In our new series, Roadmaps – Mapping the Journey of US Swimming Stars, we will explore how modern-day Olympians climbed their way to the top, starting from as early as 8 years old all the way to their elite level today. In Roadmaps 2.0, we are expanding to international swim stars.
The 1500 free is the longest event in the pool, but a veritable sprint as compared to the open water races. More-and-more, the event over the last decade has become a clash between the two, with open water stars like Germany’s Florian Wellbrock clashing with pool stars like Gregorio Paltrinieri (though the latter is wading deeper and deeper into wild waters).
This Roadmaps group features 8 swimmers who would include the 1500 free into their event repertoire. Ranking first on the top 8 event times for the 2016-2021 Olympic cycle is Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri, the defending Olympic champion. Right behind him are German Florian Wellbrock and Mykhailo Romanchuk, who are also under the 14:40 barrier this Olympic cycle. Frenchman David Aubry, Norwegian Henrik Christiansen, Croatian Franko Grgic, Brit Daniel Jervis, and American Jordan Wilimovsky all file after the trio with sub-14:50 times. Read on for more information on this group’s event milestones, accomplishments, and likelihood of appearing in the 2021 Olympic final.
2016-2021 Olympic Cycle: International Men’s 1500 FR LCM
|1||Gregorio Paltrinieri||ITA||14:35.85||2017 World Championships|
|2||Florian Wellbrock||GER||14:36.15||2018 European Championships|
|3||Mykhailo Romanchuk||UKR||14:36.88||2018 European Championships|
|4||David Aubry||FRA||14:44.72||2019 World Championships|
|5||Henrik Christiansen||NOR||14:45.35||2019 World Championships|
|6||Franko Grgic||CRO||14:46.09||2019 World Junior Championships|
|7||Daniel Jervis||GBR||14:46.51||2019 French Elite Championships|
|8||Jordan Wilimovsky||USA||14:46.83||2018 Pan Pacific Championpships|
When Were They First “Good” at Distance?
Using 7:59 and 14:59 as elite barriers in the 800 and 1500 free, we can determine who had a more profound talent early on versus those who had to progress over a few years. The majority of this Roadmaps group was born between 1994-1997, with the exception of Franko Grgic (D.O.B. 2003). In 2019, Gen Z Grgic reached both 7:59/14:59 barriers as well as competitive barriers of 7:45/14:49 all at age 16.The only Millennial swimmer to reach competitive 1500 free barriers by age 17 was Gregorio Paltrinieri. In the 800 free, Paltrinieri, Henrik Christiansen, and Mykhailo Romanchuk reached the 7:59 barrier by age 17. However, only Christiansen was able to swim 7:45 in the event by age 18.
Christiansen reached competitive 800 free barriers while in the 17-18 age group, but he did not hit sub-15:00 times in the 1500 free until age 19. Likewise, Romanchuk and David Aubry reached 7:59 in the 800 free one year before reaching 14:59 in the 1500 free. On a different note, Jordan Wilimovsky hit 14:49 in the 1500 free at age 22 yet his first sub-7:50 800 free swim wasn’t until age 24.
Men’s 1500 FR LCM: Milestone Ages
Men’s 800 FR LCM: Milestone Ages
|Franko Grgic||16||16||Franko Grgic||16||16|
|Gregorio Paltrinieri||17||17||Henrik Christiansen||17||18|
|Florian Wellbrock||18||20||Gregorio Paltrinieri||17||19|
|Mykhailo Romanchuk||18||20||Mykhailo Romanchuk||17||20|
|Henrik Christiansen||19||22||Florian Wellbrock||18||20|
|Jordan Wilimovsky||20||22||David Aubry||20||22|
|David Aubry||21||22||Daniel Jervis||18||23|
|Daniel Jervis||18||23||Jordan Wilimovsky||21||24|
Who Found Success in the 1500? Who Found Better Success in the 800?
Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri is the reigning 2016 Olympic champion in the 1500 free as well as collecting World titles in 2015 and 2017. After that, it was German Florian Wellbrock who took over as 1500 free World champion, just days after his 10k open water title. Paltrinieri also was part of that 10k open water race, yet placed outside of a medal. However, despite missing out on an open water medal and defending his 1500 free title, Paltrinieri emerged victorious in the 800 free with a new European record time. It may be more difficult to determine specialties in these examples since Paltrinieri has won World titles in both the 800 and 1500 while Wellbrock found both success in the pool and in open water. Paltrinieri was able to find world success in both the 800 and 1500, however, has recently began training under Italian national open water team coach Fabrizio Antonelli, which can signal a more inclusive training to improve on his Tokyo-qualifying 6th-place finish in the 10k from 2019 Worlds.
During the 2019 World 800 free final, Paltrinieri had an open lead during the last 50, easily securing the World title. Meanwhile, Norway’s Henrik Christiansen also held a body-length lead over the bronze medal contenders, securing himself a silver medal. In the running for third was Frenchman David Aubry and Aussie Jack McLoughlin, yet it was Aubry who secured his spot on the podium. Four days later during the 1500 free final, Aubry and Christiansen set respective national records in the event, yet finished five seconds outside of earning a medal. Similarly, while Jordan Wilimovsky missed out on both 800/1500 free finals at the 2019 Worlds meet, he did secure a bronze medal in the mixed 5k open water relay. At the 2017 World Championships, Wilimovsky earned a silver medal in the 10k open water two years after his 2015 World title.
Ukrainian Mykhailo Romanchuk was the 2-time World runner-up in the 1500 free in 2017 and 2019, followed by his 2018 Short Course World Championship title in the 1500 free, sensing a specialty in the event alone. However, some swimmers are still in the works of attaining a major international medal. Brit Daniel Jervis has a plethora of national titles in the 1500 free, yet his best international finish thus far in the event was a silver medal from the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Croatian teen Franko Grgic won both the 800 and 1500 free titles at the 2019 World Junior Championships, yet still has much experience to attain at the senior level.
Who’s Likely to Appear in the 2021 Olympic Final?
Looking at the current 2019-2020 world rankings in the 1500 free, Mykhailo Romanchuk leads with a 14:41.63 from the 2020 Ukrainian Championships, which he swam right before the global COVID-19 outbreak. That swim is roughly 5 seconds off his 2021 Olympic cycle best of 14:36.88 from the 2018 European Championships. Gregorio Paltrinieri (14:42.66) and Florian Wellbrock (14:46.61) are the other two swimmers who have swum sub-14:50 swims this 2019-2020 season. From the plethora of competitive experiences from Romanchuk, Paltrinieri, and Wellbrock, it can almost be predicted they will be in heavy contention for a medal.
The next fastest Roadmaps swimmer in the 1500 free this season is Daniel Jervis, whose 14:57.90 from the 2020 Luxembourg Euro Meet ranks 5th behind Brazil’s Guilherme Costa (14:55.49). Jordan Wilimovsky (15:03.29) also ranks 12th this season with his 15:03.29 from the 2019 U.S. Open, the same meet Costa clocked his national record time. Meanwhile, David Aubry, Henrik Christiansen, and Franko Grgic remain un-ranked in the LCM 1500 free this season. However, looking at how the 2019 World Championships played out, Aubry and Christiansen likely have a higher chance at earning a medal in the 800 free Olympic final rather the 1500 free final. Similarly, Wilimovsky most likely can be pictured in the lead pack of the 5k Olympic open water final when considering his past results in the pool. However, swimmers like Jervis and Grgic have yet to reach a senior World final, yet do have the unexpected advantage of an extra year of training that was added to the 2021 Olympic cycle.
Single Age Progression: International Men’s 1500 FR LCM (Ages 15-25)
2016-2021 Olympic Cycle: US Men’s 1500 FR LCM
|1||Jordan Wilimovsky||8||14:46.83||2018 Pan Pacific Championships|
|2||Zane Grothe||13||14:48.40||2018 Pan Pacific Championships|
|3||Bobby Finke||15||14:48.70||2018 Pan Pacific Championships|
|4||True Sweetser||30||14:59.73||2017 U.S. Nationals|
|5||Michael Brinegar||34||15:00.82||2019 U.S. Nationals|
|6||Logan Houck||37||15:01.70||2017 U.S. Open|
|7||PJ Ransford||39||15:01.82||2018 U.S. Nationals|
|8||Arik Katz||51||15:05.93||2019 U.S. Nationals|
Single Age Progression: US Men’s 1500 FR LCM (Ages 14-26)
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