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. Swimming World Magazine first named the World Swimmers of the Year in 1964 for men and added the female award in 1965. The Americas and European regional awards were added in 1980, followed by Pacific Rim in 1995, and Africa in 2004.
The 2017 announcements began with the African Swimmers of the Year on November 28th, followed by the Pacific Rim Swimmers of the Year on November 29th, and the Male European and Female American Swimmers of the Year on November 30th. Today Swimming World Magazine announces the top athletes in the world as Swimming World’s Male and Female World Swimmer of the Year. The final announcement coincides with the official release of the December Swimming World Magazine. To download and read this year and previous “Swimmers of the Year”, visit the Swimming World Vault and download past December issues.
Male World and American Swimmer of the Year: Caeleb Dressel
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He was on the verge of making history, but Caeleb Dressel insisted that he had no desire to be compared with Michael Phelps, a man whose athletic accomplishments had long since transcended the sport.
Dressel twice declared his admiration for Phelps, with whom he had crossed paths at the Rio Olympics—the fifth Games for Phelps and the first for Dressel. But the 20-year-old Floridian also uttered these words: “I just want to keep doing my own thing.”
His “own thing” had, to that point, produced six World Championship gold medals at FINA’s global showcase meet in Budapest. One day later, he would win a record-tying seventh. The only other man to win that many was, of course, Phelps.
And now, for those efforts, Dressel is the winner of an award that Phelps won eight times: Male World Swimmer of the Year.
Before the meet in Budapest, Dressel’s best shot at gold appeared to be the 100 meter free, with 2016 Olympic gold medalist Kyle Chalmers absent from the meet because of health issues. Indeed, Dressel would storm through that event, winning in 47.17 and becoming history’s seventh fastest man in the process.
Two days later, he put together arguably the greatest single session in swimming history. On the seventh night of Worlds, he won three golds in the span of two hours. First came the 50 free, which he won in 21.15, making him the third fastest performer in history.
Minutes later, he faced off with Olympic gold medalist Joseph Schooling in the 100 fly. Dressel dominated, winning by nearly a second and posting a time of 49.86, just 4-hundredths off Phelps’ world record.
Finally, he gave the American mixed 400 free relay team a lead of more than a body length, and the outcome was never in doubt after that. Said U.S. team captain Matt Grevers at the end of that night, “It’s awesome seeing the birth of a superstar.”
Dressel took part in three other American relay wins as well—the men’s 400 free and 400 medley and in the mixed 400 medley. Sure, he benefited from extra medal opportunities with the addition of the mixed relays to the World Championships slate, but he provided the decisive leg in each of those relay wins. Differ as they may, Dressel has become what Phelps was for so long: the world’s male premier swimmer.
Female World and European Swimmer of the Year: Sarah Sjostrom
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For the first time since 2012, Swimming World’s Female World Swimmer of the Year is not Katie Ledecky. Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom has dethroned Lady Ledecky. The 24-year-old collected the same individual medal haul as Ledecky at the 2017 World Championships—three golds and one silver—but Sjostrom upped Ledecky by uncorking two world records in the 50 and 100 free. And she set four short course meters world records days later.
Sjostrom unleashed something remarkable to lead off Sweden’s 4×100 meter freestyle relay at Worlds: her blistering 51.71 split broke Australian Cate Campbell’s world record by 35-hundredths.
On Day 2 in Budapest, Sjostrom came close to another world record—her own—in the 100 fly, touching in 55.53 seconds, a mere 5-hundredths off of her record time from Rio. Sjostrom became the first woman to win four world titles in a single individual event with the victory. She now owns the 11 fastest times in history in the 100 fly!
Four days later, Sjostrom settled for silver in the 100 free—4-hundredths behind the USA’s Simone Manuel—but her world record from the first night remained intact. Surely the unexpected silver fed Sjostrom’s fire. The next night, Sjostrom reigned supreme in the 50 fly, touching in 24.60 to win by nearly 8-tenths of a second—a massive margin in a 50.
Sjostrom was having the meet of her life, so when she busted out another world record in her last event, the 50 free (23.67), no one was particularly surprised—but everyone was awed. The swim nixed a 2009 super-suit record by 6-hundredths, this one by Germany’s Britta Steffen.
The Swede’s world-record-wrecking tour had only just begun at Worlds, which ended July 30. Three days later, Sjostrom began an 11-day journey in which she added four more WR performances at two World Cup meets. First, in Moscow, Aug. 2-3, she clocked 23.10 in the 50 free, followed by a 50.77 100 free the second day of the meet.
Then in Eindhoven, Aug. 11-12, she lowered her 100 time to 50.58. The next day, Sjostrom swam the 200 free, an event she did not swim at the 2017 World Championships. But maybe she should have—Sjostrom hit the wall in 1:50.43 for another SCM world record. (Her records in the 50 and 100 were later broken by The Netherlands’ Ranomi Kromowidjojo—50, 22.93, Aug. 7—and Australia’s Cate Campbell—100, 50.25, Oct. 26.)
This is Sjostrom’s first World Swimmer of the Year title. Six world records in one year—that’s one successful 2017 campaign!