Ilya Kharun

View Current photo via Jack Spitser

Ilya Kharun is a Long Course Worlds finalist and Short Course Worlds Medalist. He holds numerous Canadian and World Junior records in the fly events. He competes collegiately for ASU where he is one of the fastest flyers ever. Kharun was a late bloomer by most accounts, only making a name for himself in fall 2021 when he dropped 14.52 seconds in the 200 fly in one year.

Junior Swimming

2021 Open Water Junior Nationals

Kharun first came to some attention winning the boy’s junior 5k at open water nationals in 2021. He and Sandpipers teammate Luke Ellis went 1-2. 

Spring 2021

At a local meet in late April, Kharun dropped another half-a-second in the 100 butterfly. Kharun had quite the run in the event since breaking 1:00 for the first time in December 2020 by going 58.49. In March he swam 56.74 before dropping another second in April to go 55.71. His 55.20 ranked him 8th that season for 15-16 boys.

Fall Breakout

Kharun first careened into fame during the 2021-22 season. He started things off with a big 47.96 100 fly in September. Usually, meets with words like “Pumpkin” in their title are fairly tame: mid-to-late October train-through meets used to get some racing practice in and test some early season training. However, Kharun turned that stereotype on its head. 

He swam non-altitude-adjusted lifetime bests in 9 events. The only where he didn’t was the 400 IM. 

  Pumpkin Invite – Raw Time Pumpkin Invite – Adjusted Time Previous PB (unadjusted) Time drop (altitude adjusted)
200 free 1:40.06 1:39.56 1:41.72 2.16s
500 free 4:32.27 4:29.77 4:45.02 15.25s
1000 free 9:15.67 (Split) 9:09.37 (Split) 9:42.01 32.64s
1650 free 15:24.69 15:13.69 16:16.11 62.42s
200 back 1:50.20 1:49.70 1:57.58 7.88s
200 breast 2:06.74 2:06.24 2:16.81 10.57s
200 fly 1:45.94 1:45.44 1:49.62 4.18s
100 IM 50.7 50.7 1:00.04 9.34s
200 IM 1:52.00 1:51.50 1:55.73 4.23s
400 IM 4:04.39 4:01.89 3:59.05 N/A

So how did he get here? According to Sandpipers coach Michael Kinross, a number of factors played into Kharun’s run of success.

Kharun started in the Sandpipers program as a “talented 10 & under,” starting at age 5. He’s a Southern California Swimming record holder in several 10 & under events. After spending a few seasons at another local team, he rejoined the Sandpipers in spring of 2019.

“It took him a little while to readjust to our training and he is a bit of a late bloomer size wise compared to some of the other boys at his age and level,” Kinross said.

“Then COVID hit and he remained in our Age Group/Pre-Senior level track, which by design focuses on the development of the growing athlete. Meaning he was still swimming all events, all strokes, all distances, at all meets, only wearing a tech suit a couple of times a year, and racing at meets not as fresh as many of his age group counterparts.

“Ilya moved into our National groups in January which allowed a little more freedom to focus on more of his primary events, especially in the lead up to Open Water Nationals and Olympic Trials.”

Kinross said that, along with continued physical growth, led to the breakout meet we saw this weekend in Las Vegas.

2021 Winter Juniors

Kharun continued his breakout, winning the 100 and 200 fly. In the 100, he won in 45.59 breaking Luca Urlando’s 15-16 NAG in the process. While his 200 fly winning time of 1:42.39 was not a NAG record, it still moved him to #4 all-time in the 15-16 age group. Kharun led the race wire-to-wire in finals, splitting 49.00 on the opening 100, then closing in 53.39 to win by over a second, and shed 1.64 seconds off the personal best of 1:44.03 he swam in prelims. In about a year, Kharun dropped 14.52 seconds in the 200 fly. 

Kharun also took 9th in the 500 free with a big PB of 4:20.55 and 19th in the 50 free with a 20.16.

Huntington Beach Sectionals

Just a few days after Winter Juniors, Kharun put up more showstopping swims at the Huntington beach Sectionals. On night one, Kharun dropped nearly 21 seconds to win the 1650 free in a time of 15:03.72, moving him into 17th all-time in the 15-16 age group. Kharun neared his PB in the 100 fly (45.99) and crushed his PB in the 200 IM (1:47.41) the next night. He continued to roll, winning the 400 IM in another PB: 3:50.16. He was off his best in the 200 fly in the same session, winning in 1:44.20. He took 2nd in the 1000 with a 9:02.27. 

