Swim Poll of the Week: 46% Believe Janet Evans Is Best Retired Female Swimmer of All-Time


Janet Evans topped the swim poll of the week as the top female swimmer of all-time among retired athletes.

This is the Swim Poll of the Week for Wednesday August 12, 2020, sponsored by Strechcordz Swim Training Products. In our last poll, we wanted to know: Who is the greatest female swimmer of all-time among retired athletes?

Two weeks ago during the pre-scheduled dates of the now-postponed Olympic Games, 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.

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 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.

We wanted to ask our audience who the best female swimmer of all-time was that has retired from the sport, excluding Ledecky who will be vying for a third straight 800 free gold medal in Tokyo next year.

We asked for the swim poll and it looks like our audience sided with the American distance swimmer…

Here are the answers regarding who the best retired female swimmer is of all-time:

Janet Evans – 46%

Krisztina Egerszegi – 15%

Shane Gould – 14%

Someone Else – 25%




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    • Diane Pavelin

      Caulkins is the only swimmer to win a National championship in every stroke and IM. Plus she set American records in them as well. She’s the best by far.

  1. Bill Thompson

    Tracy Caulkins has to be part of this conversation.

    • David Zimmerman

      Bill Thompson I agree. The problem is that her world championship and Olympic wins were limited in the East German doping era. Meagher should also be considered.

    • Bill Thompson

      David Zimmerman She won NAT titles in all four strokes. I was lucky to be coaching and got to watch her. Prodigal.

    • Pablo Valedon

      Tracy, meager, Evan’s in that order!??‍♀️??‍♂️

  2. Kurt Litchfield

    Shane Gould. By far.
    “She is the only person, male or female, to hold every world freestyle record from 100 metres to 1500 metres and the 200-metre individual medley world record simultaneously, which she did from 12 December 1971 to 1 September 1972. She is the first female swimmer ever to win three Olympic gold medals in world record time, and the first swimmer, male or female, to win Olympic medals in five individual events in a single Olympics. She is also the only Australian to win three individual gold medals at a single Olympics.”

    • Les Hopkins

      Kurt Litchfield and she was only a kid!

    • Rich Davis

      Kurt Litchfield bang on. She’s certainly my choice. So good that the Americans wore T-shirts in 72 that said ‘All that glitters is not Gould’.

    • Kurt Litchfield

      The sad thing is that I only learned about her because my son was lucky enough to train with Milt Nelms. I learned about her while researching him.

  3. Johnny Karnofsky

    Shirley Babashoff, if she wasn’t cheated off the podium and out of the record books….

  4. Bjorn Samson

    Can go back and forth among several after thinking of it but initial thought was definitely Egerszegi for me.

  5. Eric Lahmy

    So difficult to give a name between Tracy Caulkins, Dawn Fraser, Shane Gould, Janet Evans, Ragnhild Hveger and Krizstina Egerszegi…

  6. Scott Tobin

    Caulkins, Torres, Sanders. Also Kristen Otto. Evans was amazing, but to me, versatility counts big.

    • avatar
      Darren Ward

      Gold in the 400 IM in 88’ kinda counts as being versatile.