Swim Library

Top 10 Swimmers of All Time

Every other week Waterworks Aquatics hosts a swim competition. Your children have the opportunity to compete against their classmates, striving to collect championship ribbons and beat their last time. From I.M. to freestyle and breaststroke children learn fundamentals in a fun competitive environment in our heated 25 yard pools. Hundreds of athletes practice day after day  in order to one day compete in the Olympic games held every four years. There are several different idols and legends to look up to, so we decided to compile the top ten swimmers of all time.

1. Mark Spitz, born 1950

Mark Andrew Spitz (nicknamed Mark The Shark) has won seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, an achievement surpassed only by Michael Phelps who won eight golds at the 2008 Olympics. Between 1968 and 1972, Spitz won nine Olympic golds plus a silver and a bronze, five Pan American golds, 31 US Amateur Athletic Union titles and eight US National Collegiate Athletic Association titles. During those years, he set 33 world records. He was named World Swimmer of the Year in 1969, 1971 and 1972.

2. Michael Phelps, born 1985

Michael Fred Phelps (nicknamed The Baltimore Bullet) has won 16 Olympic medals—six gold and two bronze at Athens in 2004, and eight gold at Beijing in 2008. In doing so he has twice equaled the record eight medals of any type at a single Olympics achieved by Soviet gymnast Alexander Dityatin at the 1980 Moscow Summer Games. His five golds in individual events tied the single Games record set by Eric Heiden in the 1980 Winter Olympics and equaled by Vitaly Scherbo at the 1992 Summer Games. Phelps holds the record for the most gold medals won in a single Olympics, his eight at the 2008 Beijing Games surpassed American swimmer Mark Spitz’s seven-gold performance at Munich in 1972. Phelps Olympic medal total is second only to the 18 Soviet gymnast Larissa Latynina won over three Olympics, including nine gold. Phelps’s international titles and record breaking performances have earned him the World Swimmer of the Year Award six times and American Swimmer of the Year Award eight times. He has won a total of fifty-nine medals in major international competition, fifty gold, seven silver, and two bronze spanning the Olympics, the World, and the Pan Pacific Championships.

 3. Ian Thorpe, born 1982

Ian James Thorpe (nicknamed the Thorpedo and Thorpey) is a retired Australian freestyle swimmer. He has won five Olympic gold medals, the most won by any Australian, and, at the 2001 World Aquatics Championships, he became the first person to win six gold medals in one World Championship. In total, Thorpe has won eleven World Championship golds, the second-highest number of any swimmer. Thorpe was the first person to have been named Swimming World Swimmers of the Year four times, and was the Australian swimmer of the year from 1999 to 2003. His athletic achievements made him one of Australia’s most popular athletes, and he was recognised as the Young Australian of the Year in 2000.

4. Aleksandr Popov, born 1971

Aleksandr Vladimirovich Popov is a Russian former Olympic gold-winning swimmer, widely regarded as one of the greatest sprint freestyle swimmers of all time. He holds four gold medals and five silver medals at the Olympic Games, six gold, four silver, and one bronze medal at the World Championship, and an impressive 21 gold, three silver, and two bronze medals at the European Championships.

5. Pieter van den Hoogenband, born 1978

Pieter Cornelis Ruud Martijn van den Hoogenband (nicknamed The Flying Dutchman and Hoogie) is a Dutch former swimmer and a triple Olympic champion. He began competeing in the olympic games at the age of 18, and throughout his career achieved three gold, 10 silver, and four bronze olympic medals.

6. Johnny Weissmuller, born 1904 – died 1984

Johann Peter Weißmüller was an Austro-Hungarian-born American swimmer and actor. Weissmuller was one of the world’s best swimmers in the 1920s, winning five Olympic gold medals and one bronze medal. He won fifty-two US National Championships and set sixty-seven world records. After his swimming career, he became the sixth actor to portray Tarzan in films, a role he played in twelve motion pictures. Dozens of other actors have also played Tarzan, but Weissmuller is by far the best known. His character’s distinctive, ululating Tarzan yell is still often used in films.

7. Grant Hackett, born 1980

Grant Hackett is an Australian former swimmer most famous for winning the men’s 1500 metres freestyle race at both the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney and the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. This achievement has led him to be regarded as one of the greatest distance swimmers in history. He also collected a gold medal in Sydney for swimming in the heats of the 4×200 m freestyle relay. He is well regarded for his versatility, being the world record holder in the 1500 m and formerly in the 800 m freestyle, and 2nd and 4th in the 400 m and 200 m freestyle respectively. He has dominated the 1500 m event in the past decade, being undefeated in the event in finals from 1996 until the 2007 World Aquatics Championships. His four World Championship gold medals in the event make him the only swimmer to have won a world title in one event four times, and in total, he has won 10 World Championship gold medals.

8. Krisztina Egerszegi, born 1974

Krisztina Egerszegi is a Hungarian former world record holding swimmer and one of the greatest Hungarian Olympic champions of the modern era. She is a three time Olympian (1988, 1992 and 1996) and five time Olympic champion; and one of two individuals to have ever won the same swimming event at 3 consecutive Summer Olympics.

9. Debbie Meyer, born 1952

Deborah Elizabeth Meyer is a former American swimmer who won the 200, 400, and 800 m swimming events at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. While still a 16-year old student at Rio Americano High School in Sacramento, California, she became the first swimmer to win three individual gold medals in one Olympics. Meyer is still the only woman Olympian to win three individual freestyle swimming gold medals in one Olympics, namely the 200-, 400- and 800-meter freestyle events. No swimmer has ever done this in any other combination of distances.

10. Kristin Otto, born 1966

Kristin Otto is a German Olympic swimming champion. She is most famous for being the first woman to win six gold medals at the 1988 Seoul Olympic games. Otto was also the first woman to swim the short course 100 meter backstroke in under a minute,  doing so at an international short course meet at Indiana University in 1983.

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