10. Katinka Hosszú
Katinka Hosszú is a Hungarian competitive swimmer, born on May 3, 1989, in Baja, Hungary.
She is known for her exceptional achievements in individual medley events and has earned the nickname “Iron Lady” for her relentless competitive spirit.
Hosszú has set numerous world records (including the 100m and 200m backstroke, 100m and 200m individual medley, and 400m individual medley) and is a three-time Olympic champion, having won gold in the 400m individual medley at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
She has also secured nine long-course world championship titles and 24 European championship titles, showcasing her dominance in the sport.
Hosszú’s influence extends beyond her competitive achievements, as she has also been involved in initiatives such as the Global Association of Professional Swimmers (GAPS).
Her dedication and impact have made her a legendary figure in the world of swimming, inspiring many with her remarkable career and unwavering determination.
Hosszú continues to train and compete, aiming to make her sixth Olympics appearance in Paris.
9. Tracy Caulkins
Tracy Caulkins, an American former competition swimmer, is widely regarded as one of the most versatile swimmers of all time.
She has set U.S. records in every stroke and won a record 48 U.S. national swimming titles.
Caulkins’ achievements in swimming include three Olympic gold medals at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, where she emerged victorious in the 200- and 400-meter individual medleys and the 4 × 100-meter medley relay.
She has also set numerous world records and American records in various events, including the 200-yard individual medley, which she swam in under 2 minutes.
While competing at the University of Florida, Caulkins won 12 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships and set NCAA records in the 200- and 400-meter individual medleys, the 100-meter breaststroke, and the 200-meter fly.
Caulkins won five gold medals and one silver medal at the 1978 World Championships in West Berlin, setting four world records and one more American record as a 15-year-old entering her sophomore year.
In 1978, Caulkins received the James E. Sullivan Memorial Award as the nation’s top amateur athlete.
8. Janet Evans
Janet Evans is an American former competitive swimmer, born on January 26, 1971, in San Jose, California. She is considered one of the greatest female swimmers of all time, having set numerous world records and won five Olympic medals.
Evans won four Olympic gold medals which includes the gold medal in the 400m individual medley at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, where she set a new world record.
Speaking about records, she has set numerous world records in various events, including the 400m individual medley, which she swam in under 4 minutes.
While competing at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Evans won 16 NCAA championships and set NCAA records in the 200- and 400-meter individual medleys, the 100-meter breaststroke, and the 200-meter fly.
Evans won 10 gold medals and 1 silver medal at the 1986 World Championships in Madrid, setting four world records and one more American record.
In 1986, Evans received the James E. Sullivan Memorial Award as the nation’s top amateur athlete.
7. Simone Manuel
Simone Manuel is an American professional swimmer specializing in freestyle events. She has achieved remarkable success in her swimming career, including multiple Olympic and World Championship medals.
She is a two-time Olympian winning a total of five Olympic medals till date. She won two golds, two silvers, and one bronze medal in the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games.
At the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, Manuel made history by becoming the first female American swimmer to win both the 50m and 100m freestyle gold medals at a single World Championships.
She also earned a total of seven medals, including four gold and three silver, making her the most decorated female athlete at the event.
Manuel has been a key figure in relay events, contributing to Team USA’s success in the women’s 4x100m medley and 4x100m freestyle, winning multiple gold and silver medals.
Despite facing challenges such as over-training syndrome, Manuel demonstrated resilience and determination, competing at the highest level, including the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, where she was part of the bronze medal-winning women’s 4x100m freestyle relay team.
6. Jenny Thompson
Jenny Thompson is an American former competition swimmer and anesthesiologist, born on February 26, 1973.
She is one of the most decorated Olympians in history, having won a total of 12 Olympic medals, including eight gold medals, in the 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004 Summer Olympics (eight gold, three silver and one bronze).
Thompson’s remarkable achievements in swimming have solidified her as one of the most accomplished and successful athletes in the sport.
She has set 15 world records, most of which were in individual events, and was named the World Swimmer of the Year in 1998.
5. Missy Franklin
Missy Franklin is an American former competition swimmer and five-time Olympic gold medalist, born on May 10, 1995.
