2012 Summer OlympicsDownload App

Olympic Swimming 2012: Ranking the 20 Best Swimmers from London

Dan HopeContributor IIIJanuary 15, 2017

Olympic Swimming 2012: Ranking the 20 Best Swimmers from London

1 of 21

    With the exception of the men’s and women’s open water swims, the swimming competition at the 2012 Olympic Games has come to a conclusion in London, following the awarding of medals in 32 different events.

    Throughout the eight days of swimming competition, many names repeatedly made the Olympic headlines, including U.S. men Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte and young female phenoms Missy Franklin and Ye Shiwen. With that said, were they the best swimmers in London?

    Read through the following slides for the 20 swimmers who shined brightest at the London Games.

20. Ryosuke Irie, Japan

2 of 21

    Results:

    Silver, 200-meter backstroke
    Silver, 4x100-meter medley relay
    Bronze, 100-meter backstroke

    The United States men earned two medals in both the 100 back and 200 back, but Japan’s Ryosuke Irie was the only man to medal in both races.

    Along with his two individual medals, Irie also played a pivotal role in Japan’s silver medal in the medley relay. Irie’s split of 52.92 seconds in the backstroke on the opening leg of the relay put Japan in second place behind the United States, and his team was able to hold the place he established through the relay’s final three legs.

19. Ruta Meilutyte, Lithuania

3 of 21

    Results:

    Gold, 100-meter breaststroke
    Eliminated in heats, 100-meter freestyle
    Eliminated in heats, 50-meter freestyle

    Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte only qualified for one final at the 2012 Olympic Games, but her performance in the 100 breast was certainly impressive enough for her to earn a place on this list.

    Meilutyte, only 15 years old, was the youngest gold medalist in this year’s Olympic swimming competition. The field she won against included U.S. star Rebecca Soni, who went on to set the 200 breast world record later in the Games and appears higher on this list.

18. Matt Grevers, United States

4 of 21

    Results:

    Gold, 100-meter backstroke
    Gold, 4x100-meter medley relay
    Silver, 4x100-meter freestyle relay (qualification-round competitor)

    U.S. swimmer Matt Grevers proved himself as the world’s best 100-meter backstroke swimmer at the 2012 Olympic Games. Grevers won gold in the 100 back with an Olympic-record time of 52.16 seconds and led off in the same discipline in the medley relay final to give the U.S. team a lead they would hold through the race’s final three legs for gold.

    Grevers also earned a silver medal for his participation in the qualification round of the 4x100 free relay. His split of 47.54 seconds was the fastest among the four U.S. swimmers in the qualification round.

17. Alicia Coutts, Australia

5 of 21

    Results:

    Gold, 4x100-meter freestyle relay
    Silver, 200-meter individual medley
    Silver, 4x200-meter freestyle relay
    Silver, 4x100-meter medley relay
    Bronze, 100-meter butterfly

    With five overall medals, Australia’s Alicia Coutts tied U.S. swimmers Missy Franklin and Allison Schmitt for the most medals earned in London by a female swimmer.

    Coutts displayed her versatility, winning individual medals in the individual medley and butterfly, while also leading all three Australian relay teams to medals. Coutts certainly earned the title of MVP for the Australian women’s swimming team at the 2012 Games.

16. Camille Muffat, France

6 of 21

    Results:

    Gold, 400-meter freestyle
    Silver, 200-meter freestyle
    Bronze, 4x200-meter freestyle relay

    France’s Camille Muffat earned one medal of each color in London and proved herself as one of the world’s best mid-distance freestyle swimmers.

    Muffat went toe-to-toe with U.S. star Allison Schmitt in two individual battles and went 1-for-1 against her. Muffat defeated Schmitt by .32 seconds in the 400 free to earn a gold medal, also swimming an Olympic-record time of four minutes, 1.45 seconds, but she had to settle for silver to Schmitt’s gold in the 200 free.

    In the 4x200 free relay, Muffat led off with a great leg of 1:55.51, which gave the French team a .45-second lead over the U.S. team, led off by Missy Franklin, but France ended up falling back to third.

