Swimming World Magazine Presents the 2018 World 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 coincides 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.

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Male World and European Swimmer of the Year

PEATY Adam GBR Gold Medal 50m Breaststroke Finals Glasgow 08/08/18 Swimming Tollcross International Swimming Centre LEN European Aquatics Championships 2018 European Championships 2018 Photo Andrea Masini/ Deepbluemedia/Insidefoto

Adam Peaty Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia/Insidefoto

When Adam Peaty first started training with the City of Derby Swimming Club 10 years ago, head coach and former Olympic swimmer Melanie Marshall was underwhelmed by three of his four strokes. The 14-year-old was raw, but he had a naturally powerful breaststroke. With Marshall’s astute technical coaching, Peaty became one of the top breaststrokers in the world by 2014.

At that year’s Commonwealth Games, Peaty upset 2012 Olympic champion Cameron van der Burgh in the 100 meter breaststroke by 3-tenths of a second.

In 2015, Peaty bettered van der Burgh’s world record in the event by half a second (57.92), becoming the first man ever to dip under 58 seconds. The next year in his Olympic debut, Peaty broke the world record in prelims of the 100 breast (57.55) and again in finals (57.13).

In a matter of three years, Peaty had become the best breaststroker in swimming history.

At the 2017 World Championships, Peaty handily won the 100 again (57.47)…but this time, it was the 50 in which he lowered the world record—first in prelims (26.10), then in semis (25.95), becoming the first swimmer to break the 26-second barrier.

At this year’s Commonwealth Games, Peaty won the 100 breast (58.84) and set a Games record in the semifinal of the event (58.59)—more than a second off his world record. In the 50, he finished second behind van der Burgh—the first time in four years that he had not won that race.

It seemed, perhaps, that Peaty’s steady upward trajectory was beginning its descent…that is, until the 2018 European Championships in August, when he set another WR in the 100 breast (57.10) and came away with four gold medals (100 breast, mixed 4×100 medley relay, 50 breast, men’s 4×100 medley relay). He was Britain’s first three-time quadruple champion at Europeans. At the end of 2018’s long course season, Peaty held the 11 top times ever swum in the 50 breast and the 14 fastest times ever swum in the 100 breast.

Peaty’s beastly efforts earned him Swimming World’s Male World Swimmer of the Year honor for the second time in his career (2015, 2018). But the 23-year-old (who will turn 24 at the end of this month) is not satisfied being far and away the best breaststroker in the world—he wants to be the first man to dip under 57 seconds in the 100. And he’s proven time and again that he doesn’t need anyone to race but the clock.

Female World and American Swimmer of the Year

katie-ledecky-

Katie Ledecky Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Over a stretch of pure dominance from 2013 to 2016, Katie Ledecky set 13 individual world records and twice swept World Championship titles in the 400, 800 and 1500 meter free. She added a fourth individual gold at the 2015 Worlds in the 200 free, and in 2016, she became just the second woman ever to sweep Olympic gold medals in the 200, 400 and 800 free—behind Debbie Meyer, who accomplished that feat in 1968.

Ledecky was named Swimming World’s World Swimmer of the Year in each of those four years, but her streak was broken by Sarah Sjostrom in 2017—not that Ledecky had a poor year, but Sjostrom was just too good in the sprints.

Now, the 21-year-old Ledecky is back on top. This World Swimmer of the Year honor is her fifth—more than any other women—and her American Swimmer of the Year honor is her sixth straight, breaking a tie for most all-time with Janet Evans.

Her highlight moment of 2018 came not at either of her primary target meets, the women’s NCAA Championships (SCY) in March or the Pan Pacific Championships in August, but at the TYR Pro Swim Series in Indianapolis in May, when Ledecky shocked everyone in attendance and around the world by chopping five seconds off her world record in the 1500 free (15:20.48).

During the summer, it was business as usual for Ledecky in the distance events, as she swept the 400, 800 and 1500 gold medals at Pan Pacs. She also posted her second fastest 200 free relay split ever (1:53.84), as she anchored the Americans to silver in the 4×200 free relay—and nearly made up a huge gap (nearly three seconds) to catch Australia for gold.

Ledecky also began her professional career in 2018, making her decision in late March after defending her NCAA titles in the 500 and 1650 yard free and leading Stanford to a second straight team championship.

Ledecky was still an easy and obvious choice for World Swimmer of the Year, if for no other reason than this: she finished the year ranked first in three individual Olympic events (400-800-1500) and second in a fourth (200). No one else can claim that distinction.

Beyond all that, we got a reminder of Ledecky’s greatest talent—the ability to pull off astounding, historic swims when they are least expected.

5 Comments

5 comments

    • Tony MacGuinness

      Paul Robbins

      Every swimmer should be looked upon as a dream athlete by the coach, not just the obvious performers.

      They are, who they are and other swimmers may have qualities that Ledecky and Peaty could adopt.

    • Paul Robbins

      Tony MacGuinness don’t agree that all athletes could be categorised as dream athletes. I think most coaches would consider the psychological contract, commitment and work ethic at the very top of their hierarchy of values. All athletes should be valued, I wouldn’t argue with that one Tony.

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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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