She is one of the most successful swimmers of her generation, having won a total of five Olympic medals (four gold medals and one bronze medal) and 17 world championship gold medals.
At the 2012 Olympic Games in London, she set a world record in the 200-meter backstroke.
Franklin also broke Natalie Coughlin’s American record in the 100-meter backstroke with a time of 58.85 seconds and was named the World Swimmer of the Year in 2011 and 2012.
Franklin has been a key figure in relay events, contributing to Team USA’s success in the women’s 4x100m medley and 4x200m freestyle, winning multiple gold and silver medals.
In December 2018, Franklin announced her retirement from competitive swimming due to chronic shoulder pain.
4. Krisztina Egerszegi
Krisztina Egerszegi is a Hungarian former world record-holding swimmer and one of the greatest Hungarian Olympic champions of the modern era. She is a three-time Olympian (1988, 1992, and 1996) and a five-time Olympic champion, making her one of the most successful swimmers in Olympic history.
Egerszegi’s achievements include winning gold and silver in the two backstroke events at the 1988 Olympics when she was only 14 years old. She also won three individual gold medals at the 1992 Olympics, in the 100m and 200m backstroke, and the 400m individual medley.
She set two world records during her career, one each in the 100m and 200m backstroke. 100 m backstroke was broken in 22 years later (April 2013) and the record on 200 m backstroke was broken at the 2015 World Aquatics Championships in Kazan, Russia, both by Katinka Hosszú.
Egerszegi is still regarded as the role model of the “champion” in Hungary. Her nickname was “Egérke” (“Little Mouse”) or “Egér” (“Mouse”), a play on her surname, because of her youthfulness and size.
After the 1992 Summer Olympics, where she became the most successful swimmer with three individual gold medals, she was called Krisztina Királynő (“Queen Kristina”) both in Hungary and in some international circles.
She continued her success in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, where she won a gold medal in the 200m backstroke and a bronze in the 400m individual medley.
3. Natalie Coughlin
Natalie Coughlin is an American former competition swimmer and a 12-time Olympic medalist. She achieved remarkable success over the course of three Olympic Games (2004, 2008, 2012), winning a total of 12 Olympic medals, including three gold, four silver, and five bronze.
Coughlin’s accomplishments include becoming the first woman to swim the 100-meter backstroke (long course) in less than one minute. She also made history at the 2008 Summer Olympics by becoming the first U.S. female athlete to win six medals in one Olympiad.
Over the course of her career she won a total of 60 medals in major international competition, including 25 gold, 22 silver, and 13 bronze medals spanning the Olympics, the World Championships, the Pan Pacific Championships, and the Pan American Games.
Her achievements and contributions to the sport have solidified her as one of the most accomplished and respected swimmers in Olympic history.
Outside of swimming, Coughlin is known for her work as a home cook, urban farmer, amateur photographer, and sports fan. She is also a former contestant on “Dancing with the Stars.”
2. Dara Torres
Dara Torres is an American former competition swimmer and a five-time Olympic medalist. She has achieved remarkable success in her swimming career, including multiple Olympic and World Championship medals.
Torres is a five-time Olympian, having competed in the 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000, and 2008 Olympic Games.
She has won a total of five Olympic medals, including one gold, two silvers, and two bronzes.
Torres has won a total of 12 World Championship medals, including five gold, four silver, and three bronze medals.
She has been a key figure in relay events, contributing to Team USA’s success in the women’s 4x100m medley and 4x100m freestyle, winning multiple gold and silver medals.
In 2008, She retired from competitive swimming after competing in her fifth Olympic Games.
1. Katie Ledecky
Katie Ledecky is considered the best female swimmer of all time due to her exceptional achievements and impact on the sport.
She has won seven Olympic gold medals and 21 world championship gold medals.
Ledecky holds the world record in the women’s 800- and 1500-meter freestyle (both long course and short course) and also held the world record in the women’s 400-meter freestyle (long course).
She has consistently performed at a high level across multiple events and competitions, demonstrating remarkable versatility and endurance.
Ledecky’s success has earned her numerous accolades, including Swimming World’s Female World Swimmer of the Year, Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year, and the ESPY Best Female Athlete. Her consistent performance, world records, and influence have solidified her as one of the most accomplished and inspiring swimmers in the world.