he make of his Olympic legacy’, transcending his racing years? Well, I think I have a good idea what my answer would be. I think along similar lines when I look at the legacy of Shane Gould and what it tells and teaches us. https://www.swimmingworldmagazine.com/news/2020s-vision-dr-shane-gould-on-swimming-culture-after-a-lifetime-of-learning/ Regards, Craig

3 years ago
Reply to  Carl R

My rankings go Ledecky (took down Adlington-Evans records enough to eliminate any doubt, indiv gold medals in broader freestyle distance range is a plus not a minus, numbers of swimmers participating today, specialization of today’s competition, career span), then Evans, Egerzegi, Fraser. Gould, Caulkins, Babashoff win the what-if category or categories, but I examine real world–as much fun as it is to speculate. Cheers.

Craig Lord
3 years ago
Reply to  Pamela

The timeline real-world view we know, Pamela 🙂 Katie getting past Evans and Adlington we all get. The exercise – for fun – attempts to measure as like-for-like as possible using specific criteria in the context of the athletes prevailing dominance at the time they swam. So, with Gould, it is not a question of whether what if might have made her more dominant … she did something no other woman ever has: five solo golds at one Games, for example, including gold and WR on medley, not only freestyle (same for Evans on latter).

3 years ago

All of these women (and others) have done “something in the sport no other woman has” and those achievements are best left unquantified by a secret, subjective and demeaning ranking system of “points” undertaken for your “fun”. Same on the male side. Remarkable individual athletic achievements are turned into a beauty contest. This “project” is very much just another part of the parade of insensitive treatment about which many retired, troubled, and impoverished Olympic athletes speak.

Craig Lord
3 years ago
Reply to  Charlie

Thanks for your opinion, Charles. I think it nonsense (personally, I hate beauty contest… and this is not one – nor is it true that they’ve all, in the series, done something no-one else has ever done) but you’re entitled to your view, of course. We had some really lovely messages from some of the athletes (and coaches, too). We believe it celebrated their achievements and provided an overview of historic perspective that is sadly lacking in many interpretations of the sport.

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