5 Storylines to Watch at the 2017 World Junior Swimming Championships


Before we get into the storylines to watch out for, click here to access the All the Links You Need page for WJRs. Also, note that these storylines are not meant to be exhaustive– there are plenty of great races and stories to follow this week; there are just a few of the most compelling.


Michael Andrew‘s name, times and training methods have become hot-button topics, and the pro sprinter will be put to the test against the world’s top junior swimmers this week.

He’s a versatile swimmer, so it should come as little surprise that he’s entered in six different events. He’s taking on all four 50’s, the 100 breast, and the 200 IM this week, and he holds top seeds in the 50 free, 50 fly, and 200 IM. Top seeds are nice, but Andrew has been tanking races more often than usual this year, it seems, and best times are coming much less often for him.

In five of his six races, there are immediate threats to his potential titles. WJR holder Nicolo Martinenghi is the favorite in the 50 and 100 breaststrokes, and in the 50 back, Russia’s Kliment Kolesnikov has been on fire this year and is the top seed there.

Meanwhile, though nobody is within three tenths of Andrew in the 50 fly or 50 free, there is trouble waiting for him in the 200 IM. He’s the top seed there at 1:59.12, but Spain’s Hugo Gonzalez (1:59.91) and Kolesnikov (2:00.27) are within striking distance. The 200 IM is an intriguing race for Andrew, too– he’s already broken 2:00 before he’s done being a junior, yet we’ve seen the piano on his back many times in this race, bringing into question his ability to consistently perform in LCM over more than 200 meters.

Even if things do go poorly for Andrew, there’s a very good chance he’ll eke out 2-3 wins this week in Indianapolis. If he’s on fire all week, he could even walk away from The Nat with six gold medals, plus any relay hardware.


Regan Smith had a breakout year, qualifying for Worlds and actually racing at a senior Worlds before her first junior international meet.

While she only got to swim the 200 back in Budapest, she’ll get to race a broader schedule in Indy. Smith is the top seed in the 200 back (2:07.19) with a time that briefly gave her possession of the world junior record at Worlds semis before Australia’s Kaylee McKeown took it down in the final the following night. There will be no McKeown in Indy, putting Smith as the 200 back top seed by almost two full seconds over Russia’s Polina Egorova.

Egorova is the 100 back top seed (59.62) just over Smith (59.70), making for a thrilling 100 back final.

Smith is also entered in the 50 back, 50 fly, and 100 fly, and it will be exciting to see her racing in more than just one event.


Taylor Ruck is the big name here– she’s been at the forefront of the Canadian women’s youth movement the last two years that keeps chugging along. Ruck faltered and missed the Worlds team, but she’s been especially impressive in backstroke this summer, the stroke that has been on the back burner for her since she ended up making the 2016 Olympic team for her freestyle prowess.

Ruck’s only racing two events this week individually, the 100 back (3rd seed) and the 200 free (2nd seed). She’s far from the only rising name representing Canada at this meet, however.

Rebecca Smith and Kayla Sanchez are at the top of the psych sheets in multiple events. Smith is seeded 2nd in the 50 and 100 fly, 3rd in the 200 free, and 5th in the 100 free, while Sanchez is 3rd in the 100 free, 5th in the 200 IM, and 10th in the 50 free.

The Canadians have the strokes covered fairly well, too. Faith Knelson is seeded 3rd, 4th, and 6th across the 50, 100, and 200 breast, respectively, while Jade Hannah is seeded 6th in the 50 back and 8th in the 100 and 200. Meanwhile, Mabel Zavaros is the 7th seed in the 100 fly, 8th in the 200 fly, and 11th in the 400 IM.

To answer the headline question– the wheel is definitely still in motion, and the talent is churning out. Even without Olympic champion Penny Oleksiak, the Canadian women look very strong at this meet, reflecting the kind of excellence that Swimming Canada is aspiring to.


In Budapest, Kristof Milak had a huge 50.62 in the 100 fly to pickup the silver medal behind only Caeleb Dressel. That came after his 1:53.79 200 fly at European Juniors, and both times are faster than Michael Phelps was at his age. Could he go even faster this week? He’s one of the only swimmers at this meet with experience in the final of a major senior international meet, and he might drop even more jaw-dropping times in Indy.

Look past Milak, and you’ll see a crop of young Hungarian talent. In the sprint free, Nandor Nemeth  is a name to watch– he’s the top seed in the 200 free (1:47.14), and not far off of the WJR in that, while he’s also the 1st seed in the 100 free and 4th in the 50 free. Go up to the distance free, and Akos Kalmar (3:50.03) and Richard Marton (3:50.22) are seeded 1-2 in the 400 free, while Kalmar (7:56.23) and David Lakatos (7:57.57) are 2-3 in the 800 and Kalmar (15:09.24) and Lakatos (15:14.28) are 3-5 in the mile.

On the women’s side, Ajna Kesely is top seed in the 200 and 400 free and 2nd in the 800 and 1500. She was one of the young members of the Hungarian Worlds roster in Budapest, and she has a chance to medal in all four of her events. Boglarka Bonecz is 5th in the 200 fly, while Fanni Gyurinovics and Petra Barocsai are seeded in the top 10, too.

After Hungary put on an impressive performance at Worlds, it’s time for their younger generation to show the world what they have in Indy.


Japan’s Rikako Ikee and Russia’s Kliment Kolesnikov are the biggest names besides Milak competing this week. Both hold WJRs, and they both hold top seeds by considerable margins in multiple events.

Ikee, the WJR holder in the 50 fly, is seeded first in the 50 & 100 fly and 50 & 100 free. She’s the only entrant sub-25 in the 50 free, sub-26 in the 50 fly, and sub-58 in the 100 fly. Kolesnikov, meanwhile, is the top seed in all the backstrokes* and the 3rd seed in the 200 IM.

If Andrew isn’t able to beat Martinenghi in the breaststrokes, Kolesnikov and Ikee could walk away with at least three golds each, provided Andrew (or someone else) stops Milak in the 50 fly.

UPDATE: Kliment Kolesnikov is not listed on the start list for the 100 back.

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Do we know why Oleksiak isn’t going to the World Juniors?

It’ll be interesting to see how many events Ikee can win, and if Ruck can defend her 200m freestyle title against her.


Oleksiak will be there but only swimming relays. Maybe the decision is from her rather than Swimming CAN given that she has already basically transitioned to senior level in a competitive sense ? Some in the same category (Ikee) are still doing both whereas others (AUS Atherton, McKeown Jr) are not at this meet although still age eligible.


I guess that makes sense. Since she’s already good enough to qualify for three individual finals at Worlds (the only teenager in two of them, including the fastest women’s 100m freestyle final in history), it’s probably better to give Canada’s other juniors some individual experience.


Great write up. Excited for this!


Consulting the starting-lists, it seems that Kolesnikov will be absent from every individual race.

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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