13 Best Olympic Swimmer in the World

Interested to know about the best Olympic swimmer in the world? Then stick with us to the end of our article!

When we talk about the best Olympic Swimmers globally, America has the most gold medalist swimmers. America is the powerhouse of Olympian gold in the male and female categories.

Michael Phelps and Ian Thrope
Michael Phelps and Ian Thrope (Source: Instagram)

Then we have Australia and Germany coming next on the line. The maximum number of gold medals won in the Olympics is 23 in the male category and 8 in the female category.

So looking at the most gold medals won in the Olympic record (male and female) and their overall totals, today we bring you the top thirteen best Olympic swimmers globally.

Let us get straight into our list without any further delay.

13 Best Olympic Swimmer in the World

We have taken Wikipedia as our primary reference for our list. But before we get into the details, let us take a quick preview of the comprehensive list on the table first.

NamesGold Medal
13. Krisztina Egerszegi5
12. Ian Thorpe5
11. Emma McKeon5
10. Gary Hall Jr.5
9. Amy Van Dyken6
8. Kristin Otto6
7. Ryan Lochte6
6. Katie Ledecky7
5. Caeleb Dressel7
4. Jenny Thompson8
3. Matt Biondi8
2. Mark Spitz9
1. Michael Phelps23

13. Krisztina Egerszegi

We are starting our list with Hungarian former world record-holding swimmer Krisztina Egerszegi.

Krisztina previously held the world record in the long course 200-meter backstroke. The record stood for almost 17 years before it was broken.

Krisztina Egerszegi
Krisztina Egerszegi (Source: Instagram)

In the 1988 Summer Olympics, she won a silver medal in the 100-meter backstroke and became Olympic champion in the 200-meter backstrokes at age 14.

With the victory, Egerszegi became the youngest-ever female Olympic champion in swimming. She was a three-time Olympian by her retirement.

Similarly, Egerszergi is a five-time Olympic champion and one of the four swimmers who won the same swimming event at three consecutive Summer Olympics. Moreover, she is the first female to win five Olympic gold medals.

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12. Ian Thorpe

On number 12, we have retired 39 year-old Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe, who competed in freestyle, backstroke, and individual medley.

Thrope is the only Australian male swimmer to win five Olympic goal medals; three silver and one bronze.

Thrope’s first national competition was at the 1996 Australian Age Championships in Brisbane.

Ian Thorpe showing his gold medal.
Ian Thorpe (Source: Instagram)

He won five gold, two silver, and two bronze medal. In the 1998 Perth World Championship, he became the youngest male to represent Australia at age 14. He won the 400-meter freestyle to become the youngest-ever individual male World Champion.

Since his victory at the 1998 Championship, Thrope dominated the 400-meter freestyle and won every Olympic, World, Commonwealth, and Pan Pacific Swimming Championships until 2004.

At the 2001 World Aquatics Championships, Thrope became the first person to win six gold medals in one World Championships. However, he decided to retire from competitive swimming in 2006.

11. Emma McKeon

28 year-old Emma McKeon is the only Australian swimmer with five Olympic gold medals, tying with Ian Thrope. 

With 11 Olympic medals, she is one of the most decorated Olympians. In the 2020 Summer Olympics, she tied for the most medals won by a woman in a single Olympic Games.

Emma McKeon
Emma McKeon (Source: Wikimedia.org)

Moreover, McKeon is the highest scoring competitor (male or female) for the 2021 FINA Swimming World Cup, where she won fourteen medals, including ten medals.

10. Gary Hall Jr.

The former American swimmer Gary Hall Jr. is on number 10 of our best Olympic swimmers. 47 year-old is well known for his pro-wrestling antics before the competition.

Hall’s first professional swimming competition was at the 1996 Atlanta games. He was 21 years old during his first Olympics game. Hall and his teammates dominated the relay events.

Similarly, Hall helped set the world record in 400-meter freestyle and medley relays. He also won two individual silvers and two team relay golds at the competition.

Gary Hall Jr
Gary Hall Jr (Source: Futureofpersonalhealth.com)

He participated in the 1996, 2000, and 2004 Olympics. He has ten Olympic medals, including five gold, three silver, and two bronze.

Fans loved him for his eccentricity; however, his career was stained after a performance-enhancing scandal.

