The Fastest All-Time Junior Swims Not Recognized As World Junior Records

Last Sunday, during the 2023 European Junior Swimming Championships, Bulgarian 17-year-old Petar Mitsin broke the world junior record in the boys’ 400 freestyle with a 3:44.31, shaving 0.29 seconds off of Australian Mack Horton’s previous WJR standard of 3:44.60 logged back in 2014.

The world junior records in swimming are the fastest times ever swum by a “junior” swimmer, with junior defined as 18 years old or younger as of December 31 of the year of the swim.

However, many remembered that there was a 17-year-old swimmer who clocked a time faster than 3:44 in the men’s 400 freestyle. It wasn’t just any swimmer: it was Australian Ian Thorpe, who, at the age of 17, was Olympic Champion in 2000 with a 3:40.59. At the time, the swim was a world record.

South Korean Tae-Hwan Park also clocked a faster time than Mitsin at 17 when he won the 2007 World Championships in 3:44.30.

Why, then, is Mitsin’s time considered a junior world record in the event?

There are other similar cases where the world junior record is not the fastest all-time junior swim. In most cases, the reason is the same: the fact that World Aquatics (formerly FINA) started recognizing world junior records only in 2014.

When world junior records were introduced by World Aquatics in 2014, they were initially based on the meet records from the Junior World Championship meets.

As Thorpe’s time was obtained before 2014, it was not recognized as a world junior record. The same can be said of Park’s. This explains why Mitsin is the current world junior record holder.

There are other emblematic cases. Michael Phelps, at age 17, broke the men’s 200 IM world record at the 2003 US Nationals with a time of 1:55.94. Sarah Sjostrom at the age of 15 cracked the women’s 100 butterfly world record in 2009 with a 56.06. Those swims are, through today, the fastest all-time junior swims, but not ratified as world junior records.

The following are the fastest all-time junior performances in long course meters that are faster than the “world junior records”, but they were not recognized because they were set before 2014.

Event World Junior record holder Time All-time fastest junior performer Time
Girls’ 50 free Claire Curzan (USA) 24.17 (2021) Cate Campbell (AUS) 23.99 (2009)
Girls’50 back Minna Atherton (AUS) 27.49 (2016) Fu Yuanhui (CHN) 27.22 (2013)
Girls’100 fly Claire Curzan (USA) 56.43 (2021) Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) 56.06 (2009)
Girls’200 fly Summer McIntosh (CAN) 2:04.70 (2023) Jiao Liuyang (CHN) 2:04.50 (2009)
Boys’ 400 free Petar Mitsin (BUL) 3:44.31 (2023) Ian Thorpe (AUS) 3:40.59 (2000)
Boys’ 200 back Kliment Kolesnikov (RUS) 1:55.14 (2017) Ryosuke Irie (JPN) 1:54.77 (2008)
Boys’ 200 breast Dong Zhihao (CHN) 2:08.83 (2023) Akihiro Yamaguchi (JPN) 2:07.01 (2012)
Boys’ 200 IM Hubert Kos (HUN) 1:56.99 (2021) Michael Phelps (USA) 1:55.94 (2003)
Boys’ 400 IM Ilya Borodin (RUS) 4:10.02 (2021) Kosuke Hagino (JPN) 4:08.94 (2012)

The tendency is that, over time, this list will decrease, since the evolution of swimming should provide young swimmers with increasingly faster times. But, let’s face it, it’s hard to imagine a swimmer under 18 years old setting a 3:40 in the 400 freestyle in the near future.

There are other times registered by junior swimmers that were not ratified as world junior records, and these swims occurred after 2014. That is, theoretically, there would be no obstacle for these performances to be recognized as records. For various reasons, sometimes the records are not recognized.

One of the reasons is the fact that, in 2023, World Aquatics shifted ages for eligibility for girls world junior records. Before 2023, World Junior Records were recognized for girls aged 14-17 and boys aged 15-18 based on end-of-year age. Now, world junior records are recognized for both male and female swimmers aged 14-18.

That’s why the fastest all-time junior in the women’s 800 freestyle, for example, belongs to Katie Ledecky with 8:07.39 in 2015, but the junior world record is held by Ledecky with 8:11.00 in 2014. That’s because, in 2015, Ledecky was ineligible for junior world records under the age rules at the time. If it were by today’s rules, the time would have been recognized.

