Swimming is not one of the world’s most-watched sports, but every four years at the Olympic Games, it is one of the highlight sports to follow. Over the years, we’ve witnessed several swimmers claim their place at the top of the sport. Who will take the top spot as the best swimmer of all time?
10. Janet Evans
Janet was born in California and first stepped into the pool at age 1. She specialized in long-distance swimming and clinched multiple records that saw her become one of the best swimmers of all time.
In the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, she registered the best time in a 400m freestyle race that took 18 years to break.
In the same event, she became the first female swimmer to win two Olympic gold medals after she followed up her freestyle victory by winning the 400m medley.
Janet Evans was named the world swimmer of the year three times – 1987, 1989, and 1990.
9. Kristin Otto
Otto won six Olympic gold medals at the 1998 Olympics in Seoul to become the first woman to record such success.
At the same time, she set records in the 50m and 100m freestyle events as well as the 100m backstroke and butterfly events. This feat came after she missed the 1984 and 1988 Olympic games due to a boycott by East Germany and an injury during the next edition.
Nonetheless, Kristin Otto booked herself a place as one of the best Olympic swimmers of all time.
8. Ryan Lochte
The New York-born swimmer is the second most-decorated male swimmer of all time, with 12 Olympic medals to his name, including six golds and seven individual medals.
His favorite events are the 100m, 200m, and 400m individual medley, in which he holds world records.
7. Amy Van Dyken
Amy underlined her best female swimmer status at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. She won four golds in the 50m freestyle, 100m butterfly, 4*100m freestyle, and 4x100m medley to become the first woman to win four golds in the same Olympic Games.
She clinched two more Olympic Golds and finished her career with six. Amy got into swimming to deal with her asthma, culminating in incredible sporting success.
6. Natalie Coughlin
She’s no doubt one of the best female Olympic swimmers of all time. Natalie Coughlin has 12 medals, a number only equaled by Dara Torres and Jenny Thompson.
She won back-to-back gold medals in the 10m backstroke and six Olympic gold medals in one Olympic event to equal Kristin Otto’s record.
5. Darra Torres
Torres is among the best American female swimmers, having won 12 Olympic medals.
Her first came in the 1984 Olympics during the 400 meters freestyle. She went on to win eleven more, including a silver and bronze in 1988 and four more at the Sydney Games in 2000, aged 33.
She left the sport and came back after eight years. Darra Torres made the Olympic team and became the oldest swimmer to appear in the games.
4. Ian Thorpe
Thorpe, or ‘The Thorpedo’ as he’s fondly referred to, is the most successful Australian swimmer.
He’s won the most World Championships in a single event (6) and has a total of 11 World Championships golds. Thorpe has nine medals at the Olympic level – five golds, three silvers, and one gold.
He competes in freestyle, backstroke, and medley events.
3. Matt Biondi
The American is one of the best swimmers of all time. Like many on this list, he’s clinched 11 Olympic gold medals, eight of which are gold.
His first came in the 1984 Olympics during the 4x100m freestyle. In 1988, he won seven medals, cementing his status in the swimming world. He was also very successful at the World Championships, where he won 11 medals, six of which were gold. He is a member of the international swimming Hall of Fame and the United States Olympic Hall of Fame.
2. Mark Spitz
The American, also known as ‘Mark the Shark,’ won seven gold medals at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, a record that stood until Michael Phelps came around.
This performance alone was enough to crown him as the world’s best swimmer, but of course, he wasn’t done. Spitz won two more gold medals, plus a silver and bronze medal, completing his career with 11 medals total.
1. Michael Phelps – Best Swimmer of All Time
Phelps won the most Olympic gold medals in a single Olympics, eight at the summer games in Beijing 2008. While at it, he broke seven records. He walked away from the sport in 2016 with a total of 22 medals – 18 golds, 2 silver, and 2 bronze