But Hall is undoubtedly one of the best Olympic swimmers. As a result, he was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 2012.

9. Amy Van Dyken

On number 9, we have former American competitive swimmer and Olympic champion Amy Van Dyken. 49 year-old began her professional career at the 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials.

During her University year, Van Dyken participated in the NCAA Championships in 1994. At the championship, she broke her first U.S. record with a time of 21.77 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle.

Additionally, she was named the NCAA Female Swimmer of the Year. After college, Van Dyke moved to the United States Olympic Training Center to train full-time for the 1996 Olympics.

Amy Van Dyken with the collection of her Olympic golds
Amy Van Dyken with the collection of her Olympic golds (Source: Instagram)

Her hard training came to fruition when she won four Olympic gold medals at the 1996 Summer Olympics. Moreover, Van Dyke became the first American female swimmer to accomplish the feat.

She has a total of six Olympic medals, all of which are gold. Unfortunately, this star swimmer’s career was cut short after a severe ATV accident severed her spinal cord, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down.

8. Kristin Otto

Famous for being the first woman to sweep six gold medals at a single Olympic Games, we have 56 year-old former German swimmer Kristin Otto.

She participated in her first world championship at 16 in the 1982 World Aquatics Championships. She bagged a gold medal in the 100-meter backstroke and two gold medals in relays with a team.

In 1984, Otto set a world record in the 200-meter freestyle. During the 1986 World Championships, she won four gold and two silver medals.

Kristin Otto
Kristin Otto (Source: Instagram)

Likewise, Kristin won five gold medals at the 1987 European Championships. Otto won six gold medals and set Olympic records in the 50-meter and 100-meter butterfly 1988 Seoul Olympic games.

Besides, she was the first woman to swim in under a minute in the short course 100-meter backstroke. This great German swimmer retired from swimming in 1989. Currently, the  Olympian is working as a sports reporter for German television.

7. Ryan Lochte

Ryan Lochte is the second-most decorated swimmer in Olympic history. The 37 year-old professional swimmer is a 12-time Olympic medalist and holds the world record in the 200-meter individual medley.

Lochte participated in the Junior Olympics at age 14 but lost the event. After the loss, he started taking the sport seriously. He attended the University of Florida and participated in NCAA and SEC competitions.

His international debut was in 2004 when he represented the U.S. at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. Lochte won the gold medal in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay.

Ryan Lochte, 2009
Ryan Lochte, 2009 (Source: Wikimedia.org)

Lochte is known for his dominance in the short course format. Similarly, he specializes in the backstroke and individual medley. He has twelve Olympic medals; six gold, three silver, and three bronze.

Likewise, as part of the American team, he holds the world record in the 4×200-meter freestyle (long course) and 4×100-meter freestyle (mixed) relay. Lochte’s Olympic medals rank second in men’s swimming history.

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6. Katie Ledecky

On number 6 of the best Olympic swimmer, we have 25 year-old American competitive swimmer Katie Ledecky. Katie is considered one of the greatest Olympians and the greatest female swimmer of all time.

Ledecky was influenced by her older brother to pick up swimming at age 6. In the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, she qualified for the Olympic team at age 15.

During the 2012 Summer Olympics finals, Ledecky gave a memorable performance. She bagged gold by more than four seconds with a time of 8:14.63. It was the then second-fastest effort of all time.

Katie Ledecky, 2016
Katie Ledecky, 2016 (Source: Wikimedia.org)

Since her 2012 Olympic debut, Ledecky has had ten Olympic medals, seven gold. Similarly, she has won 15 world championship gold medals which are the most in history for a female swimmer.

Ledecky currently holds the record for fastest-ever times in the 500, 1000., and 1650 yard freestyle events. Also, she has broken fourteen world records during her career.

5. Caeleb Dressel

Caeleb Dressel is a seven times Olympic gold medalist specializing in freestyle, butterfly, and individual medley events.

The 25 year-old American swimmer began swimming at a young age, and by the time he was eight years old, he started competitive year-round swimming.

Furthermore, in 2012, he recorded 19.82 in the 200-yard free relay and became the first swimmer under 16 to break 20 seconds. He was the youngest male swimmer participating in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.