2022 Open Water Junior Nationals

Kharun won another junior national title, taking the 7.5k. It was deja vu as teammate Luke Ellis finished 2nd to him again. USA Swimming announced Kharun among the 12 swimmers that were to represent the U.S. at the 2022 FINA World Junior Open Water Championships. 

2022 International Team Trials

Kharun had a solid meet. His highest finish came in the 50 fly, where he came 6th with a 23.90. He also took 17th in the 100 fly (52.71) and 200 fly (1:58.97). His swims qualified him to represent the US at Jr. Pan Pacs.

2022 Summer Nationals

Kharun clocked best times with every single swim at 2022 Summer Nationals. He set himself up well in the 200 fly prelims, placing 6th with a 1:57.47. He really brought it in the finals, taking runner-up with a big 1:56.66. That made him #7 17-18 200 butterflier in the NAG. He also placed 4th in the 100 fly with a 52.31, making him #4 in the 17-18 NAG rankings. Kharun clocked PBS in the 200 IM (2:02.41, 14th), 100 back (56.69, 44th), and 200 free (1:52.22, 49th).

Removal from Junior Pan Pacs and OW World Juniors Teams

Kharun was removed from the U.S. roster for the 2022 Junior Pan Pacific Championships in August and the 2022 Open Water World Junior Championships in September. USA Swimming confirmed the news, saying that they were “recently informed that Ilya is not an American citizen.”

There was another bit of fallout from the fact that Kharun is not an American citizen: invalidation of his National Age Group Record from December. 

Kharun turned out to be a Canadian citizen. He gained American Citizenship later on.

2022 Sandpipers Pumpkin Invite

Returning to the meet that made him 1 year prior, Kharun again popped PBs. The 17-year-old clocked a 9:02.06 in the 1000 free to shave about half a second off his previous best time. That altitude adjusted to a 8:57.06 per USA Swimming’s conversions. He clocked more PB in the 200 free with a 1:36.96, altitude adjusted to a 1:36.46, and the 100 IM (48.94). Kharun also won the 50 free (20.30), 200 breast (2:04.17), 100 fly (46.94), 200 fly (1:43.68), and 200 IM (1:49.87).

2023 Desert Committee Championship

Newly 18, and a few months removed from his breakout SC Worlds, Kharun returned to yards swimming for the first time since October. His biggest swim came in the 200 fly, winning in a 1:41.39, a big PB, and the top top time for a 17-18 swimmer in that season to that point. Kharun split the race 49.25 // 52.14 by 100. That spread of less-than-3 seconds is much tighter than most elite 200 butterfliers swim the race. In his previous personal best, for example, he split 49.00 // 53.39. The top time in the NCAA this season was split 47.64 / 51.93 It should be noted that the swim was at some altitude and so .5 can be removed from Kharun’s 200 fly time if used for qualification.

Kharun had more big swims at the same meet. He won the 100 free with a 43.79 after going a 43.70 in prelims. He also sprinted to a 45.26 in the 100 fly. Both 100s were PBs. Khjarunb also showed off his range, winning the 400 IM and 1650 free. In the former, he set a PB of 3:49.90 in prelims and in the latter, he set a PB of 15:07.56. Just as with the 200 fly, the 400 IM and mile receive altitude conversions of 2.5 seconds and 11 seconds respectively.

NCAA Swimming

A month after his breakout at the 2021 Winter Junior Championships Kharun verbally committed to Arizona State University.

2023-24 (ASU)

Kharun started off his college career in LCM. Against UGA, Hubert Kos, (54.29), Leon Marchand (59.90), Kharun (51.58), and Patrick Sammon (48.60) clocked a speedy 3:34.37 400 medley relay. Kharun also won the 150 fly handily, clocking a 1:24.52. While it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison Kharun’s 150m split in his 200 fly from his PB was 1:24.67 at the time.

In his collegiate yards debut, also against UGA, Kharun gave hope to an ASU national title hunt by breaking a school record. Before that, Kahrun clocked a 19.51 50 fly split as ASU dominated in the 200 medley relay. That would have been the #3 fly split at 2023 NCAAs. He then swam 1:40.68 in the 200 fly, which ranked him 3rd-best in program history. He followed that up with the first sub-45-second 100 fly in ASU history with a 44.88. Kharun finished his day with a 41.93 anchor on Arizona State’s 400 free relay, which won in 2:48.49.

