Most Underrated Swimming Athletes Ever

While there are a number of swimmers out there who have gotten the attention they deserve, *cough* Michael Phelps *cough* there are a few others who, well, haven’t. Swimmers are arguably underrated no matter what, as unlike other athletes who are ever-present, swimmers only appear about every four years for the Olympics. They’re the Leap Year of athletes. So who are some of the most underrated swimming athletes?


Natalie Coughlin

Arguably the female equivalent of Michael Phelps, Coughlin has appeared on “underrated athletes” lists despite her many wins in the pool. After competing in the 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympics, Coughlin won an astounding three gold medals, four silver medals and four bronze medals. Her lung power is the kind other swimmers dream of–Coughlin could hold her breath for nearly three-quarters of the pool! The swimming federation had to create a line where swimmers had to come up for air due to the woman’s crazy ability to stay under for so long.

Coughlin also won five each of gold, silver and bronze from 2001 to 2007 at the World Championships. She earned eight gold medals and four silver medals at the Pan Pacific Championships in 2002 and 2006. She has also set many United States and world records in assorted events.


Ryan Lochte

Forever in the shadow of teammate Phelps, Lochte now has 11 Olympic medals and four world records to his name. The swimmer’s performance in the 2012 Summer Olympics put him in the spotlight for the first time despite competing in the 2008 and 2004 games. Lochte won two gold, two silver, and one bronze medal in London and earned the most medals in the history of the Short Course World Championships. His good looks has also won him scores of female fans. The world also now knows his trademark, uh, word, “Jeah!,” and his questionable intelligence thanks to the E! reality series, What Would Ryan Lochte Do? Dear God.


Tracy Caulkins

Perhaps the most underrated swimmer ever, Caulkins was setting records before Phelps and Ryan Lochte were splashing around in kiddie pools. Her somewhat-freakish accomplishments include:

– Eight World Championship Medals (5 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze)

– 63 American Records (most ever)

– 12 NCAA Championships

– Three Olympic medals (all gold)

– Five World Records

– 1978 United Press International Swimmer of the Year

– 1978 James Sullivan Award winner–youngest winner ever

– Four-time Swimming World American Swimmer of the Year

As of 2010, Caulkins had done what Phelps hadn’t–set American records in all four strokes. While today’s swimmers tend to focus on one or two specific events, Caulkins was a “pool monster” who dominated basically everything. Amazingly, she participated in one Olympics, which is why she has only three in terms of Olympic gold.

Caulkins was at the height of her career when the U.S. boycotted the 1980 Olympic Games for being held in Moscow due to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Despite being rarely mentioned these days, there are those who firmly believe Caulkins should rank as one of the best swimmers of all time.

There are plenty of underrated athletes out there–some are famous, some a distant memory, some we’ve never heard of.

Who are your favorite underrated athletes? Let us know in the comments below!

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