Swimming World December 2021 Presents – The Top 10 Performances of 2021

Swimming World December 2021 - Top 10 performances of 2021 - caeleb dressel
[Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA Today Sports]

 

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The Top 10 Performances of 2021

By John Lohn

Oh, how easy it is to forget. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Swimming World did not select the top 10 performances of the year for 2020. It wouldn’t have made sense. And in the time that has elapsed since the 2019 list was compiled, the difficulty of the task was forgotten. Add in the fact that it was an Olympic year, and the grinding nature of the chore was magnified.

But the painstaking process was eventually completed, and here are the results, with five-time Olympic champion Caeleb Dressel heading the list, thanks to his world record in the 100 meter butterfly at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Overall, the top 10 performances consisted of seven women’s efforts, and three from the men. A further breakdown reveals seven individual swims and three world record-setting relays.
Sit back and enjoy reliving the best performances the sport produced in 2021.

 

1. CAELEB DRESSEL, USA
100 Meter Butterfly
Olympic Games (49.45 WR)

In between victories in sprint freestyle at the Tokyo Olympics, Caeleb Dressel took care of business in an event in which he boasts historical dominance. En route to a world record of 49.45 in the 100 meter butterfly, the American sensation turned back a charge by European phenom Kristof Milak, who had already captured the Olympic title in the 200 butterfly.

Dressel and Milak put on a show over their two laps, with Dressel’s early speed pitted against the hard-charging ability of Milak. At the wall, it was Dressel who earned the right to stand atop the medals podium, as his world-record time fended off Milak’s European standard of 49.68. As the year comes to a close, Dressel owns five of the six fastest times in the history of the event.

“What a close race, and two of the fastest times in history,” Dressel said. “You don’t get that very often. So, to be a part of that is really special.”

2. TATJANA SCHOENMAKER, SOUTH AFRICA
200 Meter Breaststroke
Olympic Games (2:18.95 WR)

At the 2016 Olympics, South Africa did not send a female athlete to Rio de Janeiro. Five years later, the nation cheered as Tatjana Schoenmaker emerged as a champion and became the first woman to crack the 2:19 barrier in the 200 breaststroke.

Coming off a silver medal in the 100 breaststroke, Schoenmaker was riding a wave of momentum heading into her premier event. In the final, she was untouchable, as she pulled away from the American tandem of Lilly King and Annie Lazor and set a world mark of 2:18.95. In capturing gold, Schoenmaker became the first South African woman to claim an Olympic swimming title since Penny Heyns in 1996.

Schoenmaker broke the eight-year-old world record of 2:19.11, set at the 2013 World Championships by Denmark’s Rikke Moller Pedersen. Following her win, Schoenmaker was joined for a group hug by King and Lazor, along with fellow South African Kaylene Corbett, who finished fifth. The image was one of the best moments of sportsmanship in the pool, four women celebrating the work they logged to excel in Tokyo.

3. ARIARNE TITMUS, AUSTRALIA
400 Meter Freestyle
Olympic Games (3:56.69)

The clash between Australian Ariarne Titmus and American Katie Ledecky in the 400 freestyle at the Tokyo Games was billed as the most-anticipated women’s matchup. While some of these hyped duels fizzle, Titmus and Ledecky delivered an epic race, with the Aussie assuming the throne with a spectacular final-lap charge. At the finish, it was Titmus in 3:56.69 and Ledecky touching in 3:57.36.

The reigning champion, Ledecky pressed the pace and bolted to the lead from the start, hardly a surprise given her track record. What was different, though, was how Titmus lurked on Ledecky’s shoulder, seemingly biding her time to strike. That moment arrived at the final turn, as Titmus moved ahead of Ledecky and powered to the gold medal.

Although Titmus topped Ledecky in the event at the 2019 World Championships, the American was ill during that competition, leaving the Aussie to prove herself all over again. Clearly, she was up to the task, and her triumph led to Coach Dean Boxall erupting into a crazed celebration.

“I just thanked her,” Titmus said of Ledecky. “I wouldn’t be here without her. She’s set this standard for middle-distance freestyle. If I didn’t have someone like her to chase, I definitely wouldn’t be swimming the way I am.”

4. KAYLEE McKEOWN, AUSTRALIA
100 Meter Backstroke
Australian Olympic Trials (57.45 WR)

In the leadup to the Australian Olympic Trials, major expectations surrounded Kaylee McKeown—and for good reason. As a blossoming talent under Coach Chris Mooney, McKeown had enjoyed a superb campaign, one which included some world-record scares. At Trials, there was no missing out, as McKeown broke Regan Smith’s global standard with a mark of 57.45.

The record was an emotional moment for McKeown, whose 53-year-old father, Sholto, lost his battle with brain cancer a little less than a year earlier. McKeown doubled down later in the summer when she backed up her world record with gold-medal outings in the 100 backstroke and 200 backstroke at the Olympic Games. In the 100 back, McKeown was just outside her own world mark, going 57.47.

