The Greatest Breaststroke Swimmers of All-Time

Following the latest edition of the world swimming championships I thought it was time to look at the greatest swimmers at breast stroke. I am concentrating on the 100m and 200m long-course events as they are the Olympic distances.

The usual caveats apply as there are far more titles available in recent years because world championships are held every two years now and swimmers tend to have won more. The events are generally more competitive however than they were decades ago which somewhat mitigates this ‘title inflation’.

In the following tables the columns represent the number of titles in 100m and h200m in these competitions.

OG – Olympic golds
WC – World Titles
CC – Continental Titles (European/ Pan Pac Championships)
WR – Number of World Records (and how long they stood in years)

The Year column is a rough guide to the first year they were a champion or record holder to show when they competed.

The top male swimmers in no particular order

100 100 100 100 200 200 200 200
Name OG WC CC WR OG WC CC WR Year
Adam Peaty (GB) 1 3 3 4 (4) 2014
Kosuke Kitajima (Jap) 2 1 2 2 (2) 2 1 1 3 (2) 2002
Daniel Gyurta (Hun) 1 3 2 1 2009
Brendan Hansen (US) 2 1 2 (4) 2 2 3 (4) 2001
Norbert Rozsa (Hun) 2 1 2 (2) 1 1 1991
Mike Barrowman (US) 1 1 1 2 6 (13) 1989
David Wilkie (GB) 1 1 2 1 2 (6) 1973
Victor Davis (Can) 1 1 1 1 1 3 (7) 1982
John Hencken (US) 1 1 6 (4)  1 5 (3) 1972
Adrian Moorhouse (GB) 1 3 1 (2) 1 1983

No swimmer is way out ahead of everyone else as is the case elsewhere but my choices as the best are as follows.

At 100m Peaty has been completely dominant over the last five years and has set times so far ahead of anyone else that he is likely to hold the world record for  years.  He has already done enough in my opinion to rank first.

At 200m the choice is even less clear but I just go for Gyurta.  Wilkie had fewer opportunities for medals and with Kitajima is close behind.  Kitajima takes the top spot if looking at the combined achievements over 100 and 200 ahead of Hansen.

 

The top women championship performers in no order are.

100 100 100 100 200 200 200 200
OG WC CC WR OG WC CC WR Year
Ute Gewenige (GDR) 1 1 2 6 (4) 2 1980
Samantha Riley (Aus) 1 1 1 (2) 1 2 1994
Leisel Jones (Aus) 1 2 3 (5) 2 3 (2) 2002
Penny Heyns (SA) 1 2 5 (7) 1 1 4 (2) 1995
Yuliya Efimova (Rus) 1 2 3 2 2007
Rebecca Soni (US) 2 1 1 2 1 1 3 (2) 2008
Lily King (US) 1 2 1 1 (2) 2016
Galina Prozumenshchikova (URS) 1 1 1 2 4 (2) 1963
Luo Xuejan (Chn) 1 2 2001
Agnes Kovacs (Hun) 1 2 1 2 2 1995

Again none stands out as clearly well ahead.  At 100m Jones and Heyns still probably just edge it but King is on course to take over at the top.  At 200m it is Soni, Jones, Efimova and Kovacs who are closely matched.  Overall Leisel Jones is just my choice as the greatest female breaststroker ahead of Soni.

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