15. Katie Ledecky, United States

7 of 21

    Results:

    Gold, 800-meter freestyle

    Ruta Meilutyte beat U.S. swimmer Katie Ledecky as the youngest gold medalist in Olympic swimming by two days, but that takes nothing away from the 15-year-old Ledecky. In the longest race of the women's Olympic swimming program, Ledecky pulled off a stunning upset over world-record holder Rebecca Adlington of Great Britain and won the 800 free gold.

    Ledecky only competed in one race at the Olympic Games, but winning gold in arguably the most grueling women’s swimming race at the Games was an incredible feat for such a young swimmer. She won the race in dominant fashion, beating silver medalist Mireia Belmonte Garcia of Spain by 4.13 seconds, while setting a U.S. record with a time of 8:14.63.

14. Cameron van der Burgh, South Africa

8 of 21

    Results:

    Gold, 100-meter breaststroke (world record)
    Eliminated in heats, 4x100-meter medley relay (qualification-round competitor)

    South Africa’s Cameron van der Burgh only competed in one individual Olympic event, but he sure made his mark in the 100 breast.

    Swimming against a field that included two-time defending 100 breast champion Kosuke Kitajima of Japan, Van der Burgh won the race in a world-record time of 58.46 seconds.

13. Daniel Gyurta, Hungary

9 of 21

    Results:

    Gold, 200-meter breaststroke (world record)
    Fourth, 100-meter breaststroke
    Fifth, 4x100-meter medley relay

    Cameron van der Burgh was not the only breaststroker to break a world record in London. Hungary’s Daniel Gyurta joined him in the 200 breast, swimming a fastest-ever time of 2:07.28 to hold off Great Britain’s Michael Jamieson by .15 seconds.

    With Gyurta’s win, he defeated Kosuke Kitajima, who was the two-time defending champion in both the 100 and 200 breast, in both of those events, as Gyurta also finished fourth ahead of Kitajima’s fifth in the 100 breast final.

12. Chad le Clos, South Africa

10 of 21

    Results:

    Gold, 200-meter butterfly
    Silver, 100-meter butterfly
    Fifth, 400-meter individual medley
    Seventh, 4x200-meter freestyle relay
    Eliminated in semifinals, 200-meter individual medley
    Eliminated in heats, 4x100-meter medley relay

    South Africa’s Chad le Clos has a bright future at only 20 years old, but it will be hard for him to ever top the accomplishment he achieved in the 200 fly at the London Games. In winning gold in the 200 fly, Le Clos out-touched the most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps, by .05 seconds.

    Le Clos also won a silver in the 100 fly, finishing second to Phelps. In total, Le Clos swam in six of the seven races that Phelps did and came nowhere near matching Phelps’ overall success at the Games, but his gold-medal-winning performance over Phelps in the 200 fly was a huge feat.

11. Nathan Adrian, United States

11 of 21

    Results:

    Gold, 100-meter freestyle
    Gold, 4x100-meter medley relay
    Silver, 4x100-meter freestyle relay

    Nathan Adrian was called upon three times by the U.S. men’s swimming team to swim the 100 free, and he proved himself as the world’s best in the discipline.

    Adrian out-touched Australia’s James Magnussen by one one-hundredth of a second to win gold in the individual 100 free, while he closed the 4x100 medley relay with a superb 100-meter split of 46.85 seconds to pull away from Japan’s Takuro Fujii and finish off a gold-medal-winning relay performance for the United States.

    Adrian was also the leadoff leg for the U.S. men’s 4x100 free relay that ended up with a silver medal.

10. Allison Schmitt, United States

12 of 21

    Results:

    Gold, 200-meter freestyle
    Gold, 4x200-meter freestyle relay
    Gold, 4x100-meter medley relay (world record)
    Silver, 400-meter freestyle
    Bronze, 4x100-meter freestyle relay

    U.S. swimmer Allison Schmitt tied for the most overall medals among female swimmers at the London Games and was second only to Missy Franklin with three gold medals.

    Schmitt’s finest individual performance came in the 200 free, where she was dominant, winning the race by 1.97 seconds while swimming an Olympic-record time of 1:53.61.

    Schmitt was also the anchor leg for all three U.S. relays, including the world-record-setting medley team that won gold. Schmitt proved to be an extremely valuable freestyle swimmer for the U.S. in London and ended up as one of the Games’ most decorated swimmers.

