Top 10 Swimmers of History

Swimming is one of those sports which didn’t miss a single Olympics since its renewal in 1896 (male swimming events were included in the program of the Olympics since the beginning, women joined in 1912). Altogether with athletics and gymnastics, it creates the spine of every Olympic Games. Swimming roofs the second highest number of events just after Athletics. Swimming competitions are very diverse going from the shortest distance of 50 m to the 10 km marathon and vary also in styles – freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, medley… It is no doubt that during Olympics, swimming events usually have the most spectators (again altogether with athletics) as swimming is visually attractive and offers great drama. In the following list, we have tried to create a chart of the top swimmers of all time.


Image Credit: New York Daily News

10. Amy van Dyken (USA)


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Amy van Dyken was born in 1973 and while she closely missed the 1992 Olympics, she shined at 1996 Olympics in Atlanta as well as in Sydney in 2000. She has won six Olympic medals and all of them were gold. In 2014, she was severely injured and became paralyzed from her waist down.

9. Kristin Otto (Eastern Germany)

Kristin Otto (Eastern Germany)

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Kristin Otto was one of the major stars of the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. She has won six gold medal at a single Olympic Games. She was later accused of drug using because it was shown that whole Eastern Germany Olympic team was more or less involved in it but Otto always passed through anti-doping test and denied the drig using all the time.

8. Dara Torres (USA)


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Dara Torres can´t be missed in the best swimmers of history list. She is the true legend as she swan at five Olympic games from 1984 to 2008. At the age of 41, she became the oldest swimmer in the history of the American swimming tean for the Olympic Games. She earned a medal in each of her appearances at the Games. She has won twelve medals overall.

7. Ian Thorpe (Australia)


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The Australian hero of 2000 Olympics in Sydney has made history and sealed his place among famous swimmers of history. His Olympic Games record of 2000 and 2004 is 5-3-1. He has won medals in distances from 100 m to 400 m in both solo and relays competitions. In 2014, Ian Thorpe admitted being gay.

6. Gary Hall Jr. (USA)


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Gary Hall Jr. 5-3-2 medal record from 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympics assured that he should not be missed in the list of top swimmers of all time. He was very popular among audience because of his boxing-like stretching rituals before the actual race. In 2006, he successfully fought with a shark when it attacked him and his sister during the sea diving.

5. Ryan Lochte (USA)

Ryan Lochte

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A backstroke and medley specialist who has won 12 Olympic medals at 2012 and 2016 Games. Ryan Lochte has also achieved many successes at World Championships as well as in other competitions. After 2016 Olympics, he was caught lying about being robbed in the streets of Rio and it was later proved that he and few of his teammates were, in fact, vandalizing the gas station.

4. Matt Biondi (USA)

Matt Biondi became one of the most famous swimmers in history after winning eleven Olympic medals at 1984, 1988 and 1992 Olympics. His specializations were freestyle and butterfly strokes. He works as a teacher and is still active in the swimming community.

3. Jenny Thompson (USA)


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Jenny Thompson is considered to be No. 1 among best female swimmers of history. During four Olympics Games in the period from 1992 to 2004, she has won twelve medals, eight of them gold. She later earned her medical degree with specialization of anesthesiology.

2. Mark Spitz (USA)


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For a long time, Mark Spitz was considered to be unbeatable in terms of Olympic medals. He has won seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympics. With his two other golds from 1968, his overall record is nine golds. After the Munich Games, he retired from competitive swimming but he unsuccessfully tried to make a comeback in 1992.

1. Michael Phelps


Image Credit: History Locker

There is only one king of swimming and it is Michael Phelps. He is the most decorated athlete in the history of Olympic Games. He has won incredible 28 medals, 23 of them are gold. These epic numbers will be hard to beat for any future athlete. He is out-of-the-box even among all top swimmers of all time.

All of these swimmers deserve a respect. But what about reading about the dark side of sports now? Try our Top 10 Cases of Cheating in Sports around the World list?

Post Author: SparkInList Staff

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