2017 EUROPEAN JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIPS
While the top American talents will be vying for Worlds roster spots in Indianapolis next week, the next wave of European talent will battle in Netanya at the 2017 European Junior Championships. Among the many top juniors competing next week in Israel, Dutchwoman Marrit Steenbergen and Hungary’s Ajna Kesely stand out on the girls’ side. For the boys, Russian Kliment Kolesnikov and Italian Nicolo’ Martinenghi are two of the big names on the psychs. Below, we’ve picked out several storylines to follow next week at Euro Jrs.
MARTINENGHI TAKING ITALIAN BREASTSTROKE TO NEW HEIGHTS
Italian breaststroker Nicolo’ Martinenghi is on track for three golds in Netanya. It wouldn’t be surprising at all if he achieved the triple crown in breast– he’s by far the top seed in all three races.
Last year at this meet, he posted times of 27.73, 1:00.30, 2:12.95 in the three races. Those earned him silvers in the 50 and 200 and gold in the 100. Since then, he has brought his lifetime bests down to 26.97, 59.31, and 2:11.63. He’s the Italian record holder in the 50 and 100, and the first Italian man under 27 in the 50 breast. He’s quickly heading towards being the first of his country to break 59 in the 100– his 59.31 was done last night at the Sette Colli Trophy in Rome, where he touched 2nd behind world record holder Adam Peaty.
No Italian man made it past prelims in the 100 breast at the Olympics last summer– Martinenghi’s 59.31 from last night would’ve tied for 5th in the final in Rio. A 58.8 earned bronze last summer, and Martinenghi is definitely a candidate for a medal as soon as this summer, especially if his recent 59.3 wasn’t from a full taper (and it probably wasn’t).
KESELY AND STEENBERGEN TO RULE FREESTYLE
15-year-old Ajna Kesely has been one of the biggest young names out of Hungary lately. She’s been making waves for a couple of years now, despite her age, and she’s developing into a mid-distance/distance power. Kesely holds top seeds in the 400 free (4:06.42), 800 free (8:31.05), and 1500 free (16:14.35), and she could very quickly form a serious distance pairing with Hungarian record holder Boglarka Kapas, who earned bronze in Rio in the 800 free.
Marrit Steenbergen, meanwhile, is the top seed in the 100 and 200 free. Together, Steenbergen and Kesely hold top seeds in every free event but the 50, which belongs to Denmark’s Julie Kepp Jensen. Steenbergen, of the Netherlands, popped a 53.98 this spring, and she will clash with Kesely in the 200. Much like the incredible race between Katie Ledecky and Sarah Sjöström at Rio in the 200 free, a top swimmer with distance strength will race a top swimmer with sprint strength. Steenbergen is the top seed (1:57.28), but she did that time in 2016, while Kesely’s 1:57.86 is from this April. The 200 free will be one of the best races of the meet if both girls are swimming well.
HUNGARY YOUTH RISING
It’s no secret that, despite the years of excellence from Hungarian swimmers like Katinka Hosszu, Laszlo Cseh, and Daniel Gyurta, many of the nation’s leaders have been around for a long time. That isn’t to say that Hosszu and Cseh, particularly, are slowing down– they continue to either be at the top of the world, or very close to it. Rather, these stars will eventually lose their luster, and the good news for Hungary is that there is a great crop of youngsters quickly developing to take their places.
Obviously, names like Kapas, Flora Molnar and Tamas Kenderesi are part of the next generation, though they won’t be at this meet because they aren’t junior swimmers. The list of names goes much deeper than just Kesely, though. For example, in the 200 fly, the Hungarians look very dangerous at this meet. For the girls, the nation has the top 3 seeds: Boglarka Bonecz (2:10.45), Kesely (2:10.76) and Blanka Berecz (2:10.95). Bonecz is the oldest at 17, while Kesely is 15 and Berecz turned 15 just a few days ago. For the boys, 17-year-old Kristof Milak (1:55.41) is the top seed, and with a little improvement, he’s right behind Cseh and Kenderesi on the international stage.
Some other Hungarian girls are seeded very well, too. 15-year-old Fanni Gyurinovics is the 11th seed in the 50 free (25.96), the 3rd seed in the 100 free (55.43) and the 8th seed in the 200 IM (2:16.38). Another 15-year-old, Reka Vecsei, is in medal contention in both Olympic-distance breaststroke events. She’s the 3rd seed in the 200 (2:28.29) and the 4th seed in the 100 (1:09.26). Yet another 15-year-old, Petra Barocsai, is seeded 2nd in the 100 fly (59.79) and is in the top 12 in both the 200 and 400 free, while 17-year-old Janka Juhasz is in the top 10 for both of those free races. There’s also Dorottya Dobos and Laura Ilyes, ages 16 and 15, seeded 9th and 10th in the 200 back, while Fanni Fabian and Lili Horvath, ages 15 and 16, are seeded 8th and 9th in the 40 0IM.
The Hungarian boys are also very well-seeded. Milak, in addition to his #1 seed in the 200 fly, is top 5 in the 50 fly, 100 fly, and 200 free. Hungary looks great in the freestyle– Nandor Nemeth is the top seed in the 100 free and 5th in the 50 free. In the 200 free, Milak (2nd), Nemeth (4th) and Richard Marton (5th) make up 3 of the top 5 seeds. In the 400 free, Akos Kalmar, Marton and Balazs Hollo are seeded 1-2-3. Kalmar is the top seed in the 800, with David Lakatos 2nd, while Kalmar and Lakatos are 2nd and 4th in the 1500. Hollo is the top seed in the 400 IM, while Marton Barta is seeded 2nd in both IM’s.
That’s a lot of names for Hungary in the top 10, and there are still more in the top 25 of various events. There’s serious talent growing in a country with the same population size as the state of Michigan, and they could have a very successful medal haul in Netanya.
KLIMENT KOLESNIKOV IN LINE FOR BIG MEDAL HAUL
Other than Italy’s Martinenghi, Kolesnikov is certainly the biggest name on the boys’ side of the meet. The Russian backstroker, who hasn’t even turned 17 yet, is looking at 5 potential golds in Netanya. He’s the top seed in all three backstroke races and the 200 IM, and adds a 2nd seed in the 50 free.
Kolesnikov has been tearing it up over the last year or so. At last year’s European Jr Champs, he won golds in the 50 and 100 back, setting new World Junior records in both races. He still holds those records, and his 1:55.49 from this April in the 200 set his third WJR.
In the 50 free, his 22.56 is just .01 behind top seed Nyls Korstanje (22.55), which could give him a fourth gold in addition to his favored wins in the backstrokes. In the 200 IM, his time of 2:00.27 is nearly a second ahead of the 2nd seed, and this could be another potential gold for him. Keep on eye on Michael Andrew’s 1:59.12 WJR in that event.