SwimSwam Pulse: 35% Pick Heilman As Top 2023 Breakout Candidate Over Southam, Diehl

SwimSwam Pulse is a recurring feature tracking and analyzing the results of our periodic A3 Performance Polls. You can cast your vote in our newest poll on the SwimSwam homepage, about halfway down the page on the right side.

Our most recent poll asked SwimSwam readers which rising age group star on the boys’ side is primed to take the next step this summer:

Question: Which 2022 Junior Pan Pac champion is your top breakout candidate on the senior stage this summer?


It generally takes male swimmers longer to develop relative to their female counterparts, as we rarely see a teenager make an impact at the World Championship or Olympic level on the men’s side, while it’s fairly commonplace for the women.

With that being said, we’ve got a number of über talented up-and-coming names who could be poised for a breakout this summer.

Looking specifically at the Junior Pan Pacific Swimming Championships last August, five of the gold medalists stand out, and while it may be early, we took it to the A3 Performance Poll to see who fans are most bullish on taking the next step this year.

Leading the way was Thomas Heilman, the 16-year-old American record-breaking machine who won the 100 fly last year at Junior Pan Pacs in 51.98 and really sent shockwaves around the country in December when he swam a time of 44.67 in the 100-yard fly, going under the 17-18 National Age Group Record while he was only 15.

While the U.S. is strong in the 100 fly with the likes of Caeleb DresselShaine Casas and Michael Andrew all having been under 51 seconds in the last 14 months, Heilman will have plenty of other opportunities to qualify for the World Championships if he doesn’t experience a massive breakthrough in the 100 fly.

He’ll be in the hunt for a spot on the 400 free relay with any kind of time drop in the 100 free (best of 49.06), and could also be in the thick of things in the 200 fly (1:56.52), though both races come back-to-back on Day 1 of Nationals and he’ll likely need to pick one.

Australia’s Flynn Southam edged out American Daniel Diehl for second in the poll, with Southam the oldest among the swimmers listed, having turned 18 just a few days ago.

Southam swept the 50, 100 and 200 free at Junior Pan Pacs, with the most notable swim of the three coming in the 100 free, where he clocked 48.23. That came after he represented Australia at the Commonwealth Games, winning three relay gold medals, and he went on to get more major international experience at Short Course Worlds in December, earning five relay medals in Melbourne, including a gold in the men’s 4×50 free.

He was the second-fastest Australian in the 100 free last year behind Kyle Chalmers, giving him a good shot at qualifying for Worlds later this month at the Aussie Trials, though the 100 free has become increasingly stacked on the international stage.

Diehl is on the rise after breaking the U.S. NAG record for 17-18 boys in the 100 back twice in December, getting down to 53.07 at the U.S. Open. Still just 17, Diehl would be a clear threat to final and challenge for a medal at the World Championships if he wasn’t from the U.S., but alas, will have to face off with two of three swimmers who broke 52 seconds last year, Ryan Murphy and Hunter Armstrong, at U.S. Nationals.

Aaron Shackell, 18, has emerged as a premier contender in the U.S. in the 200 fly, an event that’s relatively wide open at Nationals, while Maximus Williamson is still only 16 but another time drop could see him in the hunt in the 200 IM, having clocked 1:59.01 last August.

It should also be noted that one of these swimmers breaking out isn’t fully predicated on them doing so at the World Championships—a big swim could come at U.S. Nationals that still misses the Worlds team, for example. But given the talent we’ve seen from this group, it’s easy to imagine all of them making a bigger impact this summer after tearing up the junior scene one year ago.

Below, vote in our new A3 Performance Pollwhich asks: Who is your early pick in the women’s 200 fly in Fukuoka:

Who is your early pick in the women's 200 fly at the World Championships

View Results

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A3 Performance is an independently-owned, performance swimwear company built on a passion for swimming, athletes, and athletic performance. We encourage swimmers to swim better and faster at all ages and levels, from beginners to Olympians.  Driven by a genuine leader and devoted staff that are passionate about swimming and service, A3 Performance strives to inspire and enrich the sport of swimming with innovative and impactful products that motivate swimmers to be their very best – an A3 Performer.

The A3 Performance Poll is courtesy of A3 Performance, a SwimSwam partner.

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3 months ago

There’s like 4 other junior swimmers that are better picks than Heilman in the U.S. alone

Reply to  Kloshi
3 months ago

Yeah it was really strange to me as well. He is still too young to break out this year in my opinion.

3 months ago

Jack Cartwright was second fastest Aussie last year 48.12.

Reply to  Troyy
3 months ago

Technically that’s not an official time because it was on a mixed relay but since every first leg was male it really should count

Wanna Sprite?
3 months ago

How is winkler not on this

Reply to  Wanna Sprite?
3 months ago

He didn’t win an event. His times were still very very impressive, but not quite 48 second 1 free.

Reply to  Swimmingrules
3 months ago


Reply to  Wanna Sprite?
3 months ago

Joshua Staples won 3 individual golds and was named Swimmer of the Meet and he wasn’t an option lol

Reply to  Sub13
3 months ago

Staples is one hell of a swimmer. However, I don’t see him having a breakout year since he is competing against Winnington, Short and Neill.

Ceccon - Kamminga - Milak - Popovici
Reply to  Wanna Sprite?
3 months ago


About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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