Swimming World Announces the 2018 Female European and Male American Swimmers of the Year

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 on November 28th, Swimming World began 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.

Female European Swimmer of the Year

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Photo Courtesy: SIPA USA

One year after Sarah Sjostrom was named World Swimmer of the Year, she returned with another strong performance at the European Championships in 2018. For those efforts, she is named Swimming World’s European Swimmer of the Year for the third time.

After setting six world records between short course and long course in 2017, the 25-year-old Sjostrom did not approach any of those records in her signature sprint freestyle or sprint butterfly races, but she won four individual gold medals in August at the European Championships—the first time that Sjostrom did not lose a single individual race at her primary championship meet.

Most impressive among those races was the 50 meter free, in which Sjostrom dueled Olympic champion Pernille Blume of Denmark and touched first by just 1-hundredth of a second, 23.74 to 23.75. Her winning time was just 7-hundredths off her world record, and that swim was easily her top performance of 2018. Each of her other continental triumphs came in much more convincing fashion, with times of 52.93 in the 100 free, 25.16 in the 50 fly and 56.23 in the 100 fly.

Her 100 fly victory was the fifth European title for Sjostrom in that event in the last six tries. She first won as a 14-year-old back in 2008 and has only missed out on the top spot once since, when she finished 1-hundredth behind Jeanette Ottesen in 2014.

In a bit of a surprise, Sjostrom did not finish 2018 as the top swimmer in the world in either the 100 free or 100 fly, with teenager Rikako Ikee of Japan sitting atop the butterfly rankings just ahead of Sjostrom (56.08 to 56.23). In freestyle, Australia’s Cate Campbell’s No. 1-ranked time (52.03) was 6-tenths faster than Sjostrom’s season best (52.67 for fourth) and the second fastest time in history behind the Swede’s world record.

In 2018, Sjostrom may not have been the obvious candidate for the world’s best female swimmer as she was in 2017, but she remains the world’s most dangerous and versatile sprinter. Heading into next year’s World Championships, Sjostrom should still be the one to beat.

Male American Swimmer of the Year

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Chase Kalisz had established himself as the best individual medley swimmer in the United States well before the year began. But in 2018, he proved that he was the best IMer in the world.

If there was any doubt, he finished on top of the world rankings in both the 200 and 400 meter IM (1:55.40, 4:07.95), and won the gold medal at the Pan Pacific Championships in both events.

Kalisz’s signature moment came at Pan Pacs in Tokyo when he was able to take down two of Japan’s finest—2015 World champion Daiya Seto and 2016 Olympic gold medalist Kosuke Hagino.

It wasn’t easy going up against two hometown favorites in the same race. The home crowd got Seto and Hagino energized, with the two turning first at the 200. But Kalisz swam an incredible 1:08.39 breaststroke split to turn a second-and-a-half deficit into nearly a two-second lead. As Kalisz won in 4:07.95, Hagino and Seto still managed to make the podium, but their respective times were a distant 4:11.13 and 4:12.60.

“I just wanted to do as many events as possible and race at a high level,” Kalisz said. “I have always put a lot of emphasis on being fast in-season—not necessarily that I am setting myself up to be fast, but I want to race fast. I want to go a fast time, so I race hard…as hard as I can every single time I get in the pool, and that is very valuable at the end of the season.”

Kalisz’s dominance wasn’t just at Pan Pacs. At the U.S. summer nationals two weeks earlier, the 24-year-old won the 200 IM in 1:55.73, just 2-tenths off his lifetime best and a portent of even better things to come in Tokyo: a 1:55.40 PR.

In the 400 IM, it was again the breaststroke leg that proved the difference for Kalisz at nationals. He moved up to first in the field by the 250 and never looked back, cruising into the wall in 4:08.25. It was the top time in the world until Kalisz again outdid himself at Pan Pacs.

Meanwhile, Kalisz was able to keep up his strong season while still training heavily all season. He dominated the USA TYR Pro Swim Series all year and was the top point scorer of the series in his signature events.

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Author: Taylor Brien

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Taylor Brien is the Assistant Operations Manager and a staff writer at Swimming World. A native of Bettendorf, IA and a 2015 graduate of Illinois College, she has covered a variety of events since joining the SW team in 2015, including the NCAA Championships, World Championships, Olympic Trials, and 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

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