Who Are The Swimmers Currently Elite In 3+ Strokes? (Long Course Meters)


By Yanyan Li on SwimSwam

On the international, long-course stage, you see countless stroke specialists or even swimmers that are proficient in two strokes. But when searching for swimmers elite in three or more strokes, that number dwindles to only a handful, largely because gaining the ability to train in three different strokes and be good at all of them is simply an extremely difficult task.

The ultimate swimmers in this category in recent memory are Katinka Hosszu, Michael Phelps, and Ryan Lochte. Hosszu, the fastest female IMer ever, has medalled internationally in back and fly, and was a staple on Hungary’s 4×200 freestyle relays that won several European championships. Phelps made the Olympic team in the 200 back in 2004, but dropped the event to focus on fly, IM and freestyle events. Lochte was an Olympic champion in the 200 back, swam on several gold-medal-winning freestyle relays for the U.S., and made the 2013 World Championship final in the 100 fly.

However, this article is dedicated to the nine swimmers who we believe are currently elite in three or more strokes in long course meters. For the purposes of this article, “elite” means, at their peak, finaling at the World Championships or Olympics or being on a medal-winning relay team in the stroke, although we’ll consider rough guestimates—a swimmer won’t be penalized for having a personal best that’s slightly off a Worlds/Olympics finaling time.

In addition, we are not counting IM as a stroke, although we do acknowledge that being able to swim IM event swell in itself is already a demonstration of versatility.

Notably, seven out of the eight swimmers on this list (with Thomas Ceccon being the only exception) train in the United States. This could possibly be a testament to showing the benefits of racing short-course yards competitions, where swimmers are often expected to race multiple events in several different disciplines.

Summer McIntosh

  • 100 free: 54.62 (53.33 relay split)
  • 200 free: 1:54.79
  • 400 free: 3:59.32
  • 800 free: 8:25.04
  • 200 back: 2:07.15
  • 200 fly: 2:05.20

The development of Summer McIntosh over the last year has been insane. In 2021, she was known as primarily a freestyler, having raced the 200/400/800 free individually at the Olympics. However, in 2022, she made the tremendous leap to become a multi stroke star. Not only did she improve herself in freestyle, breaking the world junior record in the 200 free and becoming just the fourth female ever under the 4:00 barrier in the 400 free, but she also made a name for herself in the 200 fly by winning the world championship title and becoming the top performer of 2022 in the event.

Recently, McIntosh expanded her talents to backstroke as well, ripping a personal best time of 2:07.15 in the 200 back at the 2022 U.S. Open last December. That time made her the sixth-fastest performer in the event in 2022, as well as the fastest Canadian female. Had she swam the 200 back at 2022 Worlds, she would have finished fourth.

Kate Douglass

  • 50 free: 24.54
  • 100 free: 53.99 (53.61 relay split)
  • 100 fly: 56.56
  • 200 breast: 2:21.43

Although it might not be as obvious as it is in short course, Kate Douglass is an extremely versatile long course swimmer as well and can be considered elite in free, fly, and breast. She’s strong in the sprint freestyles, having been a part of the United States’ 4×100 freestyle relay that won bronze at the 2022 World Championships, and her best time of 24.54 in the 50 free would have finaled at the same meet. She’s also a proficient flyer, as she missed making the 2020(1) Olympic team in the 100 fly by just 0.13 seconds, and her best time of 56.56 in the event would have finaled at the Olympics and finished just 0.15 seconds off the podium at 2022.

But what makes Douglass unique is her strength in breaststroke, with her being a Worlds bronze medalist and the 16th-fastest performer of all time in the 200 breast. Most swimmers listed in this article (aside from Michael Andrew) are good at free, fly, and back but aren’t strong in breaststroke, which makes her one of the few swimmers in the world capable of swimming breaststroke alongside other events on an international stage. In fact, out of all the women’s 50/100/200 breast finalists at 2022 Worlds, only Douglass and Abbie Wood had swum other non-breaststroke events at major international meets, as both of them having raced the 200 IM at the Tokyo Olympics.

