2015 Male Breakout Swimmer Of The Year: Mitch Larkin
Australian Mitch Larkin has had one of the finest twelve month periods of any backstroke swimmer in history, claiming two World Championships titles and a world record en route to closing his year.
Larkin began his breakout into elite company in 2014 with a victory at the Commonwealth Games in the 200 back, as well as two silvers in the 50 and 100 distances. He continued his steep rise in 2015, kicking off his year with two gold medals at the World Championships in Kazan. Larkin’s time of 52.40 in the 100 back beat out Frenchman Camille Lacourt by a mere eight hundredths of a second and also was enough to hold off Olympic and World champion Matt Grevers. In the 200 discipline, he absolutely blew out the field, winning the event by nearly a full second in 1:53.58 over Poland’s Radoslaw Kawecki.
Larkin then followed up his World Champs success by dominating the backstroke events on the World Cup circuit. Despite only competing in three of the eight World Cup stops, he managed to place third in the overall rankings. By the conclusion of the Dubai stop, Larkin had lowered his best times in the 100 and 200 backstrokes to 52.11 and 1:53.17, solidifying new Australian and Commonwealth records in both. In fact, both swims move him up to the second fastest textile swimmer in history, trailing American backstroke legends Matt Grevers in the 100 and Ryan Lochte in the 200 – not too shabby for someone who had never broken 53 and 1:55 a year prior.
Larkin closed out his year in November at the Australian Short Course Championships where he managed to sweep all three backstroke events, complete with a new World Record in the 200 meter distance. His time of 1:45.63 took down Arkady Vyatchanin’s super-suited record of 1:46.11. Larkin’s time of 49.04 in the 100 boosted him up to the fifth fastest performer in history, trailing Matt Grevers’ newly established World Record by twelve hundredths of a second.
In no particular order.
Gregorio Paltrinieri – Since 2012, when he was 17, Paltrinieri has swum in the shadow of Chinese distance ace Sun Yang. At the World Championships this year, the then-20-year-old took advantage of Sun’s surprising absence in the 1500 to win in a European Record time of 14:39.67, faster than any time Sun had posted since the 2012 Olympics. Paltrinieri also claimed silver in the 800 free behind Sun, touching less than a second behind the champion.
- James Guy – 2015 proved to be a powerful year for the young British freestyle swimmer. Guy earned himself two individual World Championships medals, including a gold in the 200 free over Sun Yang and World Record Holder Paul Biedermann. Guy’s performances in the 200 and 400 proved quick enough to break the British national records in both. Anchoring the finals of the 800 free relay, Guy entered the pool third and posted the quickest split across all swimmers, taking down Michael Weiss of the US and Thomas Fraser-Holmes of Australia to grant Great Britain their first ever gold medal in the event.
- Santo Condorelli – Condorelli came through as a leader of the Canadian national team this year, racking up hardware at both the Pan American Games and the World Championships. He began his year never having cracked the 49 second barrier in the 100 free and ended it under 48. On the international scene, he registered an individual second place in the 100 free at the Pan Ams as well as a bronze in the 100 fly, then led off the Canadian 400 free relay with a blazing 47.98 to take the lead in the world rankings. At the World Championships, Condorelli touched fourth in the 100 free, locked out of the podium by only .07 seconds.
- Katsumi Nakamura – The Japanese sprinter cut over a full second from his performance in the 100 free at last year’s Japan Open to slide under the Japanese national record with a time of 48.41. He also broke the 22 second barrier in the 50 this year, clocking a 21.90 at the Mare Nostrum meet in Monte Carlo to miss Shinri Shoura’s Asian record by two hundredths of a second.