In addition, sometimes a world junior record (WJR) is not recognized for various administrative reasons. For example, Kristof Milak‘s time of 1:52.71 in the 2018 200 butterfly during the Hungarian Championships has never been recognized as a world junior record. That way, WJR is 1:53.79 set during the previous year by Milak himself.

The following are swims that were set from 2014 onwards but which, for the aforementioned reasons, were not recognized as world junior records.

Event World Junior record holder Time All-time fastest junior performer Time
Girls’ 100 free Penny Oleksiak (CAN) 52.70 (2016) Mollie O’Callaghan (AUS) 52.49 (2022)
Girls’800 free Katie Ledecky (USA) 8:11.00 (2014) Katie Ledecky (USA) 8:07.39 (2015)
Girls’1500 free Katie Ledecky (USA) 15:28.36 (2014) Katie Ledecky (USA) 15:25.48 (2015)
Girls’50 fly Rikako Ikee (JPN) 25.46 (2017) Rikako Ikee (JPN) 25.11 (2018)
Boys’ 200 fly Kristof Milak (HUN) 1:53.79 (2017) Kristof Milak (HUN) 1:52.71 (2018)

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William Williamson
1 month ago

Where are the 2025 rankings?

2 months ago

18 is way too old for a “junior” record. I mean they could be one day off being 19 years old. That’s ridiculous for a “junior”.

Personally, I think it should be 16 and under.

2 months ago

Correction: MP set the WR in the 200 IM on 6/29/03 (day before turning 18) as a 17 year old with a 1:57.94 at the Santa Clara Invitational. By the end of the year, after he had turned 18, he got it down to 1:55.94 on 8/9/03 at the 2003 Nationals.

Anything but 50 BR
2 months ago

How likely do you think Weinstein is to get the 200 FR world junior record? McIntosh is still eligible until the end of 2024, and who knows what it will be then. 1:52.61? But then Weinstein has until the end of 2025.

Maybe the 200 FR will be the McIntosh WJR that gets broken?

Virgil kritzmacher
2 months ago

Like a Jr. record not being the fastest Jr. time or a qualifying time for any big competition, not allowing you to swim in it, unless you qualify AND place top two in your country, we need to call things what they really are. So, a Jr. Record only applies to a certain meet and a qualifying time is only an invitation to see if you can qualify. Makes my head hurt.

2 months ago

Sounds like an opportunity for another entity to recognize the true junior world records. Could be the SwimSwam Junior World Records.

2 months ago

What’s the reason to have the record based on the year you turn 18 rather than the day you turn 18? If you turn 18 on January 1, you have basically an entire year more than someone that turns 18 on December 31. Is it questionable international record keeping with regard to birthdays? I don’t understand the logic.

Reply to  96Swim
2 months ago

I’m only guessing here, but maybe it could do with whether it’s SCM or LCM or SCY season and meet availabilities? If there is one big meet a year and you turn 19 one day prior, you also end up not being on same level as someone who is one week younger who is eligible. I think this example is sort of the exact opposite scenario to your scenario above. It does not appear there is a clear easy solution without some swimmers having less options.

Reply to  96Swim
2 months ago

No matter when you set the date of age-up, some group is at a disadvantage. If you set the date as your birthday, then the swimmer who ages up the day before the championship meet is at a disadvantage.

Year always is the easiest administratively, because of how meets are scheduled. It’s exceedingly rare (non existent?) for meets to shift from late December to early January. So in the “age up by year” system, everyone gets to go through the same championship rotation at each age.

M d e
Reply to  Braden Keith
2 months ago

I think by 18 it is less of a problem because athletes are MORE developed (although male especially there can be a big difference between 17 and 18 still), but age on the day no one is disadvantaged, athletes are just older/younger for their age groups at different portions of the season.

Year of birth does disadvantage late birthday swimmers as they are actually given less time in the age groups and exit th em younger.

2 months ago

I think we should abolish all records keeping from all international sports body and let ChatGPT handles them. After that we should also dismantle IOC and let its functions be performed also by ChatGPT.