5. AUSTRALIA
400 Meter Freestyle Relay (Women)
Olympic Games (3:29.69 WR)

For the third straight Olympiad—and fourth time in five Games—Australia dispatched the competition in the 400 freestyle relay. However, the showing in Tokyo was easily the most impressive, as the squad of Bronte Campbell, Meg Harris, Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell fired off a world-record time of 3:29.69. The swim chopped 36-hundredths off the previous standard.

The back half of the Aussie relay was sensational, with veterans McKeon and Campbell registering respective splits of 51.35 and 52.24. Through those two legs, Australia turned a tight race with Canada and the United States into a rout, with the Aussies prevailing over the Canadians by more than three seconds. For McKeon, the gold was one of a record-setting seven medals.

 

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Swimming World December 2021 - World Swimmers of the Year - Caeleb Dressel and Emma McKeon Lead the Way - Double COVER[Dressel Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher / USA Today Sports]

 

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FEATURES

014 2021 SWIMMERS OF THE YEAR
by Dan D’Addona, Matthew De George, John Lohn and David Rieder
World: Caeleb Dressel (Male American) & Emma McKeon (Female Pacific Rim)
Male Pacific Rim: Zac Stubblety-Cook
Female American: Katie Ledecky
European: Evgeny Rylov & Sarah Sjostrom
African: Ahmed Hafnaoui & Tatjana Schoenmaker

022 THE TOP 10 PERFORMANCES OF 2021
by John Lohn
Five-time Olympic champion Caeleb Dressel heads the list of the best swimming performances produced in 2021, thanks to his world record in the 100 meter butterfly at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Overall, the top 10 performances consisted of seven women’s efforts and three from the men. A further breakdown reveals seven individual swims and three world record-setting relays.

025 HONG KONG HERO
by David Rieder
People gathered in shopping malls, crowding in front of big screens to watch their national hero race for Olympic medals. Others watched on office conference room TVs, while passengers on the train had their mobile devices tuned to the Tokyo Games. What they saw was Siobhan Haughey become the first and only Olympian from Hong Kong to capture multiple medals—two silvers in the 100 and 200 freestyle.

032 ISHOF FEATURE: AQUATOTS MURDER CASE—THE KATHY TONGAY STORY (Part 3)
by Bruce Wigo
This is the final story of a three-part series about “The Aquatots Murder Case” regarding the death of 5-year-old Kathy Tongay and the subsequent murder charge against her father, Russell. This month’s episode: Russell Tongay’s appeal, life in (and out) of prison, what happened to Kathy’s brother, Bubber, and the impact the case had on age group sports in America.

044 NUTRITION: HOLIDAY/INTENSE TRAINING
by Dawn Weatherwax
To train hard, you need to eat hard! Make sure you put as much emphasis on nutrition and sleep as you would on your workouts.

COACHING

036 COACHING IN A CHANGING ENVIRONMENT (Part 2)
by Michael J. Stott
Last month, in Part 1, Swimming World explored how COVID-19 altered swim training as we have known it. This month, we look at some issues and opportunities facing club swimming as it strives to be the sport of choice for a younger generation.

042 SWIMMING TECHNIQUE CONCEPTS: MAXIMIZING SWIMMING VELOCITY (Part 6)—THE PUSH PHASE
by Rod Havriluk
In freestyle and butterfly, swimmers typically decrease the push phase time to increase stroke rate and swimming velocity. In doing so, the premature upward motion of the elbows pulls the hands upward and compromises propulsion. Most swimmers can gain additional propulsion on the push phase by pushing the hand backward instead of pulling the hand upward.

045 SPECIAL SETS: ZOE DIXON—VERSATILITY IS KEY
by Michael J. Stott
Zoe Dixon, 2021-22 National Junior Team member, has had quite a year. Swimming for Coach Norm Wright at NOVA of Virginia, the 17-year-old is ranked No. 1 in Virginia and 11th nationally for the Class of 2022, and has committed to the University of Florida.

047 Q&A WITH COACH BRENT BOOCK, ELMBROOK SWIM CLUB (Wis.)
by Michael J. Stott

048 HOW THEY TRAIN CAMPBELL STOLL
by Michael J. Stott

TRAINING

041 DRYSIDE TRAINING: FINISH STRONG
by J.R. Rosania

JUNIOR SWIMMER

051 UP & COMERS: THOMAS HEILMAN
by Shoshanna Rutemiller

COLUMNS & SPECIAL SECTIONS

012 A VOICE FOR THE SPORT

013 DID YOU KNOW: ABOUT THE 1951 PAN AMERICAN GAMES?

028 HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE

050 HASTY HIGH POINTERS

052 GUTTERTALK

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