One of the interesting elements of the Youth Olympic Games and other large-scale junior meets is the comparison between the junior swimming landscape and the senior one.
In one early event, we saw some striking similarities between the two – the men’s 100 back, one of the deeper and more competitive events in the world right now, seems to be just as tightly-packed on the junior circuit as it is on the senior one.
We say that because the boys 100 back on day 2 featured the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games’ first gold medal tie, with (1) Russia’s Evgeny Rylov and Italy’s Simone Sabbioni tying at 54.24. That’s a full eight tenths of a second faster than the winning time from 2010, and shows that not only are backstrokers getting faster at all levels around the world, they’re getting faster in bunches that often lead to some of the closest and most exciting races of meets.
Also notable: although that wasn’t a Junior World Record, the holder of that record was in the race and missed the podium. (2) Greece’s Apostolos Christous has been as fast as 54.03 this year setting the record, but fell to 55.06 in Nanjing to take fourth. That just shows exactly how fast one has to be on a given day just to medal in a backstroke event, even while holding the fastest FINA-recognized junior time ever in the event.
Our next big thing focuses on another Junior World Record, and one that puts the emphasis on “FINA-recognized.” (3) China’s Shen Duo unofficially set a Junior World Record back at Chinese Nationals, going 54.15 in the 100 free, but the mark was never officially recognized by FINA. We’re told that’s likely because the Chinese federation never sought recognition from FINA for the mark. But Duo did get the record officially (pending FINA ratification, of course, though everything at this meet is in order to ratify WJRs) in the heats, going 54.44 to take just .03 off the official record. Duo had an odd day, though, falling all the way to 55.62 and barely sneaking into the A final in 8th.
Perhaps the Junior World Record most expected to fall was in the girls 50 breast, where the reigning World Record-holder (4) Ruta Meilutyte was in the pool. But the the Lithuanian teenager missed the junior and senior world marks, going 30.14. Though she still won Youth Olympic gold, Meilutyte has to be a little disappointed with that time – it’s well over half a second off her best, and she skipped the brunt of the European Championships to be in Nanjing.
One country that has to be happy with day 2 is Hungary. The Hungarian swimming scene is strong, but very dependent on its handful of major stars like Katinka Hosszu and Laszlo Cseh. But the young generation seems capable of filling those shoes, as Hungary picked two gold medals on Monday. (5) Benjamin Gratz won the 200 IM over a tough international field, going 2:01.08. Despite a tightly-packed bunch after prelims, that time won by well over a second, and making things better for Hungary, Norbert Szabo came down with bronze. Then in the girls 200 fly, (6) Liliana Szilagyi dominated the field, going 2:06.59, easily under the Junior World Record, though she’s just too old to be eligible. Hungary also had two swimmers in that final, with Dalma Sebestyen taking 5th place.