National Power Rankings: American Men Still Hold Edge in 2022

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Ryan Murphy of the United States -- Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

National Power Rankings: American Men Still Hold Edge in 2022

When the United States has been at its most dominant in men’s swimming, multi-event stars have carried the load. In recent Olympic cycles, Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Ryan Murphy and Caeleb Dressel have been among those in the star roles, and Bobby Finke was a surprising addition to that club when he won two distance freestyle gold medals in dramatic fashion in Tokyo. But with Dressel missing most of his events at this year’s Worlds, the American men slipped in the medal count, with only two gold medals in individual Olympic events.

Meanwhile, Europe has become the hub of men’s swimming in the world, with emerging stars David Popovici, Leon Marchand and Thomas Ceccon joining Kristof Milak as world-beaters. That said, all of these men hail from separate nations, so when it comes to determining the best team out there, the Americans still hold that title.


1. United States

Finke and Murphy were the key figures for the U.S. in 2022, with both capturing individual world titles, while Carson Foster and Shaine Casas each posted top-three times in the world in multiple races. Michael Andrew took steps toward establishing himself as a multi-event contender internationally, even if his best races are still 50s. Veteran Nic Fink is coming off his finest international performance. The Americans captured comfortable victories in both freestyle relays in Budapest, and a relatively disappointing medley relay effort was still plenty good enough for silver.

Going forward, a lot hinges on Dressel’s return to competition after his departure from Worlds. The American men don’t have the talent pipeline of their female counterparts, with promising 200 breaststroker Matt Fallon ranking as the top American prospect yet to compete internationally.


2. Italy

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Thomas Ceccon — Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

A huge credit to the Italian men for taking a huge step forward over the past several years, and it is no stretch to put the southern European nation into the runnerup spot. That’s because Italy won its first-ever relay gold at a World Championships this year with an upset medley relay win over the United States. Prior to Budapest, Italy had only won five men’s relay medals ever at a Worlds, but Ceccon, Nicolo Martinenghi, Federico Burdisso and Alessandro Miressi got the job done.

Italy won three other gold medals in Budapest, with Martinenghi taking advantage of Adam Peaty’s absence to win a world title in the 100 breaststroke, Ceccon shattering the world record in the 100 backstroke and Gregorio Paltrinieri getting back to his winning ways with the second-fastest time ever in the 1500 free. A deep sprint group has turned Italy into a legitimate 400 free relay international contender, while Alberto Razzetti is an established IMer and Lorenzo Galossi could be the next Italian distance ace.


3. Australia

It’s really hard for the Australian men to match the accomplishments of their women’s team, and this group has some holes (backstroke and IM, to name a few), but breaststroker Zac Stubblety-Cook and sprinter Kyle Chalmers are already stars, with Elijah Winnington hoping to join those ranks after his dramatic world-title win in the 400 free. Freestyle depth is a significant strength for Australia, and that paid off with silver medals in both free relays in Budapest. Matt Temple, Zac Incerti and Jack Cartwright have proven to be valuable depth swimmers, while teenagers Sam Short (distance free) and Flynn Southam (sprint free) have each seen some early international success with plenty of potential remaining.


4. Great Britain

One year ago, Great Britain might have been third or even second on this list, but setbacks derailed Peaty and Duncan Scott this year. The top swimmer for Britain this year was Ben Proud, who was sensational as he took home 50 free tiles at the World Championships, Commonwealth Games and European Championships, and Tom Dean backed up his 200 free Olympic crown by winning a combined 13 medals between the three meets. A full-strength British roster won Olympic gold last year in the 800 free relay and mixed 400 medley relay plus a silver in the men’s medley, so a jump back up a few spots is quite possible.


5. France

MARCHAND Leon FRA Gold Medal ER 400m Individual Medley Men Final Swimming FINA 19th World Championships Budapest 2022 Budapest, Duna Arena 18/06/22 Photo Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Leon Marchand — Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

The 2016 Olympics marked the end of France’s time as a 400 freestyle relay powerhouse (a stretch that included Olympic gold in 2012 and a pair of world titles), but France has rebuilt a strong swimming core that could give the nation plenty to cheer about at a home Olympic Games in two years. The star is Leon Marchand, clearly the world’s top IMer after winning a pair of individual world titles this year, while Maxime Grousset is clearly among the world’s elite in the 50 and 100 free. Yohann Ndoye-Brouard, previously best known for banging his head into the wall in the 100 backstroke semis at the Tokyo Olympics, won the European title in the 200 back this year, while France also won a pair of relay medals at Euros. And although he did not make any finals this year at Worlds, veteran sprinter Florent Manaudou is still on the scene and targeting 2024.


6. Hungary

Just like France, this is a case of one star backed up by some much-improved depth. Kristof Milak is the world’s top 200 butterflyer, and he earned a world title this year in the 100 fly as well before showing off some freestyle skills at the European Championships. Milak and Nemeth Nandor have helped Hungary’s free relays become international medal contenders. Hungary won a European title in the 800 free relay this year after missing the Worlds podium in the 400 free relay by just three tenths. Teenage IMer Hubert Kos was the European champion in the 200 IM this year, while Benedek Kovacs (200 IM) and Richard Marton (200 fly) both posted promising swims for continental champs silver medals. Even 34-year-old David Verraszto is still contributing international medals for the Hungarian cause.


7. Brazil

Brazil gets the seventh spot here by a slim margin. The country was unable to win any swimming medals at a home Olympics in 2016 with only a pair of finalists, but medals have been much more frequent in years since. Fernando Scheffer (200 free) and Bruno Fratus (50 free) both won Olympic medals one year ago, and in 2021, Guilherme Costa claimed bronze at the World Championships in the 400 free. But the reason for Brazil’s placement on this list is relays. Both freestyle relays were finalists at Worlds, with an impressive 800 free relay effort leaving Brazil just seven tenths away from the medals. In contrast, Japan did not have a single relay finalist at Worlds, while Germany, quickly emerging as a power in mid-distance and distance freestyle, had just one.


Russia

Currently, all Russian swimmers are banned from international competition because of their nation’s invasion of Ukraine, and it’s unclear when Russia will again be allowed to compete internationally. Russia would be ranked here, but that nation is excluded because of the current suspension. Evgeny Rylov was the Olympic champion in both backstroke events last year, and Kliment Kolesnikov won Olympic medals in the 100 back and 100 free. Former 200 breast world-record holder Anton Chupkov is still going strong, and Russia’s freestyle relays are perennial medal threats.

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Sarah
17 days ago

Where does Canada rank?

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