Caeleb Dressel
Caeleb Dressel (Source: Instagram)

However, Dressel did not qualify for the Olympic team. His 2016 U.S. Olympic Trial performance qualified him for the Olympic team. Then, at the 2016 Summer Olympics, he won his first Olympic medal.

In the 2020 Summer Olympics, Dressel won five gold medals. Similarly, he also became the first swimmer since 1896 to win gold medals in the 50-meter and 100 mete freestyle, and 100-meter butterfly in modern Olympic Games history.

4. Jenny Thompson

Jenny Thompson is the fourth-best Olympic swimmer on the list. The 49 year-old former American swimmer is one of the most decorated Olympians in history.

Thompson began swimming at age seven, and by age 13, she had participated in various competitions. Her first international debut was at age 14 in 1987 at the Pan American Games.

She won the 500-meter freestyle and came third in the 100-meter freestyle. Meanwhile, Thompson’s first Olympic appearance was in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.

Jenny Thompson
Jenny Thompson (Source: Instagram)

She set the world record in the 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle during the Olympic Games. Since then, Thompson has won twelve Olympic medals; eight gold medals in the 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004 Summer Olympics.

Her record of eight gold medals is the most by any female swimmer. 

3. Matt Biondi

On number 3, we have the former American swimmer and eleven-time Olympic medalist, Matt Biondi.

The 56 year-old started his aquatics career as a swimmer and water polo. In his first year at the University of California, he played in Berkeley’s NCAA championship water polo team.

In 1984, Biondi qualified for the United States 4×100-meter freestyle relay at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. The U.S. team swept the gold medal in the Olympics and world record time with his contribution.

Matt Biondi
Matt Biondi (Source: Instagram)

Bondi competed in the 1984, 1988, and 1992 Summer Olympic Games. He set three individual world records in the 50-meter freestyle and four in the 100-meter freestyle.

In the 1988 Olympic Games held in Seoul, he won five gold medals. He won five gold medals and set the world records in the 50-meter freestyle and three relay events.

Bondi was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame and the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame for his contribution.

2. Mark Spitz

With nine Olympic gold medals, we have 72 year-old, former American competitive swimmer Mark Spitz on number 2 of the best Olympic swimmer.

Spitz was just six years old when he started competing at the local swim club. At age 10, he held one world age-group record and 17 national records. Similarly, he also participated in the AAU national championship.

In the 1965 Maccabiah Games, Spitz participated in his first international competition. When he qualified for the 1968 Summer Olympics, he had already set ten world records.

Mark Spitz with his collection of golds (Source: Instagram)
Mark Spitz with his collection of golds (Source: Instagram)

His most successful Olympic appearance was at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. There, Spitz won seven gold medals and all in the world record time.

The achievement was unbroken for 36 years which was broken was Michael Phelps at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. From 1968 and 1972, Spitz won 11 Olympic medals, 31 AAU titles, and eight NCAA titles.

Similarly, he also set 35 world records, two unofficial. Spitz named him World Swimmer of the Year in 1969, 1971, and 1972 by the Swimming World Magazine.

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1. Michael Phelps

The number 1 best Olympic swimmer in the world is a former American competitive swimmer, Michael Phelps. The 36 year-old is the most successful and most decorated Olympian of all time.

Widely known as the greatest swimmer, Phelps is considered one of the greatest athletes. He started swimming partly because of his sister’s influence at age seven.

In the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Phelps won a record eight medals, six gold, and two bronze medals. Similarly, at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, he won eight gold medals.

Michael Phelps
Michael Phelps (Source: Instagram)

Phelps broke Mark Spitz’s 1972 record of seven first-place finishes at a single Olympic Games. Additionally, in the 2012 Summer Olympics, he won four medals and five more medals in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

His victories have made him one of the most successful athletes. Likewise, his record-breaking performances have earned him the World Swimmer of the Year Award eight times.

The feat that Michael Phelps has performed with 23 golds is extraordinary. It is a formidable record that will be tough to break or match by any other swimmer.

Conclusion

The Olympics is the highest level of international sports events in the world. Only the best and most talented are qualified to play; thus, it is safe to say that these Olympic swimmers are as best as you can get.

We hope you enjoyed our list. Thank you for reading to the end!

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