Against UNLV, Kharun showed impressive range, clocking an 18.93 50 free split, a 1:35.43 200 free PB and a 4:21.47 500 free, along with a 44.47 100 fly split. Against NC State, Kharunb continued his speedy times, winning the 100 fly (45.26) and 200 fly 1:40.76. The next day, in an LCM exhibition against the Wolfpack, Kharun was 52.79 and 1:57.49 in the 100/200 fly.

The 200 fly in the ASU/USC dual meet featured 4 of the 5 top 200 flyers in the NCAA at the time (marchand was the other one and opted to race other events). Against Krzysztof Chmielewski, who beat out Kharun at 2023 Worlds for bronze, Chmielewski’s twin Michal, and fellow Sun Devil Alex Colsom, Kharun came out on top, winning in a convincing 1:40.07, #2 in the NCAA. Kharun also split a 19.30 50 fly. Marchand took Kharun’s newly minted 100 fly ASU record in 44.66. 

Kharun showed up in an even bigger way at the NC State invite, clocking PBs in all 3 individual events and throwing down speedy relay splits along the way. In the 50 free, Kharun clocked a nearly 1-second PB with a 19.23 in prelims. He began his evening with an 18.51 split on the Sun Devils’ 200 free relay team that broke the meet record, pool record, and program record with a time of 1:14.64. In the individual final, Kharun got even better, posting an 18.93. That made Kharun the first man under 19 seconds in the 50 free and 15 minutes in the mile. Kharun saved his best for last with a blazing 43.35 100 fly split in the 400 medley relay. That split was the third-fastest ever behind Joseph Schooling (43.34) and Josh Liendo (42.91). Kharun was out in 19.72 and back in 23.63.

On day 2, Kharun kept rolling with a 44.51 100 fly in prelims, breaking the ASU record again. He lowered that mark further with a 44.33 in the final. Just before that, Kharun clocked a 19.24 50 fly split in the 200 medley relay. Kharun wrapped up his meet with a 1:39.10 200 fly on the 3rd night, another ASU record.

2 days later, Kharun nearly re-broke his 200 fly record, swimming a 1:39.32 against Utah in a dual. He also clocked a 1:43.51 200 IM. Notably, the Utah pool is at 4800 feet of elevation. USA swimming’s altitude adjustments indicate that at that elevation, 1.20 seconds should be removed from a 200.

In mid-January, the Sun Devils traveled out to the Bay Area. First, they went up against Stanford. Kharun put on a show from the first event, splitting a 19.35 50 fly in the 200 medley relay. Kharun then went up against NCAA Champion Andrei Minakov. More known for his sprinting, Minakov lead at the 50, the 100, and the 150 of their 200 fly but Kharun flew past Minakov on the final 50 with a 25.07 to Minakov’s 26.24. Both men had historic swims; Kharun’s winning time of 1:37.93 made him the 3rd fastest performer in history, only behind Jack Conger (1:37.35) and  Nicolas Albiero (1:37.92). The roles were reversed in the 100 fly, Minakov touched in 44.16 to Kharun’s 44.72.

Then, the team traveled to Cal for another dual meet the next day. Despite Kharun’s 19.29 50 fly split, ASU took 2nd to Cal in the 200 medley relay. While not on the same form as the day prior, Kharun still won the 200 fly by over a second with a 1:39.92. He followed that up with a 44.52 100 fly for another win. He ended his meet with an 18.65 50 free split as ASU won the final relay but tied Cal overall. 

At PAC-12s, Kharun was a workhorse, featuring in 4 winning relays and netting 57 individual points. The meet started off with a bang: ASU broke the 200 medley relay NCAA record with a 1:20.55 as Kharun dropped another fast 50 fly split of 19.30. Kharun continued that speed the next morning, taking the top seed in the 50 free with an 18.82. He was just .02 slower in finals with an 18.84 but ended up 2nd to teammate Jack Dolan (18.61). Just a little later, Kharun split an 18.56 in the 200 free relay.

The fast times kept coming the following morning, as Kharun clocked a 44.42 100 fly. He was .1 seconds better in the final, slicing .01 seconds off his PB to become Pac-12 Champion. Kharun came back a little later with a 43.84 100 fly split as ASU clocked the 2nd fastest 400 medley relay ever with a 2:58.49. 

On the final night, Kharun won the 200 fly by over 2 seconds with a 1:38.64. He also split a 41.43 in the 100 free. 

