LEN, the overarching governing body of European swimming, has released the preliminary psych sheets for the European Junior Championships that will take place from July 6th-10th in Belgrade, Serbia. The meet is open to boys aged 17-18 and girls aged 15-16.
The most exciting name in the race is probably Hungarian Bence Biczo, who recently won the Hungarian National title in the 200 fly and currently sits 2nd in the world in that event. He won’t be challenged in his primary race, but he will have a great battle in the 100 fly with versatile Serbian Velimir Stjepanovic as the top two seeds.
Among the other names to watch on the men’s side is Gregorio Paltrinieri in the men’s 1500. He’s a part of the underrated Italian distance group, and at only 17 has a chance to become one of the few 18 & unders to ever break the 15-minute mark in the 1500 (only one American, Larsen Jensen, has ever done it as a junior, and his wasn’t until he was 18). Paltrinieri has already dropped 31 seconds in the race this year, with a 15:04.90 at the Sette Colli Trophy two weeks ago, so another 4+ drop isn’t out of the realm of possibility. He should get a great push from Turkey’s Ediz Yildirimer, who at 17 is their National Record holder in both the 800 and 1500. He’s seeded well back of Paltrinieri in the 1500 at 15:29.38, but their 800 times are almost equal. If he can go an 8:03.17, there’s a very good chance that he go at least under 15:10 in the 1500.
In fact, the whole meet will be a showcase of the young talent of the Italian men. The group has a good chance at winning as many as 6 or 7 golds in this meet, including great breaststrokers and backstrokers as well. The Italians are a program on the rise, and are definitely a team to watch headed towards the post-2012 quadrennial.
On the women’s side, one of the featured stars will be France’s Charlotte Bonnet. She should also be a part of France’s World Championship squad, but at these European Junior Championships she will enter with the top seed in the 100 free with a (55.18).
On these preliminary psych sheets, that is Bonnet’s only entry into the meet, but if she makes a late entry in the 200 free, that would set up an awesome three-way battle between her (1:59.10), Ireland’s Sycerika McMahon (2:00.79), and Great Britain’s Amelia Maughan (2:00.82). All three of those swimmers should be Olympic finalists by 2016.
Mcmahon will also challenge in a tightly-contested 100-breaststroke field that features 7 swimmers at 1:11.00 or better. These meets usually have two or three swimmers who are clearly the class of a race, so to have that tight of a grouping at the top will make for a very competitive final. In the 200 breaststroke, there will be a great battle between Irina Novikova from Russia and Molly Renshaw from the UK.
Another British youngter in the field will be Siobham-Marie O’Conner, who is the favorite to take the 200 IM title. She shocked herself last week in Sheffield when she earned her way onto the British World Championship squad, and had to do a quick about-face to change her focus from Belgrade to Shanghai.