Top 5 Swimmers of All Times

Swimmers are amazing, and people only tend to remember the most recent ones, who dominated the swimming world, more than their predecessors, someone like Michael Phelps, who won more medals than plenty of other swimmers, combined. Well, when building a top anything list, one mustn’t just count the medals, but plenty of other things, like influence and context. Here are our top 5 swimmers.

Johnny Weissmuller

Born in Austro-Hungary, moved to America, Weissmuller was one of the best American swimmers in the 1920s. He won five Olympic gold medals, and 52 US National Championships. That’s a lot of victories. Weissmuller is one of the best known Tarzan actors. Many actors played Tarzan, but he is among the best known ones.

Michael Phelps

Phelps is an American retired swimmer. Born in 1985, he is best known for winning 6 gold medals and 2 bronze medals at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, as well as 8 gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. This was done only once before, at the 1980 Summer Moscow Olympic Games, where Soviet gymnast, Alexander Dityatin, who won 8 medals at a single event. He won the World Swimmer of the Year 6 times. He is arguably one of the best swimmers in the world. 

Karen Blaha from Charlottesville, VA / CC BY-SA (

Ian Thorpe

An Australian retired swimmer, born in 1982, Thorpe is known for being one of the most successful Australian swimmers. He won 5 Olympic gold medals, more than any other Australian. He also won 6 gold medals at the 2001 World Aquatics Championship, becoming thus the first person to do so in a single World Championship. He is also the first person to be named Swimming World Swimmers of the Year champion four times in a row. He is one of Australia’s top athletes and one of the most recognizable ones.

Mark Spitz

Born in 1950, he is an American retired swimmer and behind Phelps in terms of winning gold medals at a single championships. He won 7 gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, surpassed only by Phelps, who won 8 in Beijing. Between 1968 and 1973, Spitz set 33 world records. Now, most of those have been broken, but 33 isn’t a small number. Add to that countless national championship medals and international success and you can see why he is one of the best swimmers ever.

Alexandr Popov

Alexandr Popov or Alexander Popov, depending on who’s spelling it, is a retired Russian, former Soviet swimmer. Born in 1971, he made most of his success in freestyle swimming. He got medals at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. 

These are some of the world’s best swimmers, each with their own style and strength.