China, who has been looking for an elite international male sprinter almost forever, is suddenly making significant headway in that regard. After Ning Zetao broke the National Record in the 50 free at the Chinese National Games last year with a 21.91, 18-year old Yu Hexin has now broken the Junior World Record in the same event.
Hexin swam a 22.01 at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, which broke the 22.07 that was held by Russian Evgeny Sedov as the old Junior World Record. Sedov, who intended to race this meet but was absent with an injury, was 21.98 earlier this year, but it was a few days before FINA started accepting nominations for Junior World Records.
Still, that 21.98 will be Yu’s target if he really wants to establish credibility to the 50 free record.
Regardless of whether he gets it, this swum for Yu was an impressive one, especially with little sign of it after prelims (he was a 22.7 – still very fast, but not near the record).
His challengers in finals will be Brazil’s Matheus de Santana (22.48), who is really more of a 100 freestyler anyway, and Dylan Carter (22.49) from Trinidad & Tobago. Yu and Carter are the two fastest starters in the field, and if they can get some clean water, we could see a great battle for gold in finals.
Beyond this meet, Yu has the tools, and more specifically the build, to continue in his development for the Chinese team that needs sprint freestylers to really make an impression internationally. He’s listed in the meet program at 6’3″ and 183 pounds, which is about on par with where a top American or Australian 18-year old sprinter would be size-wise.
Yu also has entries in the 50 fly, the 100 free, and three relays later in this meet.