The New York Times has a really good interactive comparing the various milestones in the men’s 100-meter freestyle swim. Based on the athletes’ average speeds, if every Olympic medalist ever raced each other, France’s Alain Bernard (from the 2008 Olympic Games, with a time of 47.21 seconds) would win, with a wide distribution of Olympians behind him, including the 2012 London Olympics winner, Nathan Adrian, with a time of 47.52 seconds.
Other swimmers profiled in the interactive:
Alfréd Hajós: Hungary’s first Olympic gold medalist, Hajós swam in 55-degree open water, in the Bay of Zea outside Piraeus, Greece. He also won the 1,200-meter swim.
Johnny Weissmuller (United States): The first swimmer to break a minute in the Olympics. Later went on to play Tarzan in “Tarzan the Ape Man,” which made him internationally famous.
Mark Spitz (United States): Won seven gold medals in the 1972 Games in Munich; nearly withdrew from the 100-meter event because he wasn’t sure if he would win. (He did, setting a world record.)
Alexander Popov (Russia): One of only three athletes with three medals in this event; the first person in 68 years to win back-to-back golds after Weissmuller did it in 1928.
The two and a half minute video is worth seeing in entirety.