Night 1 of NCAAs saw ASU match their best time of 1:20.55 in the 200 medley relay but that was not enough to win as Florida lowered the all-time mark to 1:20.15. Kharun, for his part, split 19.47, a nit off what he had produced earlier in the season. The next morning, Kharun was just off his 50 free best time with an 18.94 to qualify back 13th. Despite adding further to a 19.04 in the final, Kharun improved to 12th place. Later that night, Kharun was 18.48 from the swing in the 200 free relay as ASU placed 3rd. 

Again, Kharun was just off his PB in the 100 fly prelims with a 44.50 to qualify 4th. In a historically fast final that featured four sub-44s, Kharun ended up 5th in a new PB of 44.26. Kharun returned at the end of the session, clocking a 43.44 100 fly split to help ASU win the 400 medley relay, their first NCAA relay title, in NCAA record fashion. 

Kharun was solid the next morning, moving through the 200 fly prelims in 2nd with a 1:39.89. His triumph finally came in the final. Kharun led the field at the 50, before Dare Rose pushed the field over the middle 100, opening a .31-second gap on Kharun at the 150, but Kharun stormed home in 25.65 to win his first NCAA title in 1:38.26. 

After ASU Head Coach Bob Bowman departed for the University of Texas, Kharun opted to remain at ASU under new Head Coach and former Associate Head Coach Herbie Behm.

National/International Swimming

2022 FINA World Cup (Indianapolis, Indiana)

Getting some SCM practice before SC Worlds, Kharun put up impressive times in all the fly events. In his first time representing Canada at a competition., Kharun reset the Canadian in the 100 fly, slicing .07 seconds off Josh Liendo’s mark with a 49.93 to place 2nd to Chad le Clos. He set his second Canadian record in as many days with a 1:51.70 200 fly for 3rd on night 2. Kharun did not stop there, taking down the Canadian record in the 50 fly on the final night with a 22.47 for 4th.

2022 World Short Course Championships (Melbourne, Australia)

After his citizenship debacle, Kharun was announced as a member of the Canadian contingent headed down under. 

Kharun started off his first major international meet with a bang. In the prelims of the 50 fly, On the first morning, Kharun moved through prelims 8th with a 22.32. With his swim, Kharun broke the previous World Junior Record of 22.34 set by Russian Andrei Minakov back in 2020. He reset that mark to a 22.28 in semis to tie for 8th with Daniel Zaitsev.

In the same session, he combined with 3 other Canadian men to break the 400 free relay Canadian record. Splits for the men’s squad here included Ruslan Gaziev leading off in 47.08 with Yuri Kisil following through with a solid 46.41. Javi Acevedo took over the 3rd leg in 46.18 before Kharun anchored in 47.43. They placed 5th overall with a 3:07.10.

The next morning, in their Swim-off, Zaitsev found a little more with a 22.15 while Kharun matched his World Junior and Canadian record to miss the final. He returned that night with a 22.12 50 fly relay split to help Canada place 3rd in the mixed 200 medley relay.

Kharun’s next event was the 200 fly. He avoided a repeat of the 50 fly, just qualifying for the final in 7th with a 1:50.86, another PB and Canadian record. He was well off that mark with a 1:52.21 in the final.

In the 100 fly prelims, Kharun (49.66) was within striking range of the World Junior Record of 49.53, which Li Zhuhao set back in 2017 at a World Cup stop in Singapore. He also reset his own newly minted Canadian record. Kharun was .01 better in the semis with a 49.65 and made it back 5th. In the final, Kharun destroyed the WJ  record, crushing a 49.03. At the 75-meter mark of the race, Kharun was actually in last place. However, he split 13.05 on his final 25, which was the fastest closing split out of the entire field to net a silver. He outpaced Li’s old world junior record time on both the front and back halves of the race.

2023 PSS Fort Lauderdale

Kharun had some huge swims in Fort Lauderdale. His biggest came in the 200 fly.  Kharun came into this meet with a best time of 1:56.66 in the 200 butterfly. After swimming a 1:57.33 in prelims for #2 heading into finals, Kharun hit a huge best time to win gold in the final with his 1:54.49. That time was a new Canadian record for Kharun, taking out the 1:56.27 by Mack Darragh in 2018.

The next day, Kharun tried the 200 free, 50 fly, and 400 IM. He was 25th in the 200 free with a 1:53.18. He moved through prelims 5th in the 50 fly with a 23.96. He was 6th in the 400 IM prelims with a 4:28.97. Kharun maintained seed in the 50 fly final, going a 23.73 PB for 5th. He was disqualified in the 400 IM final.

