European Junior Champion Merve Tuncel Will Swim at Louisville

Merve Tuncel, a Turkish Olympian and European Junior Champion distance swimmer, has committed to swim at the University of Louisville. Tuncel was originally committed to USC for fall 2023, but a “problem with admission” there left her in search of a new home for her collegiate swimming career.

Tuncel, part of a wave of talented Turkish swimmers who are having junior success at home and then traveling to train in the United States, is primarily a distance swimmer. She was the 2023 European Junior Champion in the 800 free (8:35.10) and 1500 free (16:18.53). She was able to compete in that meet because of new expanded LEN age guidelines that allow female athletes to compete in the junior ranks through the year in which they turn 18.

She turned 19 on January 1, 2024.

Tuncel is the Turkish National Record holder in the 400 free (4:06.25/4:02.47), 800 free (8:21.91/8:17.12), and 1500 free (15:55.23/15:45.29) in both long course meters and short course meters. She hasn’t been a best time in any of those races since 2021, though, when she was only 16-years old.

Tuncel has represented Turkey internationally at a number of meets at both the junior and senior levels. At the 2023 World Championships in Fukuoka, she raced in the 200, 400, 800, and 1500 freestyles, with her best finish coming in the 800 free in 8:39.47. At the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, she was one of five Turkish women to swim, with a best finish of 11th place in the 1500 free prelims (16:00.51). She also finished 12th in the 800 free (8:25.62).

Best Times (with Long Course Conversions)

LCM Best SCM Best
SCY (Conversion)
100 free 57.63 N/A 50.47
200 free 1:59.70 1:58.17 1:44.95
400 free/500y 4:06.25 4:02.47 4:35.91
800 free/1000y 8:21.91 8:17.12 9:22.36
1500 free/1650y 15:55.23 15:45.29 15:36.50

The Louisville distance group took a hit after distance coach Aaron Bell left the program to become an assistant at Michigan in the offseason. That included the #20 recruit in the class of 2024 Luke Whitlock switching his commitment to Florida and ACC top three finisher Liberty Williams transferring to Alabama (though she may have entered the transfer portal before she knew about Bell’s departure).

Among the remaining group, the best success has been from Ilia Sibirtsev, who went 14:51.66 in the men’s mile already this season in a dual meet. That’s a near-best time for Sibirtsev (who is racing at the World Championships next week) and ranks him 13th in the NCAA this season. Louisville has more success at hitting end-of-season tapers consistently than almost any collegiate program, so a full evaluation of the group will have to happen after the end of the year, though swimmers like Tyler Watson and Paige Kuwata are far from best times so far this season.



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This Guy
14 days ago

Nice pickup for Louisville. Their next couple of classes are pretty packed with talent

14 days ago

January 01? Come on, if your ID card says January 01 in Turkey, it means you were born in the last 3 months of the previous year. It’s never surprising.

Reply to  Realist
12 days ago

I haven’t heard it from people from Ankara tbh, but it’s certainly true for a lot of people in more rural areas and countries in North Africa. Someone from Syria told me just recently that it’s because there are so many home births and if you hold off on registering your child until you’re near the next city anyways, might as well give them the academic boost of being a bit ahead in terms of development…

Reply to  FST
12 days ago

Yes, it was like this years ago. But then, since a doctor’s note was not required for registration, crafty families continued to gain an advantage. The point of your mistake is that I can name at least 5 athletes who swim at a high level in Ankara. And some swim in the USA. It provides a great advantage at a young age and is a very successful trick in making opponents give up.

Reply to  Reailst
12 days ago

I can vouch for that.

Douglass Wharrram Fan Club
15 days ago

Williams’ post is dated June 30th, doubtful that she entered the portal same day, but SwimSwam seems to have portal access based on other articles so they should know when she entered.
Nonetheless, her transfer predated Bell’s departure per article releases. Again, SwimSwam has plenty of sources so they should be able to put together a true timeline on that.

Awsi Dooger
15 days ago

As a USC alum I’ve read they have become more annoying with admissions and are down to 9% acceptance rate

Reply to  Awsi Dooger
14 days ago

Are you saying that the decrease in the student’s sports success does not play a role in this?

15 days ago

She also had a coach change in Turkey last mo nth. She moved to another city to work for another coach. At the same time, her back injury continues. Nightmarish times for her.

Reply to  Sleepy
12 days ago

Gjon shity is a very difficult trainer. If this is true, I wouldn’t be surprised by the change. Most of the athletes have already left. fragile ones. But this season he is having training coming from Arizona. He is a difficult coach but I am sure he will be very successful. He is a valuable person who can teach his athletes the relationship between love and hate.

Reply to  George
11 days ago

So you’re saying the name fits?

Reply to  YGBSM
10 days ago

Hahaha ironic, really.

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Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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