Claire Curzan

  • 50 free: 24.17
  • 100 free: 53.55 (52.70 relay split)
  • 100 back: 58.39
  • 50 fly: 25.43
  • 100 fly: 56.20

At the 2022 World Championships, Claire Curzan pulled off the impressive feat of racing the 50 free, 100 free, 100 back, 50 fly, and 100 fly and finaling in all of the events. To add on, she won a bronze medal in the 100 back and helped the U.S. medal by swimming freestyle on the 4×100 women’s medley, mixed medley, and mixed freestyle relays. And even though she’s never medalled internationally in the 50 free or 100 fly, her best time of 24.17 in the 50 free would have won bronze at both the 2020(1) Olympics and 2022 Worlds and her best time of 56.20 in the 100 fly would have taken silver at 2022 Worlds.

Many swimmers of Curzan’s type, the typical sprinter that can swim free, fly, and back, are present in short course, but she’s perhaps the only female swimmer in the world capable of successfully pulling off this stroke combination in long course all in one meet.

Maggie MacNeil

  • 100 free: 54.02 (53.11 relay split)
  • 50 fly: 25.97
  • 100 fly: 55.59
  • 100 back: 59.45

Most people know how good Maggie MacNeil is at butterfly—she’s the defending Olympic champion and second-fastest performer of all-time in the 100 fly after all. She’s also present on many of Canada’s freestyle relays, helping her country take silver in the 4×100 freestyle relay at the 2020(1) Olympics and the 2022 World Championships. But like her countrymate McIntosh, MacNeil could have hidden potential in the long course sprint backstroke events as well.

At a Canadian High Performance test event in April 2021, MacNeil clocked a best time of 59.45 in the 100 back, a time that would have tied for ninth in the Olympic semifinals and finished fourth at 2022 Worlds. In addition, given that she’s the world record holder in the short course 50 back, it’s plausible that she could be strong in the long course version of the event as well, which she hasn’t raced at a major meet since 2018.

Michael Andrew

  • 50 free: 21.41
  • 50 back: 24.49
  • 100 back: 53.55
  • 50 breast: 26.52
  • 100 breast: 58.14
  • 50 fly: 22.79
  • 100 fly: 50.80

Michael Andrew is the only swimmer on this list who we consider elite in all four strokes. He’s made World Championship or Olympic finals in all of the 50 stroke races, as well as in the 100 breast and fly (plus his best time of 53.55 in the 100 back, which was set back in 2018, is just around half a second off what it took to final at the 2022 World Championships). In addition, he’s also won World Championship medals in the 50 free, 50 fly and 50 breast, showing that he’s capable of succeeding on the utmost highest level in multiple strokes.

Andrew’s versatility primarily shines through his performances in the 50-meter races, with most of his 50s times being considerably more impressive than his 100s times. That being said, he has seen success in 100-meter events as well, considering that he is the third-fastest performer of all-time and the American record holder in the 100 breast.

Shaine Casas

  • 100 free: 48.23
  • 50 back: 24.00
  • 100 back: 52.51
  • 200 back: 1:55.35
  • 100 fly: 50.40

Up until this year, Shaine Casas was considered a backstroke specialist in long course meters. And while he did see a breakthrough year in backstroke in 2022, having set a personal best in the 100 back and taking bronze in the 200 back at the World Championships, he also became good at fly as well. At the 2022 U.S. National Championships, he clocked a 50.40 in the 100 fly that would have won silver at worlds and made him the third-fastest American of all-time. Casas didn’t race the 100 fly at the World Championship trials last year, but if he chose to add the event to his international lineup, he could be one of the top contenders.

Also at U.S. Nationals, Casas raced the 100 free and set a personal best of 48.23. And while that time was two-tenths away from finaling individually at the Olympics or World Championships, it put him on the U.S. national team in the 100 free. If he can drop just a little bit of time, he could potentially see himself on the 4×100 freestyle relay for the American men, who are one of the gold medal favorites in the event for this Olympic cycle.

