2019 WORLD JUNIOR FEMALE SWIMMER OF THE YEAR: REGAN SMITH
The 2019 World Junior Female Swammy Award goes to the American Regan Smith. While 2019 saw many strong performances from several junior females, there is a clear winner for this award. Regan Smith‘s performance in 2019 included 2 individual World Records, a relay World Record, and a pair of World Championship gold medals in a limited run of appearances, leaving the swimming community in awe – and wanting more.
This award is given to a swimmer who, by 2019 year end is still 18-years old or younger, and who performed exceptionally well on both a junior and senior international level.
At the 2019 Cary Sectionals, Smith began her record-setting year by setting her first national age group record in the 17-18 year old category, hitting a time of 49.74 in the 100 back (SCY). The next day she raced to 1:47.16 American and U.S Open record in the 200 yard back, bettering Kathleen Baker‘s 2018 mark of 1:47.30.
Coming into 2019, Smith already held the LCM world junior record in the 100 back at a 58.83. Between May 19th and June 15th, she lowered that record three more times hitting times of 58.82, 58.55 and 58.45. Showing steady improvement in the discipline, Smith had set herself up nicely for a strong summer performance.
Smith (last year) was selected to race at the 2019 World Swimming Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, making her 2nd World Championship roster after placing 8th in the 200 back in 2017. While Olivia Smoliga and Kathleen Baker took the two individual 100 backstroke spots, Smith was slated to swim the 200 back, along with Baker.
Nearly everyone reading this article will know exactly how 2019 World Champs went for Regan Smith, but if you need a refresher – here are the jot notes:
- 200 back prelims – 2:06.43 (World Junior Record)
- 200 back semifinal – 2:03.35 (World Record, previously Missy Franklin’s 2012 2:04.06)
- 200 back final – 2:03.69 (First world title at 17)
- 4×100 Medley Leadoff – 57.57 (World Record, previously Kathleen Baker‘s 2018 58.00)
- 4×100 Medley – Smith, King, Dahlie, Manuel – 3:50.40 (World Record, previously Baker, King, Dahlie, Manuel’s 2017 3:51.55)
To summarize, as 2019 comes to a close, Smith held the American and U.S Open Records in the 100 yard backstroke (Beata Nelson later broke them), and currently holds the American, World Junior Record, and World Records in the 100 long course meter back, 200 meter back, and is the leadoff leg for the American 4×100 medley World Record. At only 17, Smith has already ascended to the top of the swimming world. With an impressive resume already developing, the question remains – what’s next for Regan Smith?
The beauty of her 2019 breakout is that there is plenty of motivation to avoid the next-season letdown: the Olympics are coming, and while her 2019 performances were huge within the swimming space, the Olympic stage is where a swimmer captures the attention of the whole world.
Smith is the first American, male or female, to win this award.
In no particular order
- Lani Pallister, Australia: Lani Pallister swam to a bronze medal finish at 2019 Aussie World Swimming Trials, setting a new Australian age group record at 16:08.09. Her performance at Aussie Trials granted her a spot on the World Juniors team where she completed a golden sweep of the distance events at World Juniors, setting a championship record in all three (4:05.42 / 8:22.49 / 15:58.86). She also took silver in the 200 free, just behind New Zealand’s Erika Fairweather. For her performance, Pallister was named female swimmer of the meet.
- Evgenia Chikunova, Russia: Chikunova had an absolutely stellar 2019, claiming her first Russian national title. Swimming a 2:22.67 Russian junior record, she edged out Maria Temnikova and Yuliya Efimova at Russian LC Nats, when Efimova was, incidentally, the defending World Champion. Chikunova won both the 100 and 200 breast at World Junior Champs. This already impressive performance is made even more astonishing after considering that Chikunova accomplished it at only 14 years old.
- Benedetta Pilato, Italy: Pilato became one of the youngest medalists ever at the World Championships this summer when she took silver in the 50 breaststroke. She paired that in December with a gold medal in the short course version of the event at the European Short Course Championships in a World Junior Record, as well as a World Junior Championships. No, the 50 breaststroke isn’t an Olympic event, and yes, she has a lot of work to do in a very crowded Italian women’s breaststroke group to even make the team in Tokyo, but to stand atop major international podiums at such a young age has to be noticed, regardless of the event.
- 2014 – Daria Ustinova, Russia
- 2015 – Viktoria Gunes, Turkey
- 2016 – Penny Oleksiak, Canada
- 2017 – Rikako Ikee, Japan
- 2018 – Taylor Ruck, Canada
- 2019 – Regan Smith, United States