Atherton, Australia dominating world backstrokes after another Jr World title

With Minna Atherton‘s second backstroking gold medal in Singapore, the Australian women have now swept the Olympic distance backstroke races at Worlds and Junior Worlds.

Atherton has been next to unbeatable so far at the Junior World Championships. The 15-year-old won all three rounds of the 100 back (prelims, semifinals and finals) over the first two days, twice setting new meet records and tying the junior world record in the final.

She showed remarkable consistency through those three races, going 59.83, 59.86 and 59.58 in prelims, semis and finals, respectively.

And today, Atherton capped off a sweep of the Olympic-distance backstrokes by winning the 200 back in 2:09.11, another Junior World Championships meet record.

That makes this a hugely dominant summer for the Australians in backstroke, with Atherton adding her two golds to a pile that includes twin World Champs golds from Emily Seebohm in the same two events.

En route to her finals victory on Thursday, Atherton broke another Seebohm National Age Group Record. Her 2:09.11 was faster than the 2:10.10 that Seebohm swam in 2008 as the prior fastest time by an Australian 15-year old. This record comes one day after Atherton broke her training partner’s record in the 100 back as well.

So good was Atherton’s swim that she’s actually jumped an age bracket; that record for 15-year olds is seven-tenths of a second faster than the country’s record for 16-year olds.

That also means Australian women have swept the Olympic-distance backstrokes for the summer at both World Championship meets. That’s a huge accomplishment, especially considering the U.S. entered both meets with a world or junior world record-holder: Missy Franklin and Claire Adams.

What’s more, Australia has piled up 8 total world-level medals in the backstrokes this summer, 6 of them gold:

  • 2 golds from Seebohm at Worlds (100 back, 200 back)
  • 2 golds from Mitch Larkin at Worlds (100 back, 200 back)
  • 2 golds from Atherton at Junior Worlds (100 back, 200 back)
  • 1 silver from Madison Wilson at Worlds (100 back)
  • 1 bronze from Ben Treffers at Worlds (50 back)

This is a historically paradigm-shifting revelation in the discipline, where the Americans have been dominant. The U.S. men have won the last 5 golds in the 100 back and 200 back, and the women have taken 4 of the last 5 in the 100.

Atherton has a shot to add one more backstroke medal to that tally later in the week. She’s the top seed heading into prelims of the 50 back tomorrow, and will be looking for a backstroke sweep in Singapore. The Australians could even crack double digits if Tristan Ludlow (11th seed) or Bradley Woodward (12th seed) can pull off a big drop in the men’s 200 backstroke, which takes place on Sunday.

Full day 3 recap here.

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About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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