2023 Swammy Awards: Male World Junior Swimmer of the Year – Ilya Kharun

See all of our 2023 Swammy Awards here.


The razor-thin battle for the minor medals in the men’s 200 butterfly at the 2023 World Championships may have had something else at stake besides a spot on the podium—the Swammy Award for Male Junior Swimmer of the Year.

Tying for fourth place, there was nothing between Canada’s Ilya Kharun and American Thomas Heilman in the event, but Kharun ultimately gets the nod due to what he was able to do in his other events in Fukuoka.

The 18-year-old has rewritten the Canadian Record books in the men’s 200 fly over the past year, highlighted by his performance at the World Championships where he tied with Heilman for fourth in a time of 1:53.82.

That put both swimmers just shy of the World Junior Record of 1:53.79, held by current world record holder Kristof Milak, though Milak was 1:52.71 as a junior in an unratified swim.

Kharun also tied Josh Liendo‘s Canadian Record in the 50 fly twice in Fukuoka (23.27), resulting in a 14th-place finish to come three-tenths shy of the existing World Junior Record of 22.96 set by Diogo Ribeiro last year.

In the 100 fly, Khaurn finished ninth overall at the World Championships in a time of 51.22, notably coming home with a blistering back-half split of 26.75, the fastest in the field (in the semis).

Coming out of the summer, Kharun has moved south to Tempe, Ariz., where he’s been tearing up the NCAA with the Arizona State Sun Devils, currently ranking #1 in the nation in the 200 fly (1:38.11) and #2 in the 100 fly (44.33)—with both times under the existing U.S. 17-18 National Age Group Record.

Kharun showed impressive midseason form in the long course pool earlier this month, clocking 1:54.66 in the 200 fly and 51.32 in the 100 fly at the U.S. Open, ranking third and sixth, respectively, in the world for the 2023-24 season.


  • Thomas Heilman, USA: Heilman took the next step in his rapid progression in 2023, delivering an incredible performance at the U.S. National Championships (World Trials) in late June, breaking Michael Phelps‘ National Age Group Record in the boys’ 15-16 200 fly to qualify for the World Championships in a time of 1:54.54. Heilman followed that up by qualifying for Fukuoka in a second event, taking the runner-up spot in the 100 fly in 51.19 to reset his own NAG mark. At Worlds, Heilman lowered the 200 fly record down to 1:53.82 in the final, tying for fourth overall. He ended up taking 17th in the 100 fly (after losing a swim-off), and picked up the first World Championship medal of his career after swimming a prelim leg on the victorious U.S. men’s medley relay. Most recently, Heilman continued his assault on the 15-16 NAG records in short course yards, setting new marks in the 200 free (1:32.36), 200 fly (1:40.73), 200 IM (1:41.41) and tying the record in the 50 free (19.24).
  • Dong Zhihao, China: Dong went from unknown to nearly winning an individual medal at the 2023 World Championships, as he turned seventh at the 150 and closed in 32.56 to finish fourth in the 200 breast in Fukuoka, clocking 2:08.04 to break the official World Junior Record—though countryman Qin Haiyang has an unratified 2:07.35 swim on the books from 2017. Dong, 18, also earned a pair of podium finishes on the World Cup circuit in the 200 breast, placing second twice, and most recently he clocked 59.73 in the 100 breast at the Chinese Nationals in Jinan. That ranks him 32nd for the calendar year, while his 200 breast time holds up at #8.
  • Petar Mitsin, Bulgaria: Mitsin was dominant at the European Junior Championships in July, sweeping the boys’ 200, 400 and 800 free, with his swim of 3:44.31 in the 400 free marking a new World Junior Record. His swims in the 200 (1:46.50) and 800 (7:47.45) were new Bulgarian Records (as was the 400), and he followed up by winning gold at World Juniors in the 400 free (3:46.49) and winning silver in the 800 free (7:49.36) and 200 fly (1:56.73). He was also a finalist in the 200 fly at the European Short Course Championships in December, adding an 11th-place finish in the 400 free (3:41.19) for a new Bulgarian Record.


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About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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