9. Ryan Lochte, United States

13 of 21

    Results:

    Gold, 400-meter individual medley
    Gold, 4x200-meter freestyle relay
    Silver, 200-meter individual medley
    Silver, 4x100-meter freestyle relay
    Bronze, 200-meter backstroke
    Fourth, 200-meter freestyle

    No swimmer received more hype leading up to the London Games than Ryan Lochte of the United States, who was billed as the competitive rival of the legendary Michael Phelps. Lochte lived up to the hype right away, winning gold in the 400 individual medley on the first day of competition, a race in which Phelps finished fourth.

    Lochte did not win any more individual golds, but he did win silver in the 200 IM and bronze in the 200 back. Lochte surrendered the lead in the final 50 meters of the 4x100 free relay to France’s Yannick Agnel, but he still earned a silver for that effort, along with a gold in the 4x200 free relay.

    Lochte may not quite have emerged as the star of men’s swimming in London, but he still had a great Games, winning more medals than any other male swimmer aside from Phelps.

8. Yannick Agnel, France

14 of 21

    Results:

    Gold, 200-meter freestyle
    Gold, 4x100-meter freestyle relay
    Silver, 4x200-meter freestyle relay
    Fourth, 100-meter freestyle
    Eliminated in heats, 4x100-meter medley relay

    France’s Yannick Agnel made a real name for himself as the anchor leg of the 4x100 free relay, on which he swam an incredible split of 46.74 seconds to overtake Ryan Lochte to win gold for his nation.

    Agnel followed that up with a dominant 1.79-second victory in the 200 free for his second gold of the Games, making him a breakout star in London.

    Agnel also had a superb 200-meter free split of 1:43.24 as the anchor leg of the 4x200 free relay, in which he pulled away from the rest of the field to clinch a silver for France but was unable to catch Michael Phelps and the United States.

    In his five events, Agnel proved himself as one of the world’s elite freestyle swimmers.

7. Dana Vollmer, United States

15 of 21

    Results:

    Gold, 100-meter butterfly (world record)
    Gold, 4x200-meter freestyle
    Gold, 4x100-meter medley relay (world record)

    In one individual event and two relays, U.S. swimmer Dana Vollmer went 3-for-3, earning gold in every event she competed in.

    Vollmer became the fastest woman to ever swim the 100 fly, setting a world record with a time of 55.98 seconds. She also swam the 100 fly as part of the medley relay, and she was the star of that relay, swimming a tremendous split of 55.48, which truly pulled the U.S. team away from the field and put them in position to set the world record in the event.

    Vollmer also won gold as a member of the 4x200 free relay team.

6. Ranomi Kromowidjojo, Netherlands

16 of 21

    Results:

    Gold, 50-meter freestyle
    Gold, 100-meter freestyle
    Silver, 4x100-meter freestyle relay
    Sixth, 4x100-meter medley relay

    Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands proved that she is the best female sprinter in swimming by winning an impressive double gold in both the 50 and 100 free. In the process, she set Olympic records in both events, with respective times of 24.05 seconds and 53.00.

    Kromowidjojo also led the Dutch 4x100 free team to a silver medal by passing Allison Schmitt on the anchor leg of the race with a very impressive 100-meter split of 51.93 seconds. Throughout her swims at the London Games, Kromowidjojo looked virtually unbeatable in the sprints.

5. Rebecca Soni, United States

17 of 21

    Results:

    Gold, 200-meter breaststroke (world record)
    Gold, 4x100-meter medley relay (world record)
    Silver, 100-meter breaststroke

    No swimmer was more impressive in a single event at the Games than U.S. swimmer Rebecca Soni was in the 200 breast. She broke the event’s world record in the semifinals with a time of 2:20.00, then broke her own world record in the final with a time of 2:19.59.

    With her finals performance, Soni also became the first woman in Olympic history to win back-to-back golds in the 200 breast.

    Soni proved herself to be the best all-around breaststroker in the world in London. In addition to her 200 breast world record and gold, she also swam the 100 breast as part of the medley relay team that earned another world record and earned a silver in the individual 100 breast.

