Russia’s Daria Ustinova has been the first to race to the Junior World Record in the women’s 200 meter backstroke, racing to a 2:09.02 in the semi-finals at the Russian Championships on Tuesday. That clears FINA’s ‘bar-to-clear’ standard since they began accepting Junior World Records on April 1 that had been a 2:09.74 by American Kylie Stewart from last summer’s Junior World Championships.
Ustinova is only 15-years old, and has been a rising Russian phenom. She’s one of two Ustinova’s born in 1998 that are among Russia’s elite juniors, discerned by her middle initial of K (the other is a sprint freestyler).
Ustinova is already establishing herself as part of the future of Russian swimming. With country mate Anastasia Zueva missing Worlds last summer with an injury, Ustinova was on Russia’s medley relay that scored a bronze medal in Barcelona.
While this time will officially go down as the Junior World Record, it is one of the softer standards that FINA had set. Ustinova herself has been faster (she was a 2:08.39 at Russia’s trials last year when she was just 14), and Missy Franklin was a 2:04.06 en route to an Olympic gold medal at only 17 years old. In fact, Elizabeth Beisel and Liz Pelton have both also been faster than Ustinova’s best time (at 16 years old), and even Stewart was a 2:09.04 when she was 17 (slower than Ustinova’s new record, but faster than Stewart’s record-standard).
With no Zueva in this race, Ustinova has been largely swimming alone through the first two rounds of this race, and so she might have been saving her energy for finals. Expect her to really take this record down on Wednesday.