Morning Splash: 17 Male Swimmers to Watch in 2017

Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Morning Splash by David Rieder.

By David Rieder.

As professional swimming has grown over the past several Olympiads, the average age of the world’s top swimmers has gone up, particularly on the men’s side. It’s hardly unusual anymore to findmen in their mid-to-late 20s standing on international podiums.

Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte have performed with remarkable consistency over their respective long careers, 35-year-old Anthony Ervin became the oldest individual gold medalist ever in men’s swimming this summer in Rio. But after Ervin and Phelps, the next oldest man to win Olympic gold this summer was Japan’s Kosuke Hagino, who turned 22 on August 15—two days after the swimming competition ended.

Now, Phelps is retired (again—he says this time for good) and Lochte is suspended. So maybe this sport is getting young again? That’s definitely a theme throughout our 17 male swimmers to watch this year.

As with the women’s list, this will not be exhaustive—far more than 17 men will win medals at the World Championships this summer, and it’s improbable that each of these will all make the podium. But you should still keep an eye on them anyway.

1. Adam Peaty

Really, this is a pretty clear choice for the No. 1 spot. Adam Peaty won gold in the 100 breast in Rio in 57.13, more than a second faster than anybody else has ever swum. His defense of World titles in both the 50 and 100 breast this year seems like a given.

But what about the 200 breast, an event so deep in Great Britain that neither Peaty nor European champion Ross Murdoch qualified to swim the event in Rio? Can his 57-low 100 breast and that insane speed eventually carry over into the longer distance?

And then in the 100 breast, there’s that 57-second barrier. Yes, it’s realistic to think someone could swim a 56 in a long course 100 breast.


Photo Courtesy: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

2. Ryan Murphy

Ryan Murphy will kick off the year in the college arena, where he hopes to finish his career at Cal-Berkeley with fourth-straight NCAA titles in both the 100 and 200-yard back while leading the Bears to a national championship.

And then, he will turn pro, and Murphy has gone on-record in saying that he hopes to keep swimming for as long as possible. It helps that he won three Olympic gold medals in Rio and is still 21 years old.

Sure, he’ll go into the summer with a target on his back, having swept the backstroke events in Rio, but is he invincible? He has the world record in the 100 back at 51.85 but still has a long way to go to reach Aaron Peirsol’s world record of 1:51.92 in the 200 back.


Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

3. Mack Horton

He out-dueled Sun Yang for gold in the 400 free in Rio. He showed some range, too, recording the fastest split on Australia’s 800 free relay that finished just outside the medals and also finishing fifth in the mile after entering the Games ranked No. 2 in the world.

Now, Mack Horton has some World Championships demons to exorcise. As a 19-year-old two years ago in Kazan, an ill Horton missed the finals in both the 400 and 1500 after entering as one of the top-ranked swimmers in the world in both events.

His Olympic gold medal will ramp up the expectations a bit this time around.


Photo Courtesy: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

4. Joseph Schooling

After defeating Michael Phelps to win Olympic gold in the American’s final individual race, Schooling is looked upon as the man to chase in the 100 fly, even with veterans like Chad le Clos and Laszlo Cseh still in the picture. Schooling’s time of 50.39 cracked Ian Crocker’s 11-year-old textile world record of 50.40—could the 50-second barrier be on the horizon?

Like Murphy, Schooling also has some NCAA requirements to take care of before he heads to the World Championships, and he will be gunning for three titles in a row in both butterfly events and Texas for a third straight team championship.

Schooling’s value to the Longhorns exceeds just his 100 fly skills—he is the fastest 200-yard butterflyer in history and an ace on free relays. Come this summer, it might be time for Schooling to show off some of that versatility in the long course pool.


Photo Courtesy: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

5. Kyle Chalmers

On either side of the podium for the men’s 100 free in Rio were 27-year-old Nathan Adrian, the uber-consistent defending gold medalist, and 28-year-old Pieter Timmers, a breakout story at age 28.

In the middle was an Australian, which was not so surprising—except it was not pre-race favorite Cameron McEvoy. Winning gold was 18-year-old Kyle Chalmers, who blew everyone else away on the second 50. His gold was Australia’s first in the men’s 100 free in 48 years.

