arena Swim of the Week: 15-Year-Old Emir Batur Albayrak Drops 15:06 1500 Free

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Disclaimer: Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The Swim of the Week is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.

At the Turkish Long Course Winter Championships in late December, Emir Batur Albayrak swam what appears to be the fastest 1500 freestyle from a 15-year-old male swimmer in history.

Albayrak put up a scintillating long course time of 15:06.24 at the competition, annihilating the previous fastest time on record from a 15 and under swimmer, which also happened to belong to a Turkish native, Kuzey Tuncelli, who clocked 15:14.04 in July.

Tuncelli’s swim came while he was still 14, one month prior to his 15th birthday, at the Turkish Age Group Champs the week after the European Junior Championships, where both Albayrak and Tuncelli were competing.

At Euro Juniors, held in Otopeni, Romania, Albayrak won bronze in the boys’ 1500 free in a time of 15:15.24, dropping three seconds from his best time, while Tuncelli logged a 15:25.02 PB in the prelims before placing eighth in the final in 15:29.12. Tuncelli then turned around eight days later to clock the aforementioned 15:14.04.

But Albayrak blew away that mark at the Winter Champs in Istanbul, with his 15:06.24 standing up as the fastest from a 15-year-old (or younger) by nearly eight seconds.

For context, the Australian record for 15-year-olds is 15:14.73, set by Mack Horton in 2012, and the fastest time recorded by a U.S. swimmer at the age of 15 is listed as the 15:31.20 produced by Long Island Aquatic Club’s Sean Green at the 2022 Junior National Championships (though USA Swimming’s database could be missing times).

In the U.S. 15-16 age group, Albayrak would rank fourth behind Bobby Hackett (15:03.91), Larsen Jensen (15:04.83) and Bobby Finke (15:05.29), all of whom swam those times within a few months of their 17th birthdays (and have won Olympic medals in the event).

Albayrak took his swim out at a blistering pace, sub-1:01 on every 100 through the first 600, and didn’t really fade down the stretch before managing to muster up a 57.6 closing split.

Tuncelli didn’t have the same early speed as Albayrak, and also couldn’t up the pace to the same level at the end of the race.

Split Comparison

Tuncelli, July 2022 Albayrak, Dec. 2022
100 58.81 57.22
200 2:00.38 (1:01.57) 1:57.56 (1:00.34)
300 3:01.59 (1:01.21) 2:57.96 (1:00.40)
400 4:02.98 (1:01.39) 3:58.62 (1:00.66)
500 5:04.09 (1:01.11) 4:59.06 (1:00.44)
600 6:05.18 (1:01.09) 5:59.86 (1:00.80)
700 7:05.85 (1:00.67) 7:01.09 (1:01.23)
800 8:06.50 (1:00.65) 8:02.04 (1:00.95)
900 9:07.46 (1:00.96) 9:02.92 (1:00.88)
1000 10:08.57 (1:01.11) 10:03.80 (1:00.88)
1100 11:09.86 (1:01.29) 11:05.03 (1:01.23)
1200 12:11.18 (1:01.32) 12:06.13 (1:01.10)
1300 13:12.63 (1:01.45) 13:07.52 (1:01.39)
1400 14:13.91 (1:01.28) 14:08.57 (1:01.05)
1500 15:14.04 (1:00.13) 15:06.24 (57.67)

Albayrak went on to win the 800 free in a time of 7:59.34—just over three seconds quicker than he was on the way out in the mile—to inch under his previous Turkish Age Record of 7:59.57 set in November.

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1 year ago

Also worthy context is the US 13-14 mark which Tuncelli apparently surpassed with his 15:14.04.

The American mark is 15:31.03 by Jesse Vassallo at the 1976 US Olympic Trials, 46+ years ago. Jesse trained with Mark Schubert at Mission Viejo during the legendary “Animal Lane” era of Brian Goodell, Casey Converse and their ilk. He went on to break LCM Individual Medley world records on three occasions, twice in the 400 and once in the 200. At the ’78 Berlin World championships he won 2 individual Golds (200 Back; 400 IM) and a Silver (200 IM).

That 15:31.03 was his prelim swim, 2 days before the final in which he was 6th at 15:33.04. The field the 14… Read more »

1 year ago

Over the last few years there’s been a surge of Turks swimmers, mainly distance freestylers, issue is, most of them achieve extremely remarkable times as age groupers just to slowly fade away as they age up, obviously no one was nearly as impressive as Albayrak or Tuncelli, I wish them they can keep their improvement trajectory.

Anyway, if there’s someone more knowledgeable on the topic, I’m curious about what might be the cause for how much Turkish age groupers struggle to translate their times as senior athletes, is it because they usually go for greater workloads at a young age? I’m curious

1 year ago

This is truely epic achievement from such a young athlete. 🙌

1 year ago

Impressive, the next target? could be the European Jr Record by then-16-year-old Franko GRGIC from Croatia who swam 14:46.09 in Budapest in 2019

1 year ago

Is this LC?

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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