Carson Foster

  • 200 free: 1:45.57
  • 400 free: 3:45.29
  • 200 back: 1:55.86
  • 200 fly: 1:53.67

Out of all the swimmers on this list, Carson Foster is the only one who excels in three different 200-meter stroke events. Internationally, he has seen the most success in IM and was a part of the United States’ gold-medal winning 4×200 freestyle relay, but his latest showcasing at Austin Sectionals shows that he’s capable of swimming other events as well. At 2022 sectionals, Foster swam a time of 1:53.67 in the 200 fly to become the third-fastest American ever, and he was ranked fourth in the world in 2022 for the event. He also set a best time of 1:55.86 in the 200 back which was just 0.51 off the bronze-medaling time at Worlds, as well as personal best of 3:45.29 in the 400 free that made him the fastest American performer in 2022.

Thomas Ceccon

  • 100 free: 47.71
  • 50 back: 24.40
  • 100 back: 51.60
  • 50 fly: 22.79
  • 100 fly: 51.38

Thomas Ceccon, the only non U.S.-based swimmer to make this list, is a “jack of all trades” type of sprinter. Obviously he’s the world record holder in the 100 back, but he’s also a consistent member of Italy’s 4×100 freestyle relays that took silver at the Olympics and bronze at 2022 Worlds. In addition, his best time of 47.71 in the individual 100 free world have finaled at both the 2020(1) Olympics and 2022 Worlds, though he opted not to swim the event at Worlds.

Ceccon also has a lot of potential in fly. He swam a time of 22.79 in the 50 fly in Worlds semifinals to break the Italian record, but added 0.07 seconds in finals to finish fifth (his semi-finals time would have had him tied for bronze). A few weeks following Worlds, he set a best time of 51.38 in the 100 fly, which would be 0.1 seconds off finaling at worlds made him the fastest Italian of 2022 in the event.

Honorable Mentions:

There’s several swimmers that we left off this list who we think have the potential to be elite in three strokes, but aren’t quite there yet. Due to this, we made an honorable mentions category to highlight them.

  • Leon Marchand: Leon Marchand is arguably the most versatile swimmer in the NCAA right now, having national titles in the IM and breaststroke, an A final-worthy 200 fly, and 18/40/1:29-point freestyle relay splits. He’s almost as versatile in the big pool, being a World champion in the 200/400 IM and a silver medalist in the 200 fly. In addition, he also holds a best time of 2:08.76 in the 200 breast, which is a French record and would have finished fourth at worlds. The only thing keeping Marchand from being considered “elite” in three different strokes is his freestyle. He raced on France’s 4×200 free relay at worlds, splitting 1:47.59, but that time is far from what the best individual 200 freestylers can go. That being said, he still has to train freestyle for his IM races that are rapidly improving, so we should expect to see some major time drops from him in freestyle events.
  • Alex WalshEven though we haven’t seen her seriously pursue any long course events aside from the 200 IM, Alex Walsh doesn’t have a single weak stroke in short course. That being said, her long course times in the stroke races from her high school days indicates that she has serious potential if she were to start training for the events again. She medaled at the 2019 Pan American Games in the 200 back, holding a best time of 2:08.30 that also would have qualified for the 2022 World Championships final. She also goes 1:07.59 in the 100 breast and swam the prelims leg on the U.S. 4×100 medley relay at last year’s Worlds, and holds a best time of 59.58 in the 100 fly. Furthermore, she also qualified for Worlds for the 4×200 free relay and swam in prelims. As the best long course 200 IMer in the world and one of the fastest-of-all-time in the four 200-yard stroke disciplines, it’s only fair to speculate about whether she could be elite in all the strokes in meters or not.
  • Kristof MilakKristof Milak is the king of butterfly, being the world record holder in the 200 fly and the European record holder in the 100 fly. This year, he also took up freestyle, taking silver at the European championships and breaking the Hungarian record in the 100 free with a time of 47.44, and also has split 1:44-point multiple times on the 4×200 free relay. Last fall, Milak said that he wanted to add new events to his lineup at the 2023 Hungarian Nationals meet. That could potentially mean further pursuing backstroke, as he was a finalist at the 2021 European Short Course Championships in the 50 back and also raced the long course 100 back at 2018 Euro Juniors. Given that he’s much better in long course than short course, could his short course success in the 50 back indicate that he could be an elite long course 50 backstroker as well? Only time will tell, but the potential is there for sure.

SwimSwam: Who Are The Swimmers Currently Elite In 3+ Strokes? (Long Course Meters)

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