Swimming World Magazine Announces 2018 Pacific Rim 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 yesterday, 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.

Male Pacific Rim Swimmer of the Year: Sun Yang


Photo Courtesy: SIPA USA

NBC Sports described China’s Sun Yang as “very arguably the greatest freestyle swimmer of all time.” Sun is the first male swimmer in history to earn Olympic and World Championship gold medals in every freestyle distance from 200 to 1500 meters.

Sun’s rise to prominence in the sport was quick—he was only 16 when he made his first Olympic final in the 1500 meter free at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Two years later, Sun won the Asian Games title in the event, swimming the second fastest time in history (behind Australian legend Grant Hackett). At 19, he won the race by 10 seconds at the 2011 World Championships (14:34.14), taking down Hackett’s 10-year-old world record (the only one to survive the techsuit era/2009).

At the 2012 London Games, Sun won his first two Olympic golds in the 400 and 1500. In 2016, he expanded his gold-medal repertoire by winning the 200 free.

Sun is known for his back-half speed, displayed exquisitely in the Rio Olympics when he chased down and conquered South African Chad le Clos in the final 50 meters of the 200.

At the 2017 World Championships in Budapest, Sun added gold medals in the 200 and 400 meter freestyles (1:44.39, 3:41.38). Languishing in sixth place at the halfway point of the 200, Sun turned on the afterburners and won easily by more than half a second ahead of the field.

Known as a charismatic athlete, Sun was especially emotional after his triumphant showing at this year’s Asian Games. The steadfastly fast freestyler put on a show in Jakarta, Indonesia, sweeping the freestyle events from 200 through 1500 meters, winning all four races handily. His winning times of 1:45.43 (third in the world in 2018), 3:42.92 (first in the world by 8-tenths of a second), 7:48.36 (a Games record) and 14:58.53 were impressive enough to earn him the 2018 Male Pacific Rim Swimmer of the Year honors. He also added two silvers to his collection in the 4×100 and 4×200 free relays.

Sun, who turns 27 the first of this month, battled a nagging back injury throughout the Asian Games, making his feat all the more spectacular. One photo captured him in tears as he hugged a mainland journalist soon after winning the 1500. Winning all four events was especially meaningful to Sun, as it marked his first 200-1500 sweep at a major competition.

Female Pacific Rim Swimmer of the Year: Cate Campbell


Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr/Swimming Australia Ltd.

Cate Campbell turned in one of the most dominating swimming performances of 2018. That in itself is not surprising, but it was how this year’s performance came together that proved to be a little more eye-opening. After a disappointing performance at the Rio Olympics, where Campbell, in her own words, “choked,” it took awhile to get back to elite form.

“Swimming had become my whole world back in 2016,” she said. “It happened very slowly, but by the time we got to Rio, I had very little else in my life that I could draw joy from or draw perspective from.”

But after taking some time to learn more about herself and appreciate her sport again, Campbell enjoyed a renaissance season like few others.

Her year was simply sensational. At the Commonwealth Games, Campbell won three gold medals and one silver. One of those gold medals came in the 4×100 meter free relay in which she anchored Australia to a world record (51.00/3:30.05). She also dominated at Pan Pacs, winning five gold medals. She set a meet record in the 50 free, clocked the second fastest time ever in the 100 (just 3-tenths off Sarah Sjostrom’s 51.71 WR) and was part of three relay golds.

“Every time I hit the water, it was just magic. I can’t really tell you why that happened—but I’m not going to lie…it felt really, really good,” Campbell said.

The 26-year-old finished 2018 with the world’s fastest time of the year in the 100 free (52.03) and the third fastest times in the 50 free (23.81) and 50 fly (25.59). But her biggest victory has been finding happiness in and out of the sport, a message she delivered in a letter to those she called the “keyboard warriors.”

“I’ve had a long time to process what went wrong and why I choked—yes, I am still going to use that word,” she wrote. “And there are many, many reasons, none of which I feel now I have to justify to you. I did at the time. But I just want to let you know that you could not possibly be more disappointed in me than I was in myself.”

That has all changed as Campbell is back at the top of her sport. But this time, she is not defined by it—and with that new perspective, this revival could just be getting started.