Each year Swimming World Magazine selects the top male and female swimmers from the following regions: Africa, the Pacific Rim, Europe, the Americas, and World.
Starting with the announcement of the African Swimmers of the Year on November 28th and the Pacific Rim Swimmers of the Year on November 29th, Swimming World is announcing the top athletes in each region leading up to the announcement of the Male and Female World Swimmer of the Year on December 1st. The final announcement will coincide with the official release of the December Swimming World Magazine. To download and read previous “Swimmers of the Year”, visit the Swimming World Vault and download past December issues.
Male European Swimmer of the Year: Adam Peaty
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If you ever get the chance, go watch Adam Peaty race in person. Sure, you can watch him on television and can read all about his breaststroke excellence here in Swimming World Magazine—which has earned him the European Swimmer of the Year honors for a fourth straight year—but the in-person viewing experience is a little different.
For one, the six-foot- two-inch Peaty is not a dominant physical specimen. His starts and pullouts are average among world-class breaststrokers. But on the surface, no one has ever swum the stroke like Peaty does—the snap of the kick, the strength in each pull and the fluidity of the entire motion.
A virtual unknown four years ago, Peaty broke his first world record in the 50 meter breast in 2014 (26.62). The following year, he became the first man to break 58 seconds in the 100 breast (57.92 in April), then became world champion in the 50 and 100 breast at Kazan that summer, while again breaking the 50-meter world record (26.42). And then in 2016, Peaty won Olympic gold in the 100 breast in 57.13, very nearly becoming the first man to swim a 56-second 100 breaststroke.
Those three years won him accolades as our top European male, and his 2015 performance earned him World Swimmer of the Year. In 2017, Peaty continued his dominance, and he remains the best there is on the continent and still, by far, the best sprint breaststroker in the world.
Peaty won his second straight world title in the 100 breast in 57.47, just 34-hundredths off his world record and still a full second faster than anyone else has ever swum!
And when the 50 breast rolled around at the World Champs in Budapest, Peaty proceeded to cut nearly a half-second off his 26.42 world record from Kazan, first with a 26.10 in prelims, then 25.95 in semifinals…and he won gold in the final (25.99) by more than a half-second.
Yes, a half-second! And he won the 100 breast by 1.32 seconds. No other swimmer dominates his events right now like Peaty.
Female American Swimmer of the Year: Katie Ledecky
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Katie Ledecky has won 26 medals in the last five years between the Pan-Pacific Championships, World Championships and the Olympics. Zero bronze, two silver and 24 international gold medals. It’s impossible to appreciate fully the breadth of Ledecky’s accomplishments over the past five years.
This past summer, the world expected the world of Ledecky yet again. And she delivered, whether swim fans and the media agree or not.
On Day 1 of the 2017 World Championships, Ledecky defended her world title in the 400 meter free, setting a championship record (3:58.34). Later that session, Ledecky threw down a 53-second 100 free as the third leg of the 4×100 freestyle relay, helping Team USA to gold and an American record.
Day 3 saw a landmark victory for Ledecky—her win in the 1500 free (15:31.82) marked her 12th gold medal at a World Championship meet, surpassing Missy Franklin as the top long course gold medal-hauling female in World Championship history.
On Day 4, Ledecky lost an individual race on the international stage for the first time ever. She tied for second with Australia’s Emma McKeon in 1:55.18. This was especially disappointing to the superstar since she had swum a time (1:54.69) in the semifinal the night before that would have won the final…and that swim came less than an hour after the mile! She had the speed, but on Day 4, Italy’s Federica Pellegrini had more, winning in 1:54.73.
The next day, Ledecky anchored Team USA’s 4×200 free relay with a scorching 1:54.02, the fastest split in the field by more than a second. Team USA won gold, and Ledecky affirmed her 200 speed with that split.
Ledecky capped off her marathon meet with a victory in the 800 (8:12.68), her fifth straight title in the event between the Olympics and World Championships.
Despite not setting a world record in 2017, Ledecky still had a spectacular summer. She holds the record among female swimmers for the most individual (10) and overall (14) gold medals earned at the World Championships. Ledecky’s times from Budapest in the 200, 400 and 1500 were world-leading times in 2017, as was her 8:11.50 in the 800 at the World Championship Trials in early July.