This is my selection of the Top Ten women’s sprint freestyle swimmers in history. The choice of East German swimmers is a little controversial but they are still there in the record books as the winners and I have decided to include them, although I have placed them lower than I would have.
10.Heike Friedrich (East Germany) – a 200m specialist who won gold at the 1986 world championships, 1988 Olympics and two European championships. She held the world record for eight years.
9.Fanny Durack (Australia) – won the Olympic 100m title in 1912. She was the greatest female swimmer of the era. She held the world record for 100m from 1912 to 1920 and for 220 yards from 1915 to 1921.
8.Le Jingyi (China) – won 100m gold at the 1996 Olympics, 1993 short-course and 1994 world championships (at 50m and 100m) and the 1997 Pan-Pacific.Held 50m and 100m world records for nearly six years.
7.Cynthia Woodhead (USA) – world champion at 200m freestyle in 1978 and winner of 3 golds at the Pan-Am games at sprints. Denied her chance of Olympic gold in 1980 by the boycott when leading the world rankings. She broke the world record for the 200m three times.
6.Kristin Otto (East Germany) – at sprint freestyle won two Olympic golds in 1988, a world title in 1986 and a European title. Held the world 100m record for over five years and the 200m record for two years.
5.Jenny Thompson (USA) – winner of eight Olympic golds although none at individual events. In individual events she won one sprint world title and seven Pan-Pacific titles. Stayed at the top of swimming for over a decade.
4.Franziska van Almsick (Germany) – the fastest freestyler of the year four times in the 1990s but only won one world individual title and no Olympic golds. Won six European individual gold medals in sprints.
3. Kornelia Ender (East Germany) – winner of the 100m freestyle at the 1973 and 1975 world championships. At the 1976 Olympics she won the 100m and 200m. Broke the 100m world record ten times and held it for five years. Broke the 200m record four times.
2. Inge de Bruijn (Netherlands) – winner of three Olympic golds and three world titles at freestyle from 2000 to 2004. She specialised in the 50m and held the world record for eight years and kept the 100m record for four years.
1. Dawn Fraser (Australia) -one of only two women in history to win the same event at three Olympics and the only freestyler to do so. She won Olympic gold at the 100m freestyle in 1956,1960 and 1964. She also won a relay gold. At the Commonwealth Games she won the 110 yards freestyle in 1958 and 1962. At 100m she set 9 world records and held the record for over 14 years. She also broke the 200m record 4 times.