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 yesterday with the announcement of the African Swimmers of the Year, Swimming World will begin 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 Pacific Rim Swimmer of the Year: Sun Yang
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Sun Yang had been named Pacific Rim Swimmer of the Year three times, claiming the award in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Back then, he was the heir to Grant Hackett in the 1500 meter free, finally breaking the Aussie’s decade-old world record (14:34.14 in 2011) while winning an Olympic gold (14:31.02 WR in 2012) and two straight world titles.
But since 2013, Sun has not been what he once was in the mile. Under mysterious circumstances, he did not show up for the event’s final at the 2015 World Championships, and then he fell short of the final at the 2016 Olympics after apparently feeling sick. In 2017, he didn’t swim the mile at all after finishing fifth and more than six seconds out of the medals in the 800 free.
No, Sun is not the world’s best distance swimmer anymore. Now, he’s the world’s best mid-distance freestyler.
Since he won gold in the 400 free at the 2012 Olympics, he has lost the race just once internationally: when Aussie Mack Horton got the better of him at the Rio Olympics. Out for revenge at this year’s World Championships in Budapest, Sun got it, beating Horton by two-and- a-half seconds for gold with a time of 3:41.38.
His 200 free, too, has taken off, as Sun followed up a gold medal-winning performance in Rio with another at the World Championships. He won the event in 1:44.39, making him the only man to break 1:45 this year.
So at 25 years old, Sun has put the 1500-meter event behind him to become the dominant man in the 200 and 400—hardly the outcome some would have expected when he first broke Hackett’s world record six years ago. But it’s good enough to earn him the title of Male Pacific Rim Swimmer of the Year for the first time since 2013.
Female Pacific Rim Swimmer of the Year: Emily Seebohm
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Australian swimming icon Emily Seebohm shouldered lofty expectations prior to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Seebohm busted onto the international swimming scene at the 2007 World Championships when she was only 14. She’s amassed five Olympic medals and 14 World Championship (LC) medals in her decade on the international stage.
In the 2012 Olympics, she took silver in the 100 meter back and helped Australia take gold in the 4×100 free relay and silver in the 4×100 medley relay. In 2015, Seebohm won both the 100 and 200 back at the World Championships in Kazan, Russia. She seemed primed for backstroke dominance in Rio.
But Seebohm underperformed at the 2016 Games. She came away with only one Olympic medal—a silver—from Australia’s 4×100 medley relay. She fell to seventh in her signature event, the 100 back, and failed to make the final in the 200 back.
She revealed in late 2016 that she had been suffering from symptoms caused by endometriosis. The condition was not confirmed until December of 2016. Seebohm underwent surgery, which helped reduce the cramping and fatigue that come with the illness. She was determined to make it back to her 2015 form, and remarkably, she nearly did.
At the 2017 World Championships—her fifth appearance at Worlds—Seebohm defended her title in the 200 back in 2:05.68 and nabbed a bronze in the 100 back (58.59). She picked up a silver medal in the 4×100 free relay and a bronze in the 4×100 medley.
Seebohm proved she’s bouncing back and hopes to match Australian legend Leisl Jones’ storied four Olympic appearances by qualifying for the 2020 Games. She concluded 2017’s long course season with the No.1 world ranking in the 200 back, No. 2 in the 100 back (58.53r) and No. 4 in the 50 back (27.37). Seebohm is back.