The Past Meets the Future on the Women’s 50 Breaststroke Podium in Australia


The NBA has become famous for its torch-passing. Magic Johnson (13 games) and Larry Bird (34 games) passed the torch to Michael Jordan. Jordan passed the torch to Kobe (8 games), who passed the torch to Lebron (22 games).

In the NBA, we get a lot of those intergenerational ‘fantasy matchups’ as young players move into the league and try to bully-out veteran superstars.

But in swimming, we don’t always get that. A sport served by youth, there’s not as much room for an aging star in swimming – most retire pretty shortly after realizing that they’re not longer the best, with limited commercial opportunities to carry forward in the sport in a professional way (one of the problems that the ISL was trying to solve).

While today’s high school hoopers can dream of one day playing against Luka Donkic in the NBA, those matchups happen in swimming happen in a different way, often when a star shows up at a lower level meet like Sectionals (though the younger swimmers’ parents often protest those moments that could be career highlights as ‘opportunity theft’). That leaves chances like these, where a young talent rising at a meteoric rate makes a final, which is becoming less-and-less common.

That made for kind of a cool moment on Wednesday at Australia’s National Championships where 15-year-old rising breaststroke star Sienna Toohey and two-time Olympian & 39-year-old breaststroker Sally (Foster) Hunter finished 2-3 in the 50 meter race in finals.

Toohey, who came very close to breaking a legendary National Age Record earlier this year, is the future of an Australian breaststroke group that has lacked stability over the last decade.

That last period of stability coincided with Hunter’s career. She was a two-time Olympian in 2008 and 2012, was the 2008 World Short Course Champion in the 200 breaststroke, and has eight career World Championship medals on relays. Toohey wasn’t born until 11 months after that World Championship.

Hunter took a break from competition from 2019 through 2023, but and racing rather regularly over the last year-plus. Her 31.77 from Wednesday is only eight-tenths slower than her lifetime best from 2015 (she was a 200 breaststroke specialist until late in her career), while Toohey’s 31.43 was within a tenth of her personal best from mid-March.

To see the past and the future at a national meet share the podium is a worthwhile subplot for a meet dominated by headline times in the 400 free and 200 IM.

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About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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