To see all of the 2015 Swammy Award winners so far, click here.
2015 World Junior Swimmer of the Year: Li Zhuhao
Despite the multitude of male swimmers that conquered Junior World Records this year, Li Zhuhao’s performances sit a cut above the rest. Not only did he break both the 100 and 200 butterfly records this year, he utterly smashed them, cutting over a second off the former 100 record and almost a half second off the 200 record. The craziest part? Li is just sixteen years old, giving him two more years to continue to set junior records.
Li began breaking out onto the scene last September, claiming silver at the Asian Games in Incheon by swimming 51.91 at the age of fifteen. He also broke his first junior world record, chopping over a half second off of the old “standard” mark of 52.52 set by Daniel Bell in 2008.
Li began his success in 2015 at the Chinese National Championships where he broke the mark yet again in semifinals, clocking in at 51.82. He held on to win his first Chinese national title in finals with a time of 52.20.
Four months later, Li reset his own 100 fly mark at the World Championships twice in the same day. He rocked a 51.54 in prelims to grant him the third seed heading into the semifinals. That night, Li threw down a monster back half to cut another couple tenths off his new record, registering a 51.33. He put up a slightly slower third race, swimming 51.66 to finish eighth in his first World Championships final.
At this point, not only has Li cut nearly 1.2 seconds off Bell’s former record, he has also officially swam under the previous mark at least six times, four of which have been in the past year.
Deciding his 100 fly dominance wasn’t enough, Li returned September 8 at the Chinese Autumn Championships to crush Andrew Seliskar’s former 200 fly junior world record. Li swam a winning time of 1:55.52 to cut four full tenths off of Seliskar’s mark from the 2014 Junior Pan Pacs. He also managed to cut over two full seconds off his former best time of 1:57.73 from April’s Nationals.
In recognition of his incredible records, drastic recent improvements, and dominance on the Chinese national scene in the butterfly events, Li Zhuhao is the perfect candidate for this year’s recipient of the Male Junior World Swimmer award.
In no particular order.
- Anton Chupkov – Chupkov kicked off a strong summer with four golds at the 2015 European Junior Championships in Baku, including a junior world record in the 100 breast (1:00.65). The Russian followed up his first record by claiming the 200 breast junior world record at the World Championships, registering a 2:09.97 in prelims and further lowering it to 2:09.64 in semifinals. He finished seventh in the final, putting up his third consecutive sub-2:10 swim of the meet. Less than a month later, Chupkov broke his own junior world record in the 100 breast, clocking a 1:00.12 (although the record would be broken again in September by China’s Wang Lizhuo).
- Brandonn Almeida – Eighteen-year-old Almeida made his mark on the 400 IM and 1500 freestyle events, setting the junior world record (4:14.47) in the former and winning the Junior World Championships in the latter. After a victory in the 400 IM at the Pan American Games, Almeida placed second at the World Junior Championships behind USA’s Sean Grieshop (although he still retains his world junior record). He came back to win the 1500 by running down Australia’s Taylor Abbott in the last 50, closing in a split of 27.83 to punch in at 15:15.88 for the gold.
- Li Guangyuan – After setting the junior world record in the 200 backstroke at the Youth Olympics last year, Li overcame all odds to slip into the 200 back A final at the World Championships in Kazan this summer. He placed 12th after the prelims and only qualified for the final by .05 seconds, sneaking in ahead of Germany’s Christian Diener. In the final, Li finished eighth in a best time of 1:56.79, re-breaking the junior world record taken from him by Great Britain’s Luke Greenback at the 2015 European Games.
- Kyle Chalmers – The Australian sprint star made headlines early this year at the 2015 Australian Swimming Championships, where the then sixteen-year-old broke Cameron McEvoy’s age group in the 100 LCM free by nearly a full second. Despite the lack of cohesive documentation, his 48.89 from the semi-finals appears to qualify him as the youngest man in history to break 49 seconds in the event. He followed up his homeland performance with two individual golds at the World Junior Championships in Singapore, dominating the 50 and 100 freestyles with times of 22.19 and 48.47, establishing a new meet record in the latter. He recently closed his year by signing with Adidas and crushing a 48.69 in the 100 free at the 2015 McDonald’s Queensland Championships.