Going into that final, it seemed that maybe, if the field was relatively slow, that Chalmers might be able to sneak in with a victory. But he touched in 47.58—not “slow” by any stretch. And would it be at all surprising if, by this summer, the teenager gets even faster.


Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

6. James Guy

We now move on to the section where no more individual gold medalists from Rio will be permitted on the list. That begins with James Guy, the World Champion in the 200 free in 2011 but a hard-luck fourth-place finisher in the 200 in Rio. He also finished sixth in the 400 free after holding a big lead through 250 meters.

Guy did win some relay hardware with two silvers from Rio, but he left Brazil disappointed, particularly as his World title-winning time in the 200 free (1:45.14) would have been good for a silver in Rio.

In an event without much separation among the top contenders, Guy bears watching.


Photo Courtesy: R-Sport / MIA Rossiya Segodnya

7. Townley Haas

A second straight 200 freestyler and a second Texas Longhorn makes the list in Townley Haas, whose NCAA debut could not have gone much better a year ago. In the 200-yard free, Haas posted a time of 1:30.46, demolishing the decade-old U.S. Open record of 1:31.20.

He then won the 200 free at the U.S. Olympic Trials and went on to finish fifth in the final in Rio in 1:45.58. Not bad, right?

Indeed, pretty good—or so everyone thought at the time. A day later, Haas split 1:44.14 on the gold medal-winning U.S. 800 free relay. The split was tops in the entire field.

Remember what I just said about the 200 free being relatively wide open? Yeah, watch Haas, too.


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

8. Chad le Clos

Chad le Clos won two medals this summer in Rio, just none in the event he considered his best. In Rio, le Clos’ brave race plan paid off with a runner-up finish in the 200 free, and then minutes later he helped spawn #PhelpsFace prior to the 200 fly semifinals. Continually looking for Michael Phelps in the 200 fly final, le Clos ended up finishing fourth. He then rounded out his week finishing in a three-way tie for silver in the 100 fly.

In the aftermath, le Clos explained that he could hardly accept not winning gold in the 200 fly, let alone not winning a medal. But he did not have too long to be down on himself, returning to the pool in time to sweep all three butterfly events at the Short Course World Championships in December.

Admittedly, le Clos is an excellent short course swimmer, and converting times is far from a perfect art, but Swimming World’s Time Converter equates le Clos’s short course 100 fly time of 48.08 to 49.38 long course. His 200 fly time of 1:48.76 comes out to 1:52.06.

It’s bold to declare that he will swim that fast this coming summer, but certainly there’s reason to expect quicker swims from the 24-year-old South African than he put up in Rio.


Photo Courtesy: Streeta Lecker / Getty Images

9. Mitch Larkin

Winning an Olympic silver medal in the 200 back and a bronze in the 400 medley relay was nice, but only a year earlier Mitch Larkin had stood atop the podium in both backstroke events at the World Championships.

He’s the only one on this list so far with more than one Olympics worth of experience and at 23 years old, the oldest, but still far from past his prime. If there’s anyone who could give Murphy a scare in the 200 back in the foreseeable future, it’s Larkin.


Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

10. Josh Prenot

Josh Prenot came pretty darn close to winning Olympic gold in Rio, finishing just seven one-hundredths behind Dmitriy Balandin in the men’s 200 breast final. Prenot’s 2:07.14 in the event from the U.S. Olympic Trials ranks second all-time behind Akihiro Yamaguchi’s four-year-old world record of 2:07.01.

Prenot could become the first man to break into the 2:07-range this year, but more intriguing might be his potential outside of the breaststroke events. His IM skills were on display earlier this year when he recorded the second-fastest time in history in the 400-yard IM at the NCAA championships (3:35.82).

He scratched out of the 400 IM final at the U.S. Olympic Trials and did not compete in the 200 IM at all, knowing that he would have a near-impossible task of making the Olympic team. But with Phelps and Lochte now out of the picture, it could be a chance for Prenot—a sneaky-good butterflyer—to rejoin the fray.


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

11-12. Masato Sakai & Tamas Kenderesi

With 50 meters to go in the men’s 200 fly final in Rio, all eyes were on Michael Phelps, trying to hold on for gold in lane five, and his rival Chad le Clos, seemingly closing in from lane six.

