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2018 FEMALE BREAKOUT SWIMMER OF THE YEAR: WANG JIANJIAHE
While Katie Ledecky is still in full command of distance freestyle on the world stage, it’s young rising talents like China’s Wang Jianjiahe who are hinting that she won’t be so alone up top, potentially in the very near future.
Wang, who only this summer turned 16 years old, had a phenomenal year. At the 2018 World SC Championships, Wang took gold in the 800m freestyle and played a crucial anchor role in China’s 4×200 free relay that took the win ahead of the American relay. She also was a quadruple gold medalist at the 2018 Asian Games, winning the 400, 800, and 1500 free events as well as the 4×200 free relay.
Wang’s biggest accomplishment, however, was setting a new World Record in the 400 SCM free at the Budapest stop of the FINA World Cup in October. Swimming a time of 3:53.97 to take a half second off of Spain’s Mireia Belmonte‘s mark from 2013. Wang would later take silver in the event to Australian teenager Ariarne Titmus, with Titmus breaking Wang’s record by five hundredths in Hangzhou.
At just 16, with 2018 being her coming out year, Wang could have much more in store in the years to come.
In no specific order
- Tatjana Schoenmaker, South Africa: Schoenmaker proved to be the top breaststroker at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, taking gold in the 100m and 200m breast events this spring. Snagging gold medals at a meet dominated by the Australian and Canadian women, Schoenmaker made her presence known, and her times at the CGs made her the fastest breaststroker across all distances in African continental history.
- Simona Quadarella, Italy: After taking bronze in the 800 free at the 2017 European Championships, Quadarella was a force at the 2018 Euros this summer, triumphantly swimming to golds in not just the 800 free, but also the 400 and 1500 free events. On the world stage, Quadarella swam to silver in the 800 free at the 2018 World SC Champs, while her 800 free at Euros this summer erased a super-suited Italian national record.
- Alys Thomas, GBR (Wales): At 28 years old, Thomas’s 2018 was her most impressive year in her entire career. The butterfly specialist raced to a gold medal in the 200 fly at the Commonwealth Games representing Wales, setting a new personal best by two seconds (2:05.45) and breaking the meet record. She was Wales’ only gold medal, and swam fly on Wales’ bronze 4×100 medley relay, the country’s first-ever relay medal. She’d go on to win two bronzes at the European Champs with Team Britain, swimming the 200 fly and the fly leg of the 4×100 medley relay.
- Kim Seo-yeong, South Korea: The 24-year old Kim Seo-yeong had a huge breakout at the 2018 Asian Games. Largely unnoticed as a heat-winner, but not a finalist, in the 400 IM in Rio, Seo-yeong in 2018 won the Asian Games title in the 200 IM in 2:08.34, a new Meet Record and good for 12th-fastest of all-time (4th-best Asian), and added a silver in the 400 IM in 4:37.43 – 6 seconds faster than she was in Rio.