Much like we discussed in our recent recap of the World University Games, different athletes from different countries were at vastly different points in their training at the 2011 FINA Youth World Championships in Lima, Peru. The American swimmers, for example, only qualified for this meet two weeks prior, and had to be ready to leave on last-minute notice of their qualifying for the team. A few countries sent swimmers straight on from the Shanghai World Championships that were held halfway around the world. Swimmers like South Africa’s Vanessa Mohr went from China to South Africa to Peru, traversing three different global quadrants and three different quadrants in three weeks.
But in all, we definitely found some of the stars of the future in this meet. Not every gold medalists from these Youth World Championships will turn into a gold medalists at the senior World Championships, but this is still a good taste and roundup for where the best swimmers of the future might be coming from around the globe.
Day-by-day finals recaps:
Thoughts From the Meet:
1. 42 Meet records indicate increase in prestige – When all was said and done, a total of 42 new Championship Records were set in this, the 3rd incarnation of the meet. Even with the suits gone (though the amount of polyurethane being used in suits in 2008 was still much less than we saw in 2009), this was still by far the fastest this meet has ever been. Only 13 of the 40 events remained with their records in-tact (39 of the 40 records were previously set in 2008 in Monterrey). These sort of meets, while often accepted immediately by smaller nations, can take time to catch on with the larger, more particular programs. Some are hesitant to send their best youth athletes or to encourage any sort of focus on the meet until they are certain that it will be worth their time (like we saw with the Youth Olympics in 2010). As this meet moves forward to Casablanca in 2013, I think it becomes one of the premiere events on the world swimming stage.
2. The next Australian sprint stars – Overall, this was a disappointing showing for Australia. Really, they’ve never been great at this meet. But only 4 golds and 7 total medals (including only a single relay bronze) is not the type of performance the Aussies are used to at these international meets. Where they did shine brightly, however, is by their top male and female sprinters, who have great futures ahead of them. On the boys side, 17-year old Cameron McEvoy became the first swimmer in the meet’s history under 50 seconds with a 49.54 to lead off Australia’s 400 free relay.
For the ladies, Bronte Campbell set a Meet Record of her own in the girls 50 free with her win in 25.22. Campbell, even moreso than McEvoy, could make a big impact for Australia’s senior team sooner rather than later. The Australian women are deep in sprinters, but without much weight at the top (they didn’t have any finalists at Worlds). Her season-best of 24.97 puts her right in the thick of things for an Olympic spot with the even-younger Yolane Kukla and her sister Cate Campbell, amongst others.
3. Lia Neal Gravitating Towards the 100/200? – Lia Neal appears to have made a bit of a fundamental change in her freestyle focus, at least in the short term. Earlier in her career, she was outstanding in the 50 and the 100 freestyle. Based on the combination of what we saw at Junior Nationals and Junior Worlds, the 100 (where she was the event Champion in a new record of 54.90) and the 200 seem to be her money-making events. She did go a best time in the 50 in Lima (25.30), but that mark wasn’t nearly as impressive as her 200 time from Junior Nationals (1:58.26).
Of course, there’s no rule that says that she can’t be a star in both the 50 and the 200. It’s just extremely uncommon. No woman, in fact, has ever medaled in both events in either the World Championships or the Olympics. Neal is extremely good in both for her age, but as she moves into the more elite ranks, it’s going to be harder-and-harder to compete with both the 50 meter specialists and the 200m swimmers
Still, it seems like now that her chances in making the Olympic Team lie with the 200 free. A year ago, that thought probably wouldn’t have crossed many peoples’ minds. Timewise, she’s closer in each of the other two events, but her biggest improvements are coming in the 200 right now, and there’s fewer swimmers to jump to get a spot. Here’s a look at her American rankings in each freestyle event, along with how far off of the ranking that would put her on a virtual 2010-2011 Olympic team.
- 50 free (10th – .60 from top two)
- 100 free (9th – .31 from to six)
- 200 free (8th – .76 from top six)
4. Canada on a roll – Just like the World University Games was for New Zealand, this meet was Canada’s chance to continue their momentum from the World Championships. They scored the third-most medals, with 14, including 4 golds. The stars did their thin in a big way, including Chad Bobrosky in the boys 200 free and Brittany MacLean in the girls 200 and 400 free. Chantal van Landeghem took three individual sprint medals. But they got some contributions from some of their less-heralded juniors as well. The one to highlight swims a non-traditional strength for the Canadians: the men’s 200 fly. That’s where Mack Darragh broke the 15-17 National Age Group Record in the event to score bronze in 1:59.31. That’s a great time for a high schooler, and follows on the tail of former UVA swimmer Stefan Hirniak’s bronze at last year’s Commonwealth Games.
Canada is showing great signs of a return to their glory days of the late 60’s through early 80’s. They were one of the better swimming nations in the world during that period, but have won only a handful of Olympic medals in the last 25 years (almost all on the men’s side). But today’s Canadian team is doing it with youngsters and vets; on both the junior and senior levels; men’s side and women’s sides; in relays (they took four relay medals here); and their doing it in a wide range of events. This is becoming a complete, elite, national program.
5. American boys storm the stage – Out of the two American groups, the boys clearly starred over the girls at this meet. Out of 7 individual golds for the USA, 6 went to the boys, with triple wins from Evan Pinion (800/1500, both in Meet Records), Jacob Pebley (100/200 back, the latter in a Meet Record), and Maclin Davis (50/100 fly). Pinion was the most exciting star of the meet, shattering a pair of Meet Records in the distance events, becoming the 9th American in the top 30 in the Olympic 1500. Davis was the biggest revelation, as he had the least National acclaim of the trio coming into the meet. We still didn’t find that next big-time young sprinter that fans have been clamoring for (though Seth Stubblefield was very good), but we have found a lot of future stars for USA Swimming.