Who Will Be Swimming World’s 2017 World Swimmers of the Year?

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Every year since 1964, Swimming World has acknowledged the top athletes in our sport by voting for the World Swimmers of the Year. The awards expanded to include the Americas and European Regions in 1980, Pacific Rim in 1995, and Africa in 2004.  A panel of 15 members, both national and international, participated in the 2017 voting process. In anticipation of the release of the December issue we at Swimming World would like to take a look back at previous winners.

(Editor’s note: In 2013 Swimming World stripped the East German athletes, who were systematically doped in the 1970s and ’80s, from their World and European Swimmer of the Year titles).

2016 Winners: Katie Ledecky & Michael Phelps


Photo Courtesy: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

To the surprise of no one, Katie Ledecky was unanimously selected as Swimming World’s Female World Swimmer of the Year for the fourth consecutive year. The only other woman to match that feat was Janet Evans from 1987 to 1990.

Ledecky also earned her fourth Female American Swimmer of the Year award. Only five-time winner Evans (1987-91) has more. Lady Ledecky can now legitimately lay claim to being the most dominant female aquatic athlete on the planet.

To cement her claim to that title, Ledecky set a formidable challenge for herself at the Rio Olympics: win the 200, 400 and 800 freestyle events. In 100-plus years of Olympic swimming, only Debbie Meyer had taken that trifecta. And that was in 1968—48 years ago.

Her final medal tally (four golds, one silver) made for the most decorated single-Olympics performance by a U.S. female athlete in terms of gold medals.


Photo Courtesy: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

For the eighth time in his legendary career, Michael Phelps was named Swimming World’s World Swimmer of the Year. Phelps has now won the award in each of the past four Olympic years, and this honor came 13 years after he first won the award in 2003. His eight awards double the total of the swimmer with the next most titles, Australia’s Ian Thorpe. Phelps also captured Male American Swimmer of the Year honors for the 11th time, also a record.

Phelps concluded the 2016 Rio Olympics by adding another six medals to his collection (five gold and one silver) and received a long-standing ovation from the crowd at the Olympic Aquatic Center following his final race of his fifth Olympics.

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2018Katie Ledecky, USAAdam Peaty, GBR
2017Sarah Sjostrom, SWECaeleb Dressel, USA
2016Katie Ledecky, USAMichael Phelps, USA
2015Katie Ledecky, USAAdam Peaty, GBR
2014Katie Ledecky, USAKosuke Hagino, JPN
2013Katie Ledecky, USASun Yang, CHN
2012Missy Franklin, USAMichael Phelps, USA
2011Rebecca Soni, USARyan Lochte, USA
2010Rebecca Soni, USARyan Lochte, USA
2009Federica Pellegrini, ITAMichael Phelps, USA
2008Stephanie Rice, AUSMichael Phelps, USA
2007Laure Manaudou, FRAMichael Phelps, USA
2006Leisel Jones, AUSMichael Phelps, USA
2005Leisel Jones, AUSGrant Hackett, AUS
2004Yana Klochkova, UKRMichael Phelps, USA
2003Hannah Stockbauer, GERMichael Phelps, USA
2002Natalie Coughlin, USAIan Thorpe, AUS
2001Inge De Bruijn, NEDIan Thorpe, AUS
2000Inge De Bruijn, NEDPieter van den Hoogenband, NED
1999Penny Heyns, RSAIan Thorpe, AUS
1998Jenny Thompson, USAIan Thorpe, AUS
1997Claudia Poll, CRCMichael Klim, Aus
1996Penny Heyns, RSADenis Pankratov, RUS
1995Kristina Egerszegi, HUNDenis Pankratov, RUS
1994Samantha Riley, AUSKieren Perkins, AUS
1993Franziska Van Almsick, GERKaroly Guttler, HUN
1992Kristina Egerszegi, HUNEgveni Sadovyi, URS
1991Kristina Egerszegi, HUNTamas Darnyi, HUN
1990Janet Evans, USAMike Barrowman, USA
1989Janet Evans, USAMike Barrowman, USA
1988Janet Evans, USA,  Kristin Otto, GDR  *Matt Biondi, USA
1987Janet Evans, USATamas Darnyi, HUN
1986Mary T. Meagher, USA,  Kristin Otto, GDR *Matt Biondi, USA
1985Mary T. Meagher, USAMichael Gross, FRG
1984Tiffany Cohen, USA,  Kristin Otto, GDR  *Alex Baumann, CAN
1983Tiffany Cohen, USA,  Ute Geweniger, GDR *Rick Carey, USA
1982Tracy Caulkins, USA,  Petra Schneider, GDR  *Vladimir Salnikov, URS
1981Mary T. Meagher, USAAlex Baumann, CAN
1980Tracy Caulkins, USA,  Petra Schneider, GDR  *Rowdy Gaines, USA
1979Cynthia Woodhead, USAVladimir Salnikov, URS
1978Tracy Caulkins, USAJesse Vassallo, USA
1977Wendy Boglioli, USA,  Ulrike Tauber, GDR *Brian Goodell, USA
1976Shirley Babashoff, USA,  Kornelia Ender, GDR  *John Naber, USA
1975Shirley Babashoff, USA,  Kornelia Ender, GDR  *Tim Shaw, USA
1974Shirley Babashoff, USA,  Ulrike Tauber, GDR  *Tim Shaw, USA
1973Novella Calligaris, ITA,  Kornelia Ender, GDR  *Rick DeMont, USA
1972Shane Gould, AUSMark Spitz, USA
1971Shane Gould, AUSMark Spitz, USA
1970Alice Jones, USAGary Hall, USA
1969Debbie Meyer, USAGary Hall, USA
1968Debbie Meyer, USACharles Hickcox, USA
1967Debbie Meyer, USAMark Spitz, USA
1966Claudia Kolb, USAMike Burton, USA
1965Martha Randall, USADick Roth, USA
1964N/ADon Schollander, USA


  1. Jen Martin

    katinka hosszu

  2. avatar
    Tord Frostemo

    Sarah SJöström

  3. avatar

    who please…its ss and either peaty or dressel…who else no one,,so who are you trying to kid…better question is who is going to win USA swimmer of the year..the you have a discussion on the womens side

    • avatar

      Okay, so who do you think will be the women’s Swimmer of the Year for the Americas?

      • avatar

        Well Rachel I’m a Ledecky fan and she deserves it but people will say Lilly King for her World records 4 to be exact..3 were in Olympic events…..so do five golds and a silver in all olympic events and a three peat in 3 individual events ..beat 4 golds 4 world records in 1 ind Olympic event and the 50 breast which is not and 2 relays..you tell me….King is going to get it because this is/and will be the only time Katie has left the door open for anyone to get Female Swimmer of the year since 2013..just saying