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Famous records held by American swimmers at Summer Olympics

(L-R) Gold medalists Nathan Adrian, Michael Phelps, Ryan Murphy and Cody Miller of the United States
(L-R) Gold medalists Nathan Adrian, Michael Phelps, Ryan Murphy and Cody Miller of the United States
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Modified 20 Feb 2021
Top 5 / Top 10
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Swimming is one of the most popular spectator sports at the Summer Olympics, alongside track and field athletics, and gymnastics. It shares a proud history of achievement at the Summer Olympics and has the second-highest number of Olympic events after athletics.

Swimming first appeared at the Summer Olympics in Athens in 1896 as a men’s sport, with women’s events added for the 1912 edition.

Also Read: Most medals won by US athletes in a single edition of the Summer Olympics


American dominance in the pool at the Summer Olympics

Swimming legend Michael Phelps
Swimming legend Michael Phelps

Ever since the USA made its Olympic debut, it has continuously tightened its stranglehold on competitive swimming. American dominance in the pool has long been strong, and tops the chart for most podium finishes by a single entity.

It is a master stroke to earn a gold medal at the Summer Olympics, but it is even greater to do so in a record-breaking trend. One cannot help but reminisce about how Michael Phelps beat records at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Several other American swimmers have become known as the best record-smashers who have had their own spectacular ways to amaze the world.

As the 2021 Summer Olympics approach, here is a look back at the five greatest swimming records held by America at the Summer Olympics.


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#5 Missy Franklin

Missy Franklin
Missy Franklin

2012 London Olympics - 100m backstroke (Gold), 200m backstroke (Gold), 4x200m freestyle (Gold), 4x100m medley (Gold), 4x100m freestyle (Bronze)

2016 Rio Olympics - 4x200m freestyle (Gold)

Missy Franklin is a former competitive swimmer and a five-time Olympic gold medallist.

She was only 17 years old when she made her debut at the Summer Olympics in 2012. She pocketed a total of five medals, four of which were gold.

Franklin, who formerly held the world record in the 200m backstroke long course, earned her fifth and final medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.


#4 Ryan Murphy

Ryan Murphy Katie Ledecky
Ryan Murphy Katie Ledecky
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2016 Rio Olympics - 100m backstroke (Gold), 200m backstroke (Gold), 4x100m medley (Gold)

Ryan Murphy began smashing records as soon as he started swimming at the age of 5.

At his Summer Olympics debut in 2016, Murphy kept the US 100-meter backstroke win streak alive. He won gold while establishing a new Olympic record, and went on to triumph in the 100-meter backstroke, 200-meter backstroke and 4×100-meter medley relay.

He currently holds the world record in the men's 100m backstroke.


#3 Katie Ledecky

Swimming - Olympics: Day 7

2012 London Olympics - 800m freestyle (Gold)

2016 Rio Olympics - 200m freestyle (Gold), 400m freestyle (Gold), 800m freestyle (Gold), 4x200m freestyle (Gold), 4x100m freestyle (Silver)

Already seen as the 800-meter freestyle favourite, Katie Ledecky took the 2016 Summer Olympics by storm in also winning 200m gold, 400m gold and 4x200m freestyle gold.

Ledecky's gold-medal winning feat at the London Summer Olympics broke an American record that had stood untouched since 1989.

She is currently holding a world record in the women’s 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle.

Also Read: 5 most successful female American swimmers at the Summer Olympics


#2 Mark Spitz

Scottish swimmer David Wilkie and American swimmer Mark Spitz.
Scottish swimmer David Wilkie and American swimmer Mark Spitz.

1968 Mexico Olympics - 4x100m freestyle (Gold), 4x200m freestyle (Gold), 100m butterfly (Silver), 100m freestyle (Bronze)

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1972 Munich Olympics - 100m butterfly (Gold), 100m freestyle (Gold), 200m butterfly (Gold), 200m freestyle (Gold), 4x100m freestyle (Gold), 4x100m medley (Gold), 4x200m freestyle (Gold)

A nine-time Olympic gold medallist, Mark Spitz was the most successful athlete at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. He pocketed a whopping haul of seven gold medals.

The seven-gold medal haul was unmatched for 36 long years until Michael Phelps came along.

Spitz announced his retirement at the early age of 22, following the 1972 Summer Olympics.


#1 Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps
Michael Phelps

2004 Athens Olympics - 100m butterfly (Gold), 200m butterfly (Gold), 200m medley (Gold), 400m medley (Gold), 4×200m freestyle (Gold), 4×100m medley (Gold), 200m freestyle (Bronze), 4×100m freestyle (Bronze)

2008 Beijing Olympics - 200m freestyle (Gold), 100m butterfly (Gold), 200m butterfly (Gold), 200m medley (Gold), 400m medley (Gold), 4×100m freestyle (Gold), 4×200m freestyle (Gold), 4×100m medley (Gold)

2012 London Olympics - 100m butterfly (Gold), 200m medley (Gold), 4×200m freestyle (Gold), 4×100m medley (Gold), 200m butterfly (Silver), 4×100m freestyle (Silver)

2016 Rio Olympics - 200m butterfly (Gold), 200m medley (Gold), 4×100m freestyle (Gold), 4×200m freestyle (Gold), 4×100m medley (Gold)

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Michael Phelps is the most successful American swimmer of all time. He has kicked off America’s swimming dominance by winning an unbelievable haul of gold at the Games. He has alone won a total of 28 Olympic medals, including 23 gold.

His major Olympic breakthrough came at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, where he won eight gold medals to overtake Spitz's 1972 record of seven gold medals at a single Olympic event.

Also Read: 5 most successful male American swimmers at the Summer Olympics

America has always been hailed for its unrivaled precision and efficiency in the pool, and Phelps is the man behind it.

Phelps, who holds an incredible 21 Guinness World Records, has been much envied for his immaculate technique and flawless form.

Published 20 Feb 2021, 02:14 IST
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