Swim Poll of the Week: 55% Believe Mark Spitz Is Best Male Swimmer of All-Time After Michael Phelps Among Retired Athletes


Mark Spitz topped the swim poll of the week as the top male swimmer of all-time among retired athletes after Michael Phelps.

This is the Swim Poll of the Week for Thursday August 20, 2020, sponsored by Strechcordz Swim Training Products. In our last poll, we wanted to know: Who is the greatest male swimmer of all-time among retired athletes after Michael Phelps?

Two weeks ago during the pre-scheduled dates of the now-postponed Olympic Games, Swimming World Editors Craig Lord and John Lohn put together an event-by-event League of Olympic Swim Legends in which we considered the impact of the likes of Mark SpitzIan ThorpeRoland Matthes, Vladimir Salnikov and Matt Biondi.

Mark Spitz won four individual gold medals at the 1972 Olympics but retired shortly after two trips to the Games due to no real professional opportunities available for swimmers at the time. Spitz was extraordinary, of course, and his count placed him more than 20 points ahead of the snap for bronze, which went to the East German Matthes and the Australian Thorpe.

Matthes swept the backstroke golds at the 1968 & 1972 Olympics and won a bronze in the 100 back in 1976. Thorpe swam in two Olympics and won three individual gold medals, sweeping the 200 & 400 free in 2004, and also claimed gold in 2000.

Spitz broke 21 world record in his career compared to Matthes’ 17 and Thorpe’s 13.

American Matt Biondi won two individual gold medals in Seoul 1988, winning the 50 & 100 freestyle. He broke seven individual world records in his career.

We asked for the swim poll and it looks like our audience sided with the American swimmer…

Here are the answers regarding who the best retired female swimmer is of all-time:

Mark Spitz – 55%

Ian Thorpe – 29%

Matt Biondi – 5%

Someone Else – 10%




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  1. Rick Stanfield

    Spitz. Swam distance earlier and dominated in 72 w a mustache!!!

  2. Paul Mahar

    First I laughed that the writer had to use the word “male”! We all know Katie Ledecky is the greatest dominating swimmer ever.

    Now back to Mike! I have all the respect in the world for this man as a person & athlete. He saved our sport in many ways. Put the word competitive swimming back in our society’s awareness. We gained 1000’s of want to be swimmers! Majority of the world didn’t/doesn’t understand our sport but they all cheered this man on and the rest of the USA Swimming team. Thank God the media gave our sport screen time during those Olympic times.

    Now the reason Sir Mark is the greatest male ever…
    Besides training & how we developed our Olympic athletes back in the day. These athletes didn’t have the support our athletes have today.

    Sir Mark swam to GREATNESS in a speedo & NO goggles!


    • Evan Townsend

      Paul Mahar Michael Phelps has dominated the most events over the most years of any swimmer in history. Katie Ledecky is a dominate distance freestyler, but doesn’t come close to what Phelps has accomplished on the world stage. That being said, I admire Ledecky way more because she was never pulled over for driving drunk on the wrong side of the road, like Phelps did in 2014.

    • Paul Mahar

      Understand your point but could Mike had done that without goggles & tech suits? I believe the answer is no. Do you remember his last Olympic 200 IM race that he didn’t win? First thing they blamed it on was his goggles fell off. Now if the question was who is the most dominant IMer I’m all in with Big Mike!

      On Katie Ledecky, I believe she is amazing swimmer. Not sure I’d say the 200 Fr is a distance event and she’s pretty fast! Plus, remember for some reason women were not allowed to swim the mile! 🤯

      From your post it sounds like we both love swimming! I believe our guy Caeleb Dressel about to stand on top of the mountain all by himself! 😍

  3. Noah Caplan

    It’s Phelps……it’s not even close. NOBODY is close. Number of Olympics, world records, national titles, oh….and number of Olympic medals won. Also he went 8 for 8 in 2008.

    • Chris Feinthel

      Noah Caplan The headline literally says Best Male Swimmer after Phelps….

    • Noah Caplan

      Welp, that’s what I get for being reactionary.

  4. Ryan Connell

    In a world without Phelps, Lochte may have been the GOAT.

  5. David Houck

    Argument for Spitz is… Munich ‘72: 7 Golds, 7 world records. Period. (And, 7 events was maximum number allowed.) Different eras. Kareem Abdul Jabaar vs. Michael Jordan vs. Lebron James. PS – I can make a great argument for Phelps also.