All-Time U.S. Women’s Roster Features Deep Talent
A few days ago, we presented a potential all-time men’s team for the United States, an all-star lineup of the greatest swimmers in American history. Two athletes were selected per event, in accordance with how major international competitions such as the Olympics and World Championships are set up. Now, it’s time to put together a lineup for the U.S. women.
Some events were easier to select than others and there will certainly be disagreements, or question marks. We urge our readership to offer commentary and also – if motivated – to generate a list for other countries. In comparison to the men, the women were much more difficult to separate.
Commentary: Where is Amy Van Dyken, the 1996 Olympic champion? While she was absolutely in the conversation, Dara Torres and Jill Sterkel get the nods. Torres was a two-time Olympic medalist and the last American woman to hold the world record, back in 1984. Sterkel, meanwhile, set three world records in the event, but there was no 50 free in Olympic competition during her heyday, and that fact can’t be used against her.
Commentary: As a world champion, two-time Olympic medalist and former world-record holder, Jenny Thompson wasn’t hard to slot. Ultimately, Natalie Coughlin and her longevity claimed the second position ahead of old-timers and Olympic champs Ethelda Bleibtrey and Helene Madison.
Commentary: Because of the systematic doping program of East Germany, Shirley Babashoff was robbed of what could have been an even more illustrious and gold-decorated career. Picking her compatriot in this event was brutal, but the final nod went to Allison Schmitt for overwhelming triumph at the 2012 Olympics. Debbie Meyer was next in line.
Commentary: The easy choice was Janet Evans, the 1988 Olympic champion and world-record holder for almost 18 years. With five world records to her credit, Debbie Meyer earned the No. 2 role in a tight battle with Martha Norelius, who was the Olympic champ in 1924 and 1928.
Commentary: One again, Janet Evans was an immediate entry, thanks to a pair of Olympic crowns and a global standard which endured for almost 19 years. The second spot went to Katie Ledecky, the rising phenom who won Olympic gold in 2012 and set a world record at the 2013 World Championships. The inclusion of Ledecky meant the omission of two-time Olympic champ Brooke Bennett and Olympic titlist Debbie Meyer.
Commentary: Not a real hard one to pick. Natalie Coughlin is a two-time Olympic champion and the first woman to break both the one-minute barrier and 59-second barrier. Missy Franklin is her heir apparent and, at just 18, an Olympic and world champion.
Commentary: With two world titles, an Olympic gold medal and the world record to her name, Missy Franklin was quickly penciled into the lineup. Also earning an easy nod was Melissa Belote, the 1972 Olympic champ and 1973 world champion.
Commentary: A portfolio of two world titles and two Olympic silver medals got the job done for Rebecca Soni. The 1972 Olympic champ, Cathy Carr got the second nod on the strength of also being a world-record holder. Also in contention were Catie Ball, who was beset by illness at the 1968 Olympics, an Megan Quann, the 2000 Olympic champ.
Commentary: Not much to debate in this event, what with Rebecca Soni having won back-to-back Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012 and Amanda Beard having won a medal of each color at the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Games.
Mary T. Meagher
Commentary: The 1984 Olympic champion, Mary T. Meagher displayed perseverance after being robbed of her initial Olympic opportunity by the 1980 boycott. Her world record from 1981 endured for 18 years. Dana Vollmer snared the second spot as the 2012 Olympic champion and 2011 world titlist.
Mary T. Meagher
Commentary: Few athletes have dominated an event like Mary T. Meagher, who was the 1984 Olympic champion and held the world record from 1981-2000. Karen Moe was the 1972 Olympic gold medalist and set four world records.
200 Individual Medley
Donna de Varona
Commentary: Claudia Kolb was the first woman to win the Olympic title in the 200 medley, grabbing gold in 1968. Donna de Varona broke seven world records from 1961-64, but the 200 I.M. wasn’t on the Olympic schedule during her reign. Tracy Caulkin and Katie Hoff also garnered consideration.
400 Individual Medley
Donna de Varona
Commentary: Donna de Varona’s six world records and Olympic title in 1964 punched her ticket while Tracy Caulkins was the gold medalist at the 1984 Olympics an her world record likely would have endured if not for East German doping. Also getting a look were Claudia Kolb and Katie Hoff.
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