By USA Swimming | Thursday, October 31, 2019
This award is given to the female swimmer with the greatest single individual race of the year, with special emphasis on the 2019 FINA World Championships.
Simone Manuel, 100m Freestyle, 2019 FINA World Championships
Simone Manuel once again found a way to get it done when she set an American record en route to gold in the 100m free with her time of 52.04 at the 2019 FINA World Championships. Swimming from lane one, she also beat the current world record holder and previous world record holder in the final to do so. Manuel also became just the second woman to win this race more than once. The 52.04 mark is just the fourth swim in American history under 53 seconds, three of which have been swam by Manuel.
Katie Ledecky, 800m Freestyle, 2019 FINA World Championships
Despite battling illness throughout the World Championships, Katie Ledecky returned to the Gwangju pool for the 800m free. Ledecky traded leads with Italy’s Simona Quadarella throughout the race until the final turn. Ledecky made that final turn just one-tenth-of-a-second behind Quadarella but exploded through the final 50 meters to win gold by over a body length. The win gave Ledecky her lone gold medal from South Korea, and her fourth-consecutive world title in the 800m free.
Olivia Smoliga, 50m Backstroke, 2019 FINA World Championships
Olivia Smoliga broke her own American record in the 50 back at the 2019 FINA World Championships with her time of 27.33, the 10th-fastest mark of all time. Smoliga bested reigning world champion Etiene Medeiros of Brazil for the gold. This win marked Smoliga’s first individual world championship title of her career and made her the only American women to ever go sub-27.5 on two different occasions.
Regan Smith, 200m Backstroke (Semifinals), 2019 FINA World Championships
Regan Smith entered heat two of the 200m backstroke semifinals as the youngest competitor in the pool, swimming alongside four of the top-10 swimmers in the world in this event. After touching the wall more than three seconds ahead of the competition, Smith looked at the electronic board with shock when she realized her time of 2:03.35 had bested Missy Franklin’s world-record. Franklin’s mark, set back at the 2012 London Olympics, had been thought to be one of the most daunting female records on the books. Now, it is the 17-year-old Smith who sits atop the 200m backstroke world record list.
Lilly King, 100m Breaststroke, 2019 FINA World Championships
The women’s 100m breaststroke added yet another exhilarating chapter to the ongoing battle between breaststroke powerhouses Lilly King and Russia’s Yuliya Efimova. For the last few years, the two juggernauts have battled back and forth creating a true rivalry. King had the lead by four-tenths as the duo made the 50m turn, but Efimova’s explosion off the turn resulted in a neck-and-neck position with King entering the final 25 meters. King pulled ahead right before the final 15 meters and eventually out-touched Efimova by over half a second. King’s final time of 1:04.93 was the 11th-fastest mark of all time. In the history of swimming, only five women have been able to crack the 1:05 mark, and King has now done so on five occasions.