The final day featured Kharun in the 100 fly. He was 4th in prelims with a 52.47. Kharun used a quick 26.94 back half to power to 2nd in the final with a new PB of 51.54. That was the #2 time for 17-18 boys in Canadian history, just .14 seconds off Liendo’s record.

2023 Canadian Trials (Toronto, Canada)

Kharun had a good 100 fly, taking 2nd to Liendo with a 51.45 to qualify for his first LC Worlds. Kharun took 2nd the next night in the 200 IM, with a 2:00.04. That missed the FINA “A” cut of 1:59.53 but was another PB.  It was all Kharun in the 200 fly, barely missing his Canadian record with a 1:54.74 and winning by nearly 5 seconds. Kharun also did well in the 400 IM, placing 3rd with a 4:21.25. Kharuns last swim was the 50 fly. After leading prelims with a 23.59 PB, Kharun ended up getting 2nd in the final with a 23.42 as Liendo broke the Canadian record with a 23.27. 

2023 World Aquatics Championships (Fukuoka, Japan)

In his LC Worlds debut, Kharun qualified out of the 50 fly prelims 9th with a 23.27. That was a new PB and tied Josh Liendo’s Canadian Record. He recreated that time exactly in the semis to place 14th and miss the final. 

In the 200 fly, Kharun eased through prelims with a 1:55.93 for 13th. He dropped the hammer in semis, clocking a 1:54.28 for 3rd. That was a new Canadian Record. Compared to his old PB, Kharun was out over .5 seconds quicker on the first 50 but paid just a little coming home, though still coming home in 59.30. Kharun was the first Canadian man to make it into the World Championships 200 butterfly final since 1986 event when Tom Ponting and Valistimil Cerny made the final for Canada.

The final saw two of the 200 fly’s young future nearly medal. Kharun and 16-year-old Thomas Heilman both had strong swims but ended up tying for 4th in 1:53.82, just .16 seconds off the podium. Kharun’s opening 100 split was roughly the same as what it was when he broke the record during semi-finals, but he came home almost half a second faster with a 58.88 back half. By getting to 1:53.82, he and Heilman surpassed Luca Urlando to become the 13th-fastest performers in history.

In the 100 fly, Kharun came oh so close to making another final. In prelims, he was 7th with a new PB of 51.33. Kharun found another .11 seconds in semis with a 51.22 but fell 2 places to 9th, just .05 seconds off of 8th. 

2023 US Open Championships (Greensboro, North Carolina)

Kharun took a break from his first college season to get some LCM racing reps under his belt. In the 100 fly, he fell just .23 short of his PB with a 51.32 for 2nd. In his signature 200 fly, Kharun clocked a 1:54.66.

2024 Bell Canadian Trials (Toronto, Ontario)

Kharun easily cleared the Olympic Qualification times in the 200 fly with a season-beast 1:54.41 200 fly for the win. Swimming against NCAA rival Josh Liendo, Kharun swam his way into another event on his first Olympic team with a 51.09 100 fly for 2nd.

This biography was originally developed by Lucas Caswell

International Medals

Place Event Year Meet
Silver 100 Fly 2022 Short Course World Championships
Bronze 200 Mixed Medley Relay 2022 Short Course World Championships

Best Times

Course Event Time Date Meet
scy 50 Free 18.82 03/07/24 2024 Pac-12 Championships
Federal Way, Washington
scy 100 Free 42.18 02/10/24 2024 ASU Vs. Arizona Dual Meet
Tucson, Arizona
scy 1650 Free 15:07.56 02/18/23 2023 Desert Committee Championship
Las Vegas, Nevada
scy 100 Fly 44.26 03/29/24 2024 NCAA Championships
Indianapolis, Indiana
scy 200 Fly 1:37.93 01/19/24 ASU Vs. Stanford
Stanford, California
scm 50 Fly 22.28 12/13/22 2023 World Aquatics Championships
Melbourne, Australia
scm 100 Fly 49.03 12/18/22 2023 World Aquatics Championships
Melbourne, Australia
scm 200 Fly 1:50.86 12/15/22 2023 World Aquatics Championships
Melbourne, Australia
lcm 50 Fly 23.27 07/23/23 2023 World Aquatics Championships
Fukuoka, Japan
lcm 50 Fly 23.27 07/23/23 2023 World Aquatics Championships
Fukuoka, Japan
lcm 100 Fly 51.09 05/19/24 2024 Bell Canadian Trials
Toronto, Ontario
lcm 200 Fly 1:53.82 07/26/23 2023 World Aquatics Championships
Fukuoka, Japan