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Competitive swimming has grown in appeal over the decades thanks to many very talented athletes. Records have been broken and the Olympics have brought us many unforgettable moments. Here is our pick for the top five male and top 5 female swimmers of all time. With such amazing talent it is tough to whittle the list down to the top five in each category and many may not totally agree with this list, but the names that appear here have certainly had a major influence on the sport of swimming.
Grant Hackett was born in 1980. He is regarded as the best distance swimmer in the history of competitive swimming. He won the men’s 1500 metre freestyle race at the 2000 summer Olympics in Sydney and the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Hackett has won 10 World Championship gold medals and a world record holder in the 1500 m freestyle event.
Ian Thorpe is a retired Australian freestyle swimmer. He was the first person to win six gold medals in one world Championship and holds eleven world championship gold medals which is the second-highest of any swimmer. He also won five Olympic gold medals and was named swimming World’s “Swimmer of the Year” four times. In 2000 he was chosen as the Young Australian of the year.
Born in 1904 Johnny Weissmuller was an American swimmer and actor. He won five Olympic gold medals and one bronze medal. Apart from his Olympic victories Weissmuller won 52 US national championships and set 67 world records.
Michael Phelps was born in 1985. He has won 16 Olympic medals including 6 gold and 2 bronze in Athens, and 8 gold medals in Beijing. He has 59 medals won in major international competitions of which 50 are gold, 7 silver and 2 bronze. He has won the title World Swimmer of the Year six times and American Swimmer of the Year eight times. Phelps also owns the record for the most gold medals won in a single Olympics and his total Olympic medal count is only second to Russian gymnast Larissa Latynina who won her medals over 3 Olympics.
Mark Spitz is best remembered for winning seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Born in 1950 Spitz set 33 world records and won nine Olympic Gold medals, a silver and a bronze medal. He won 5 Pan American gold medals, 31 US amateur Athletic Union titles and eight US national collegiate titles. He has also been named World swimmer of the year three times.
Dawn Fraser, an Australian freestyle swimmer, was born in 1937. She is one of only three swimmers to win the same Olympic event three times in a row. Fraser won eight Olympics medals, of which four were gold. She also holds six Commonwealth Games gold medals and set 39 records during her swimming career. Dawn was the first female swimmer to break a minute for the 100 m freestyle event. Fraser was named Australian of the Year in 1964 and was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1967. The Sport Australia Hall of Fame named Fraser as the “Australian Female Athlete of the Century”.
12- time Olympic medalist Dara Torres was born in 1967. She was a world record holder in three different swimming events and is the only swimmer in history to participate in five Olympic games as a member of the US team. At age 41 she was also the oldest swimmer to be made a member of a US Olympic team. Torres won at least one medal in each of the five Olympics she competed in. She was inducted into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.
American swimmer Jenny Thompson is one of the most decorated Olympians in the history of swimming. Born is 1973 she won 12 Olympic medals including eight gold. She won her first gold in the 50 metre freestyle at the Pan American games in 1987 at the age of 14 and won her first world championship in 1991. She was awarded the Honda Sports Award in 1995 as the outstanding college female swimmer of the year and was named the female World Swimmer of the Year in 1998. Thompson was also named Female American Swimmer of the Year three times.
Elite Hungarian swimmer Krisztina Egerszegi was born in 1974 and is a five time Olympic champion competing in three Olympic Games. Krisztina 5 individual Olympic gold medals and is considered by most to be the greatest female backstroke swimmers of all time. She was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of fame in 2001.
Born in 1982 Natalie Coughlin is a 12-time Olympic medalist. She was the first female to cover the 100metre backstroke in under a minute in 2002. She was also the first US female athlete to achieve six medals in a single Olympics.