The Russian National Championships and Olympic Trials kick off on Tuesday in Moscow, but as a precursor to that meet, this week the Junior Nationals went down. Among the qualifications handed out at this meet were bids to the Junior European Championships that are upcoming in Belgium.
In the meantime, we found a few new gems that could be the future of Russian swimming. There’s not a whole lot of news that comes readily out of the country; in part because they don’t race too often, and in part because the different alphabet makes it difficult to find news, but there’s an impressive group of young swimmers in the country. (Note that in Russia, Junior Records on the boys’ side run through 18 years old; 16 on the girls’.)
The top of the heap was a National Junior Record from Maria Baklakova in the 100 free in 55.94. That’s a phenomenal time for a swimmer who just turned 15 a month ago. The sprint freestyles, for all of the success of the men’s team, has been a major struggle for the Russian women; they’ve only had 4 swimmers in history who have cracked 55 seconds in their careers, which is fewer than any of the other major women’s swimming nations in the world, save for Hungary.
But with a swimmer as young, and as fast, as Baklakova, it could be sooner rather than later until they add to that number.
The versatile freestyler (who can swim anything from the 100 to the 800) really has made big improvements on the shorter end of her range. That time broke her own record of 56.07. That doesn’t sound like a huge drop, but her winning 200 free time from this meet of 2:01.40 was over a second slower than her record in that race, which could speak to her preparation for this meet. I’d bet she goes a 55.5 or faster this coming week at senior Nationals; if not then, at the European Juniors in early July.
In the boys’ 50 backstroke, the junior record previously held by Arkady Vyatchanin, a double-bronze medalist in Beijing, went down at the hands of Yevgeny Sedov. The old mark stood at 25.89 and went down first in the prelims, and then in the finals, before finally settling at 25.82.
Sedov is a bigtime sprinter, and also took down the 50 butterfly record with a 24.28, which puts him in the top 50 in the world. He was DQ’ed in the final, though, and didn’t get the win. He did also win the 100 free in 50.74, (ahead of Maxim Startsev in 50.84).
Simon Makowic broke the National Junior Record in the 200 IM in 2:02.45, which took half-a-second off of the 2010 swim set by Alexis Atsapkinu in 2:02.92.
On that same day, Hope Vinyukova broke the girls’ 50 back junior mark with a 29.22, which bettered Stanislava Komarova’s time of 29.34.
Up next, the Russians will take on their Olympic Trials qualifying, and will approach a season coming off a disaster of a performance from their highly-touted men in 2011.