Swimming has always been hugely popular among Filipinos. So many talented swimmers from the Philippines have competed internationally over the years in competitions like the Olympics, Asian Games and Southeast Asian Games.
It can’t have been easy for these athletes, but they’ve overcome huge challenges to achieve remarkable things in the pool.
Their success has motivated entire generations of young Filipino swimmers who look up to them.
If you too are a fan of swimming, you’ve got to be curious – who are considered the greatest swimmers to come out of the Philippines?
I’m sure narrowing it down to a top 10 list wouldn’t be easy, but still, we tried and compiled the best and greatest ones.
Here are the top 10 greatest swimmers in the Philippines:
10. Eric Cray
Eric Shauwn Cray is a Filipino-American athlete who competes in both swimming and track and field.
Born in Olongapo, he moved to Texas at age five where he trained through high school.
He represented the Philippines at two Olympics, the 2016 Rio Games and the 2020 Tokyo Games.
He’s best known for winning gold in the 400m hurdles at the 2015 Southeast Asian Games, setting a new games record.
He also holds the Philippine men’s record in three swimming events: 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter freestyle, and 100-meter butterfly.
He reached the semifinals of the men’s 100-meter butterfly at the 2016 Rio Games.
From 2015 to 2019, Cray dominated the Southeast Asian Games, winning 4 golds and 1 silver. He set new records in multiple individual events along the way.
9. Carlo Piccio
Juan Carlos Tanpinco Piccio is a former Filipino swimmer who was born and raised in Bacolod. He specialized in long-distance freestyle and individual medley events, setting national records along the way.
He represented the Philippines at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where he placed 40th in the men’s 400-meter individual medley.
He also won two silver medals and one bronze medal at the Southeast Asian Games from 1999 to 2001. He is currently a businessman.
8. Jessie Lacuna
Jessie Khing Lacuna is a Filipino swimmer who specializes in middle-distance freestyle events.
He holds the national men’s records in the 200m and 400m freestyle. He competed in two Olympics, placing 36th in the men’s 200-meter freestyle at the 2012 London Games.
He also dominated at the Southeast Asian Games between 2011-2019, winning 3 golds, 6 silvers and 4 bronzes, setting new records in his events.
Born and raised in Laguna, this is where Lacuna trained through his competitive career.
He now works as a coach at De La Salle University, developing the next generation of swimmers from his home country.
7. Jasmine Alkhaldi
Jasmine Alkhaldi has achieved the most success of any Filipina swimmer to date.
She holds the national women’s records in the 50m and 100m freestyle, 200m freestyle, plus the 50m and 100m butterfly.
She competed in two Olympics, becoming the first Filipina to reach an Olympic swimming final when she placed seventh in the women’s 100-meter freestyle at the 2012 London Games.
Between 2011-2019, Alkhaldi dominated at the Southeast Asian Games, winning an incredible 9 golds, 8 silvers and 6 bronzes.
Her medal haul makes her one of the most decorated athletes in Philippine sports history.
6. Akiko Thomson
Akiko Thomson is a retired swimmer, television host and journalist.
Between 1987-1993, she won an impressive 8 gold medals at biennial multi-sport events making her one of the most accomplished Filipinas in swimming.
She competed in three Olympics from 1988 to 1996, reaching the finals of the women’s 100-meter backstroke and 200-meter backstroke at the 1992 Barcelona Games.
She also dominated at the Southeast Asian Games, taking home 4 golds in 1987-1991 while setting new records.
Born in Washington D.C. to a diplomat father, Thomson was raised in Manila where she trained through her competitive swimming days.
She was born in Washington D.C., where her father was a diplomat, but grew up in Manila, where she trained and studied.
Now retired from the pool, she has forged a new career in television as a sports commentator and journalist.
5. Haydée Coloso-Espino
Haydée Coloso-Espino is a Filipino swimmer who competed at the 1960 Summer Olympics, the 1964 Asian Games, and the 1966 Asian Games.
She won two gold medals, one silver medal, and one bronze medal at the Asian Games, becoming the first Filipina to win an Asian Games gold medal in swimming.
She also won four gold medals at the Southeast Asian Peninsular Games from 1961 to 1965, setting new records in her events. She was born and raised in Iloilo, where she trained and studied. She died in August 2021 at the age of 83.
4. Christine Jacob
Christine Jacob is a retired Filipino swimmer, actress, TV host, and newscaster. She was born and raised in Manila, where she trained and studied.
She competed in the women’s 100-meter butterfly at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, placing 25th overall. She also won three gold medals, one silver medal, and one bronze medal at the Southeast Asian Games from 1983 to 1985, setting new records in her events.
She later pursued a career in media and entertainment, hosting various shows and appearing in movies. She is currently a TV host and newscaster for CNN Philippines.
3. Teófilo Yldefonso
Teófilo Yldefonso is widely regarded as the greatest Filipino swimmer of all time. He was the first Filipino and Southeast Asian to win an Olympic medal.
He won bronze medals in the men’s 200-meter breaststroke at the 1928 and 1932 Olympics, setting an Asian record of 2:48.4 in the latter.
He also won gold medals at the 1930 and 1934 Far Eastern Games, setting a world record of 2:46.8 in the former. He was nicknamed the “Ilocano Shark” for his speed and skill in the water.
He died as a prisoner of war during World War II, but his legacy lives on as a national hero and a pioneer of Philippine swimming.
2. Miguel Molina
Miguel Molina is one of the most decorated Filipino swimmers in recent history. He holds national records in four individual events and two relays.
He competed in four consecutive Olympics from 2004 to 2016, representing the Philippines. He competed in three consecutive Olympics from 2004 to 2012, reaching the semifinals of the men’s 200-meter individual medley in 2008.
He also won 11 gold medals, seven silver medals, and seven bronze medals at the Southeast Asian Games from 2003 to 2011, dominating the medley and freestyle events.
He was born in Quezon City but moved to California at age nine, where he trained and studied. He is currently a coach at Stanford University.
1. Eric Buhain
Joseph Eric Buhain is a former Filipino swimmer who competed in butterfly and freestyle events. He was born and raised in Manila, where he trained and studied.
He represented the Philippines at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, placing 35th in the men’s 100-meter butterfly.
He won two gold medals, one silver medal, and one bronze medal at the Southeast Asian Games from 1987 to 1989, setting new records in his events.
He also won six gold medals at the 1989 Southeast Asian Games, setting a record for the most golds won by a Filipino athlete in a single edition of the games.
He won two silver medals at the 1990 Asian Games. After retiring from swimming, he became a lawyer and a former chairman of the Philippine Sports Commission.