World Aquatics earlier this month unveiled its “Elite 11” competing across all the tour stops of the World Aquatics Swimming World Cup 2023 circuit this fall which will get underway October 6 - 8 in Berlin and will continue October 13 - 15 in Athens, before its finish from October 20 - 22 in Budapest.

Beata Nelson - United States

Image Source: Mike Lewis/World Aquatics

Nelson took the big cash prize last year, winning two “triple crowns” in the 200m backstroke and the 200m IM, as well as two additional wins in the 100m backstroke and one more in the 100m IM. However, Nelson still has something to prove in the long course venue where her highest world ranking for 2023 was 36th in the 200m IM and 37th in the 100m butterfly.

Nelson hasn’t had the speed historically in the long course venue, but her competitiveness will keep her in the conversation for the top three in her individual events. Nelson hasn’t been one to swim poorly in-season so expect her to be primed and ready to go when she lines up behind the blocks in Europe. The 200m IM is perhaps her best event in long course and she will look to press the pace early on the front half against some of the best in the world. Nelson still has plenty of speed and will definitely be one to watch on this World Cup circuit.

Kaylee McKeown - Australia

Image Source: Istvan Derencsenyi/World Aquatics

McKeown became the first woman to win the 50m, 100m, and 200m of the same stroke at the same World Championships this July when she took the backstroke triple in Fukuoka. McKeown was named the Swimmer of the Championships for her efforts in Japan as she also holds the World Records in both the 100m and 200m backstroke.

After such a successful summer, McKeown is proving herself to be one of the best backstrokers in history already at age 22 and will be a tough task for anyone with hopes to take her down at the World Cup. McKeown will also be looking to put up a good time in the 200m IM after drawing a disqualification for a backstroke to breaststroke transition in the semi-finals in Fukuoka.

She will certainly be busy if she tackles all these events, but she has proven to be one of the best racers in the world, and she will accept any challenge thrown at her. If McKeown continues to be this dominant on the international stage, she will start entering conversations of being one of the best backstrokers of all-time. Only three women - Krisztina Egerszegi, Natalie Coughlin, and Kirsty Coventry, have won back-to-back Olympic gold medals in backstroke events.

Zhang Yufei - China

Image Source: Tsutomu Kishimoto/World Aquatics

Zhang was the World champ in the 100m butterfly this summer and also won a silver in the 50m butterfly and a bronze in the 50m freestyle. Just a few days after the championships in which she won five total medals, she flew back to her home country of China to race at the Summer Universiade in Chengdu where she won a whopping nine gold medals.

Zhang has the speed, endurance, and versatility to be a force in the 50m, 100m, and 200m freestyle and butterfly events and will be a major force in whichever events she chooses to race.

It has been a busy racing schedule for Zhang, who is also coming off the Asian Games in late September in Hangzhou where she was one of the top athletes in her home nation. Zhang has handled busy racing schedules in the past and seems to be back to her top form that she showed two years ago at the Tokyo Olympics when she won gold in the 200m butterfly and silver in the 100m.

Zhang’s versatility has propelled her to be one of the top swimmers in the world at age 25 and if she can continue on this trajectory, then she not only could win big at the World Cup but also at next year’s Olympics as no woman has ever won back to back Olympic gold medals in a butterfly event.

Sarah Sjostrom - Sweden

Image Source: Hiroyuki Nakamura/World Aquatics

Sjostrom has long been one of the most versatile and consistent swimmers in the entire world, winning her first European title in the 100m butterfly at age 14 in 2008. At the recent Worlds in July, she won gold in dominating fashion in the 50m butterfly, winning her fifth World title, and in the 50m freestyle, breaking her own world record in the semi-finals at 23.61.

Sjostrom has started to focus more on the 50s as she reaches the twilight of her career at age 30, but she is swimming as fast as she ever has, swimming her two fastest times ever in the 50m freestyle this year as well as the fourth-fastest time of her career in the 50m butterfly.

Sjostrom also led off Sweden’s 4x100m freestyle relay team at Worlds with a 52.24, which ranked her number two in the world for 2023 and has indicated at the end of the World Aquatics Championships this year that she is “likely” to race the 100m butterfly again at next year’s Olympics.

Sjostrom has shown no signs of slowing down as she continues to win medals at the international level. She already has two World Cup titles to her name in 2017 and 2018 and if her form at the World Championships is any indication, she could be the favourite to take home the overall title in 2023.

Marrit Steenbergen - Netherlands

Image Source: Istvan Derencsenyi/World Aquatics

Steenbergen was one of the busiest swimmers in Fukuoka, racing a total of 21 times across the eight days where she made finals in the 50m, 100m, and 200m freestyle and the 200m IM, ultimately earning an individual bronze in the 100m freestyle.

Steenbergen also helped the Netherlands advance to the finals in all three women’s relays plus the mixed medley, where the Dutch team was as high as fourth in the latter. Steenbergen handled herself tremendously throughout the duration of the meet and proved she is one of the most versatile swimmers in the entire world with her performances. She finished her 21st swim in Fukuoka with a 51.96 anchor leg in the women’s medley relay, the second-fastest split of anyone in the field.

Ahead of this Swimming World Cup circuit, Steenbergen could tackle more events in Berlin, Athens, and Budapest, and if she is on form, she could rack up a big payday across the three weekends. Steenbergen is a better long course swimmer than she is in short course, and now at age 23, she is in the prime of her career as she prepares for what would be her third Olympics in 2024.