Phelps was willing himself to the finish and looked to be pulling away as le Clos started to fade. But in lane four, Hungary’s Tamas Kenderesi was coming back into the mix, and in lane seven, so was Japan’s Masato Sakai.

Sakai looked like he had a chance to steal away the gold medal in the closing meters, if not for another magical Phelps finish. Sakai touched in 1:53.40 for silver, and Kenderesi was just behind in 1:53.61, picking up a bronze.

Sakai is 21 years old, and Kenderesi just turned 20 in December. Sure, the likes of le Clos and Laszlo Cseh are still around, but this duo could be standing on 200 fly podiums for a while to come.


Photo Courtesy: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

13. Cameron McEvoy

Kyle Chalmers broke the streak of Australian futility in the men’s 100 free in Rio, but the man supposed to be in that position was Cameron McEvoy. McEvoy, after all was the veteran with a World Championships silver and a Pan Pacs title under his belt, the one who had stopped the clock in 47.04 at Australia’s Olympic Trials to break Eamon Sullivan’s Australian record of 47.05.

But in the race for Olympic medals, McEvoy was nowhere to be found. He was seventh in the 100 free final in Rio, touching in a lackluster time of 48.12. McEvoy, relatively small for a sprinter at 6’1″ and 75 kg (165 lbs), seemingly got caught up in the wake with Americans Nathan Adrian and Caeleb Dressel on either side of him.

Still, McEvoy has swum the 100 free much faster than anyone else in history in a textile suit, and he’s 22, turning 23 in May. His shot at redemption awaits.


Photo Courtesy: Steve Christo/Swimming Australia

14. Gabriele Detti

Next up is a guy who, unlike McEvoy, used the Olympic stage as a big boost for his profile. Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri got more attention prior to Rio as the distance man to watch, but his countryman Gabriele Detti put on a show of his own, using the best closing speed in the field to win bronze medals in both the 400 and 1500.

Detti also won three individual medals at the European Championships earlier in 2016, gold in the 400 and silvers behind Paltrinieri in the 800 and mile. But he’s never won a World Championship medal, and he will have a chance to do so in all three distance events this summer in Budapest.


Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

15. Duncan Scott

This teenager made his Olympic debut in heat five of eight of the men’s 100 free in Rio and promptly took down the British record in the event, finishing in 48.01. Even after the circle-seeded heats, that time was good enough to qualify Scott third for the semifinals. Later that day, Scott won his first Olympic medal, posting the second-fastest split on Great Britain’s silver medal-winning 800 free relay.

Scott went on to finish fifth in the 100 free final, tying his British record from prelims, and he won another silver as the anchor leg of his country’s 400 medley relay.

He does not turn 20 until May. Yes, he may be the third British man to make the list, but the attention is deserved. Scott figures to be a big darkhorse in the 100 free—and possibly even the 200 free—this summer at the World Championships.


Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

16. Jesse Puts

A few months after just barely missing out on Olympic qualification, Jesse Puts headed across the Atlantic to Windsor and win a Short Course World title in the men’s 50 free, coming from out of lane seven to upset Vladimir Morozov by four one-hundredths of a second.

A week later, Puts broke Pieter van den Hoogenband’s long course Dutch record in the event with a time of 21.82. Sure, that won’t win any long course World titles, but winning a Short Course World title in his first global meet means Puts is doing things correctly.


17. Michael Andrew

Like Puts, Michael Andrew won his first World title last month in Windsor after not qualifying for the Olympics—he finished fourth in the 100 breast at U.S. Olympic Trials. But Andrew’s golden event, the 100 IM, does not exist in the long course pool.

So if Andrew will make a mark internationally this summer, it will have to come in some other event—at this point, the breaststrokes, the 200 IM and the 400 free relay appear to be the most plausible possibilities.

Andrew has just over a year left to add to his ridiculous haul of National Age Group records—he turns 18 in April—and the next step figures to be earning spot on a senior U.S. team bound for a long course championships.


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.


  1. Matt Byrd

    missing a few…

    • avatar
      David Rieder

      Oh, no doubt. It’s “17” because of the year. So many more storylines that aren’t covered here. Good thing it’s a long year ahead!

    • Simon Gagliardi

      Cameron is in the background and the blurred him out and greyed him

  2. Dee Carr

    Jack, some Aussies made the list!!