4. Ye Shiwen, China

18 of 21

    Results:

    Gold, 200-meter individual medley
    Gold, 400-meter individual medley (world record)
    Sixth, 4x200-meter freestyle relay

    China’s Ye Shiwen is only 16 years old, but she made a clear statement in London that she is already the world’s best female individual medley swimmer. Ye won gold in both the 200 and 400 IM, setting a world record in the 400 IM with a time of 4:28.43, while breaking the Olympic record in the 200 IM in 2:07.57.

    Ye has made headlines for being a victim of doping accusations, but she really should make the headlines for how incredible her double-gold performance in the individual medleys were.

3. Sun Yang, China

19 of 21

    Results:

    Gold, 400-meter freestyle
    Gold, 1,500-meter freestyle (world record)
    Silver, 200-meter freestyle
    Bronze, 4x200-meter freestyle relay

    China’s Sun Yang proved himself as the most complete freestyle swimmer in the world with an incredible showing at the London Games.

    Sun displayed his endurance by winning the two longest individual swims, the 400 free and 1,500 free, and he broke his own world record in the 1,500 with a time of 14:31.02. Sun also did very well as a 200-free swimmer, earning silver in the individual race while bringing the Chinese team back from fifth place to earn a bronze in the 4x200 free relay.

    Sun may not receive as much attention stateside as he deserves, but his performance at the Games, which earned him four medals, was truly incredible.

2. Missy Franklin, United States

20 of 21

    Results:

    Gold, 100-meter backstroke
    Gold, 200-meter backstroke (world record)
    Gold, 4x200-meter freestyle relay
    Gold, 4x100-meter medley relay (world record)
    Bronze, 4x100-meter freestyle relay
    Fourth, 200-meter freestyle
    Fifth, 100-meter freestyle

    Leading into the 2012 Olympic Games, Missy Franklin was billed as the new superstar in women’s swimming. She certainly backed up all of the hype with her performance in London.

    Franklin swam a very challenging seven-race program and earned a top-five place in all of them. She led all female swimmers with four golds and tied Allison Schmitt and Alicia Coutts for the most overall medals with five.

    Franklin proved that she is the world’s best backstroker with gold-medal performances in both the 100 and 200, including a world-record time of 2:04.06 in the 200. She swam the 100 back to lead the U.S. medley relay team, which also won gold and set a world record.

    Franklin was a very valuable asset to all three relay teams. She led off for each of them and gave her team the lead in both the medley relay and 4x100.

    Franklin is the highest-ranked swimmer on this list who will be returning for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. At only 17 years old, she appears destined for even more stardom at the Rio Games.

1. Michael Phelps, United States

21 of 21

    Results:

    Gold, 100-meter butterfly
    Gold, 200-meter individual medley
    Gold, 4x200-meter freestyle relay
    Gold, 4x100-meter medley relay
    Silver, 200-meter butterfly
    Silver, 4x100-meter freestyle relay
    Fourth, 400-meter individual medley

    If Michael Phelps is in fact retired for good from the sport of swimming, he is certainly going out on top. For a third consecutive Olympic Games, Phelps was the star of swimming and made sure to leave no doubt that he was still the best swimmer in London.

    Phelps won more golds than any other male swimmer (and tied with Missy Franklin for most golds of any swimmer) and more medals than any other swimmer of either gender.

    After a disappointing start in which Phelps missed the podium entirely in the 400 IM, he bounced back to six consecutive medals, including four straight golds in the final four events of his Olympic career.

    Phelps accomplished all of this while setting the record as the most decorated athlete in Olympic history, finishing with final totals of 18 golds and 22 overall medals. Additionally, his titles in the 100 fly and 200 IM were the first-ever individual three-peats by a male swimmer.

    For a full, race-by-race rundown of Phelps’ performance in London, check out this slideshow.

     

    Dan Hope is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist covering the 2012 Olympic Games. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Hope.

Where can I comment?

Stay on your game

Latest news, insights, and forecasts on your teams across leagues.

Choose Teams
Get it on the App StoreGet it on Google Play

Real-time news for your teams right on your mobile device.

Download
Copyright © 2017 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved. BleacherReport.com is part of Bleacher Report – Turner Sports Network, part of the Turner Sports and Entertainment Network. Certain photos copyright © 2017 Getty Images. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of Getty Images is strictly prohibited. AdChoices