Seven-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky has also won 15 world championship gold medals, creating a record. At 15, she was the youngest American Olympic swimming team member at the 2012 London Olympics. The 6-foot-tall athlete is also a Stanford graduate and was the youngest Time 100 member in 2016.
Missy Franklin is an American retired competitive swimmer. A five-time Olympic gold medalist, Franklin also held the world records in both the 200-meter backstroke and the 4×100-meter medley relay. After winning four gold medals at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Franklin went on to help her team win a gold medal in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay at the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Natalie Coughlin is an American retired competitive swimmer. A 12-time Olympic medalist, Coughlin became the first American female athlete in the history of the modern Olympics to win six medals in one Olympics event at the 2008 Summer Olympics. She also became the first woman to win gold medals in two successive Olympics, she won the mdeals in the 100-meter backstroke event.
Dara Torres is an American retired competitive swimmer. A 12-time Olympic medalist, Torres won four gold medals in three different Olympic Games. In 2008, she became the first swimmer to compete in five Olympic Games, representing the United States. At the age of 41, Dara Torres was also the oldest swimmer to be a part of the U.S. Olympic team.
Amy Van Dyken is an American radio presenter and retired competitive swimmer. Van Dyken was the most successful sportsperson at the 1996 Olympics where she won four gold medals. In 1995 and 1996, she was named American Swimmer of the Year. Amy Van Dyken went on to win two more gold medals at the 2000 Summer Olympics.
Dawn Fraser is an Australian freestyle champion swimmer. She won the Olympic individual event the women's 100-meter freestyle three times in her career. She also won six Commonwealth Games gold medals. Much respected for her athletic abilities, she was also known for her controversial behavior. She became a swimming coach after her retirement. She is also a former politician.
Janet Evans is an American retired competitive swimmer who won three gold medals at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. A former world record-holder, Evans went on to win another gold medal at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. The winner of the prestigious James E. Sullivan Award, Evans was adjudged Female World Swimmer of the Year in 1987, 1989, and 1990.
Known for winning more Olympic medals than any other female in the swimming category, Jenny Thompson had started swimming at age 7. She grew up to win swimming medals for Stanford University. She is also a qualified doctor and has practiced as an anaesthesiologist and surgeon.
12 Shane Gould
Three-time Olympic gold medalist Shane Gould was 15 when she participated in the Munich Olympics. She stunned everyone with her early retirement at 16 and stayed away from the limelight for 25 years, eventually re-emerging after raising her four kids on an Australian farm and then breaking records at the 2000 Sydney Games.
Esther Williams was an American actress, competitive swimmer, and businesswoman. When she couldn't realize her dream of participating in the 1940 Summer Olympics due to the outbreak of the Second World War, Williams went on to establish herself as an actress. She gained national recognition after playing Annette Kellerman in Million Dollar Mermaid and helped popularize swimming in the USA.
15 Dana Vollmer
Apart from winning 5 Olympic gold medals, swimmer Dana Vollmer also created history when she became the first female to swim under 56 seconds in the 100m butterfly event. Diagnosed with a heart condition at age 15, she went through surgery and later carried a defibrillator around with her.
Pin-up girl Estella Warren had been a Canadian swimming champion before she was scouted by an agent and sent to New York. An international model who has topped Maxim’s Hot 100 Women of 2000 list, Warren has also appeared in films such as Planet of the Apes.
17 Leisel Jones
Rebecca Adlington made headlines with her double-gold win at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, in which she aced both the 400m and 800m freestyle events. After retiring at 23, she has worked for BBC as a sports pundit and participated in shows such as I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!
Victoria Arlen is an American television personality currently working for ESPN. Apart from being a television personality, Arlen is also an actress, model, speaker, and former Paralympian swimmer. She is best known for overcoming two rare conditions that stripped her of her ability to walk, speak, eat, and move. In 2012, she participated in the Summer Paralympics, representing the USA.
21 Rebecca Soni
The winner of 6 Olympic medals, 3 of which were gold medals, swimmer Rebecca Soni is a breaststroke specialist. She also became the first female swimmer to complete the breaststroke event in less than 2:20 minutes. Initially trained as a gymnast, she had switched to swimming at age 10.
Summer Sanders is an American television personality, reporter, sports commentator, actress, and former competitive swimmer. Sanders won two gold medals at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. She then established herself as a sports commentator, covering swimming events for NBC in several Olympic Games.
Gertrude Ederle made history when she became the first female to cross the English Channel. Unfortunately, she lost her sense of hearing while achieving the feat and later devoted herself to coaching deaf swimmers. She also won 2 bronze medals and a relay gold medal at the 1924 Paris Olympics.
31 Kristin Otto
32 Lynne Cox
Lynne Cox is an American swimmer, speaker, and writer. She is best known for swimming in the Bering Strait in an attempt to ease the Cold War tensions between Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan. By doing so, Cox became the first person to swim between the Soviet Union and the United States and earned praises from both Reagan and Gorbachev.
33 Emma McKeon
35 Debbie Meyer
Debbie Meyer made history when she became the first female swimmer to earn gold medals in three individual events at the same Olympics. Though the freestyle expert suffered for asthma since childhood, her condition never hampered her swimming career. She later launched her own swimming school.
38 Amanda Beard
At 14, Amanda Beard was still in high school when she walked away with 2 Olympic silver medals and a relay gold, becoming the second-youngest swimmer to win an Olympic medal. The 7-time Olympic medalist later also modeled for Playboy and co-authored a New York Times bestseller.
Tracy Caulkins is an American retired competitive swimmer. A former world record-holder, Caulkins won three gold medals at the 1984 Olympics. A celebrated swimmer, Caulkins was honored with the prestigious James E. Sullivan Award in 1978; at age 15, she became the youngest-ever recipient of the award. Caulkins also won several FINA World Aquatics Championships during her illustrious career.
41 Jessica Long
Mary T. Meagher is an American retired competitive swimmer. Meagher clocked the 100-meter butterfly in 57.93 and the 200-meter butterfly in 2:05.96 in 1981; this performance is counted among the greatest achievements in sports. After winning three gold medals at the 1984 Olympics, Meagher went on to compete in the 1988 Olympics where she won a bronze medal.
45 Diana Nyad
Diana Nyad is an American journalist, author, long-distance swimmer, and motivational speaker. She achieved national recognition when she swam around Manhattan in 1975. Nyad made headlines again in 1979 when she swam from Bimini to Juno Beach. In 1986, Diana Nyad was inducted into of the US National Women's Sports Hall of Fame.
While she began her career as an international swimmer at 14, Natalie du Toit had her left leg amputated after a scooter accident. However, that didn’t deter her spirit, and she was the only disabled swimmer to compete at the Beijing Olympics. She has also won 13 Paralympic gold medals.
Swimmer Allison Schmitt, a freestyle expert, has won 10 Olympic medals. She had started swimming at the tender age of 8 and had qualified for her first Olympics at 18. She also has 25 other medals from various international contests and has been named to the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.