13 Best British Swimmers: Legends To New Blood

Best British swimmers

British swimming has a long and successful history, with many notable athletes paving the way. Let’s learn about the best British swimmers and ones to watch.

Great Britain has a rich history of producing world-class swimmers who have excelled at the highest level of competition. From the Olympic Games to the World Championships, British swimmers have consistently performed well and left their mark on the sport.

The first indoor swimming pool in England opened in 1828, and by the late 1800s, swimming had become a popular pastime and competitive sport. In recent years, British swimming has undergone a resurgence, with swimmers such as Adam Peaty, Tom Daley, and Siobhan-Marie O’Connor winning medals at major international competitions and breaking world records. 

With a new generation of talented swimmers coming through, British swimming looks set to continue its success in the years to come. In this article, we will take a closer look at some of the best British swimmers of all time and their achievements. You might also be interested in our round-up of famous U.K. cyclists

Top British Swimmers Of All Time

Great Britain has produced some of the most talented swimmers in the world. Here are some of the top British swimmers of all time:

1. Rebecca Adlington

Rebecca Adlington is a retired British swimmer who won two gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She also won two bronze medals at the 2012 London Olympics. At the same Games, she broke the world record for the 800m freestyle.

Other notable wins include:

  • Two World Championship gold medals
  • One Commonwealth Games gold medal
  • One Gold European Championship medal

2. Adam Peaty

Adam Peaty is a British swimmer who specializes in breaststroke. He won a gold medal in the 100m breaststroke event at the 2016 Rio Olympics and silver in the 4x100m medley relay. 

At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which were held in 2021, he won gold in the men’s 100m breaststroke and mixed 4x100m medley relay. He also came second in the men’s 4x100m medley relay. 

Peaty has broken several records throughout his career. He was the first man to swim the 50m breaststroke in less than 26 seconds and was also the first to swim the 100m breaststroke in under 57 and 58 seconds.

3. Duncan Goodhew

Duncan Goodhew is a retired British swimmer who won a gold medal in the 100m breaststroke event at the 1980 Moscow Olympics. He also won a silver medal in the 4x100m medley relay at the same Olympics. The swimmer has three silver medals from the Commonwealth Games. 

4. Tom Daley

Tom Daley is a British diver and swimmer who has won numerous medals at the Olympics and other international competitions. He is the first diver on Team GB to take home four Olympic medals.

Daley won a gold medal in the synchronized 10m platform diving event at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and a bronze medal in the men’s 10m platform. He also came third in the synchronized platform at the 2012 Games and again in 2016. 

Other notable wins include:

  • Three World Championship gold medals
  • Four Commonwealth Games gold medals
  • Five European Championship gold medals

5. Ellie Simmonds

Best British swimmers
Simmonds has won a total of eight Paralympic medals

Ellie Simmonds is a British swimmer who specializes in Paralympic events. She was only 13 years old when she competed in the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, making her the youngest British athlete at the Games.

Simmonds has won a total of eight Paralympic medals, including five gold medals. Some of her other achievements include:

  • Seven European Championship gold medals
  • Fourteen World Championship gold medals

6. Siobhan Marie O’Connor

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor is a retired swimmer from the U.K. One of the highlights of her career came in 2016 when she became the first British woman to nab an Olympic medal in the 200m individual medley after finishing in second place.

Beyond the Olympics, she has two Commonwealth Games gold medals, one World Championship (LC) gold medal, and two European Championship (LC) gold medals. 

7. Henry Taylor

Henry Taylor is a British swimming legend. At the 1908 London Olympics, Taylor won three gold medals and one silver medal. 

He also became the first man to break a 1500m freestyle record. Taylor’s success helped put British swimming on the map.

Current Prominent British Swimmers

In recent years, Great Britain has continued to be a force to be reckoned with in the pool. Here are some of the current prominent British swimmers:

8. Tom Dean

Tom Dean
Dean has five European Championships (LC) gold medals

Tom Dean came on the radar at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where he won two gold medals in the 200m freestyle and the 4x200m freestyle relay. Dean’s performances in Tokyo were nothing short of spectacular, and he quickly became a household name in the UK. 

One of his more recent achievements includes winning a gold medal in the 4×200m freestyle at the 2023 World Aquatic Championships. Dean also has five European Championships (LC) gold medals and two European Junior Championships gold medals. 

9. Kathleen Dawson

Kathleen Dawson is a backstroke specialist who has enjoyed a great deal of success in recent years. She won three gold medals at the 2020 European Championships (LC) and one in 2016. Dawson also won the gold in the 4×100m mixed medley at the Tokyo Olympics. 

10. Freya Anderson

Freya Anderson is a sprint freestyle specialist who has been making waves in the swimming world for several years. She was a key member of the British team that won gold in the 4x200m freestyle relay at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Anderson won four European Junior Championship gold medals before earning two gold medals at the European Championships (SC) in 2019. She also won nine European Championships (LC) gold medals.

11. Duncan Scott

Duncan Scott
He claimed three silver medals at the same Games and two in 2016

Duncan Scott is another rising star in British swimming, having won multiple Olympic and World Championship medals. He was on the British team that won gold in the 4x200m freestyle relay at the Tokyo Olympics. He also claimed three silver medals at the same Games and two in 2016. 

Other notable wins include:

  • Three Commonwealth Games gold medals
  • Four World Championship (LC) gold medals
  • Seven European Championship (LC) gold medals

12. Jacob Whittle 

Jacob Whittle is an up-and-coming athlete. In 2021, the then-16-year-old broke the British Age Record in the 100m freestyle. He was the youngest member of Team GB at the Tokyo Olympics and proved himself when he made it to the 100m freestyle semi-final.

13. Maisie Summers-Newton

One para-swimmer to watch is Maisie Summers-Newton, who won two gold medals at the Tokyo Paralympic Games in 2021. More recently, she earned her fifth and sixth World Championship gold medals at the 2023 event. She also won three gold medals at the 2018 European Championships and one Commonwealth Games gold medal in 2022.

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This article was researched with the help of OpenAI and fact-checked and edited by our human editor.