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 in the Games and has the second-highest number of Olympic events after athletics.
Swimming first appeared at the Olympics during the 1896 Games in Athens as a men’s sport, with women’s events added for the 1912 edition.
Top Five Powerhouses In Swimming At Summer Olympics
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.
If the U.S. has pocketed as many as 553 Olympic medals so far, the Australian dolphins followed with 188 medals, of which 60 are gold. Let’s take a look at the top medal-producing nations who have dominated the Summer Olympics.
#1 USA - 553 medals (246 Gold, 172 Silver, 135 Bronze)
Over the history of the Olympics, America has been the most dominant in swimming. In fact, USA swimmers are always the story in the Games, as they should be.
They form the cream of the crop in the sport, and if put in plain words, the sporting triumph across Germany, Australia, Hungary, Japan, and Great Britain pales in comparison to the United States.
Legendary swimmer Michael Phelps has kicked off America’s swimming dominance by winning a haul of gold at the Games. He has alone won a total of 28 Olympic medals, including 23 gold. Female swimmers have also expanded their dominance in the sport with big names like Natalie Coughlin, Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres.
#2 Australia - 188 Medals (60 Gold, 64 Silver, 64 Bronze)
While swimming has been traditionally dominated by the USA, Australia has also been consistently in the mix, earning medals at every Olympics.
Australia’s strongest-ever performance in the domain can be traced back to the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, where they secured eight of the 13 gold medals in relays and 100m freestyle.
The country’s first medal outside of freestyle came at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1932. Ian Thorpe and Shane Gould are the most decorated Australian Olympic medallists across all sports.
Gould won three golds, one silver and one bronze, in individual events at her only Olympics, when she was aged 15. She became the first woman to win three individual gold medals at one Olympics all in world record time.
#3 East Germany - 92 Medals (38 Gold, 32 Silver, 22 Bronze)
East Germany holds a prominent place in the world of Olympic swimming. They feature third on the table with as many as 92 medals, including 38 gold, 32 silver, and 22 bronze.
Roland Matthews continued to remain the most successful backstroke swimmer ever when he collected his fourth Olympic gold medal in 100 and 200m at Munich 1972 four years after the same result in Mexico in 1968.
Besides Matthes, Kornelia Ender was the first woman to win four gold medals at a single Olympics.
#4 Hungary - 73 Medals (28 Gold, 25 Silver, 20 Bronze)
Ever since it made its first appearance at the Olympics, Hungary has maintained its position as the fourth-best nation in swimming. They have so far collected a total of 73 medals, consisting of 28 gold, 25 silver, and 20 bronze. Hungary won six Olympic gold medals between 2000 and 2006.
Hungary first competed in the sport at the 1896 Olympics, with one swimmer Alfréd Hajós, winning gold medals in both events he participated in. Hungary has won the fourth-most gold medals of any nation in swimming and sixth-most total medals.
Krisztina Egerszegi became the youngest athlete ever to win an Olympic gold medal in swimming. She has also won 200m backstrokes during three consecutive Olympic editions in 1988, 1992, and 1996 Olympic Games, becoming only the second swimmer in the world to win an individual event at three Olympiads.
#5 Japan - 80 Medals (22 Gold, 26 Silver, 32 Bronze)
Japan has always been hailed for its unrivaled precision and efficiency. This particular custom also manifests itself most prominently in the pool, with swimmers like Ryosuke Irie, Kosuke Kitajima, and Kosuke Hagino envied for their immaculate technique and flawless form.
With a cumulative total of 80 Olympic medals to date, Japanese swimmers have proven that it is not physique, but talent, that remains the principal determinant of swimming success stories.
#China - 43 Medals (13 Gold, 19 Silver, 11 Bronze)
Chinese swimmers have earned their hardware over the course of each Olympiad. They currently stand in ninth position, with 43 total Olympic medals, including 13 gold, 19 silver, and 11 bronze.
Sun Yang has been a polarising figure in the sport. Considered one of China's most popular sports figures, Sun is the first Chinese swimmer to win Olympic gold. He is also a world record holder in the 1,500-meter freestyle, which he broke at the 2012 Olympics in London.
#Netherlands - 59 Medals (22 Gold, 18 Silver, 19 Bronze)
The Netherlands has consistently won gold medals between the 2000 and 2016 Olympic editions. They are placed on the sixth, with 59 total Olympic medals, including 22 gold.
They have also earned a reputation for winning gold at every Games since 2000 in the sport, alongside table-toppers USA and Australia. The most successful Dutch competitive swimmer is Inge de Bruijn, a four-time Olympic champion and former world record-holder.