The Top 10 Swims of the 2023 World Junior Championships

2023 WORLD JUNIOR SWIMMING CHAMPIONSHIPS

The 2023 World Junior Swimming Championships had no shortage of exceptional swims across the board, as some established swimmers got the opportunity to shine on the international stage while we also saw some relative unknowns make a name for themselves with some breakout performances.

Below, find our top 10 swims of the meet:

1. MAXIMUS WILLIAMSON (USA), BOYS’ 200 IM

It didn’t take long for Maximus Williamson to make an impact in the boys’ 17-18 age group, as the 15-16 U.S. National Age Group Record holder became the fastest 17-year-old in history in the 200 IM one day after his 17th birthday, clocking 1:57.29 to win World Junior gold. He also moved into #2 all-time in the U.S. 17-18 age group behind only Michael Phelps (1:55.94), came within three-tenths of the World Junior Record held by Hubert Kos (1:56.99), and went faster than the runner-up at U.S. Nationals (and thus would’ve qualified for Worlds had he done it there).

2. MAXIMUS WILLIAMSON (USA), BOYS’ 100 FREE (RELAY LEAD-OFF)

Ranking not too far behind his 200 IM swim was what Williamson managed to do in the 100 free, with his lead-off leg of 48.38 from the mixed 400 free relay standing above the rest. The 17-year-old set a new National Age Group Record with his performance, lowering the mark established by Jonny Kulow (48.47) during the summer, and Williamson doubled down by going under the old record a second time in the individual event (48.45). It’s worth mentioning Williamson’s trio of 47-second relay splits here: 47.57, 47.74 and 47.78.

3. OLIVIA WUNSCH (AUS), GIRLS’ 100 FREE (RELAY SPLIT)

Australian phenom Olivia Wunsch was a star performer individually as she swept the girls’ 50 and 100 freestyle events, but her top performances of the meet came on the relays, led by her blistering 52.61 split on the girls’ 400 free relay. That swim came on the anchor leg, as the 17-year-old powered the Aussies to gold in the event over the Americans, with Wunsch’s split particularly notable given she had never broken 54 seconds from a flat-start coming into the meet (she won the 100 free in a PB of 53.71). She proved the split was no fluke on the final night of competition, anchoring Australia in 52.73 in the medley relay that ultimately won gold after the U.S. was disqualified.

4. TEAGAN O’DELL (USA), GIRLS’ 200 BACK

Sixteen-year-old Teagan O’Dell ran away with the gold medal in the girls’ 200 backstroke by more than two seconds in a time of 2:08.09, ranking her #5 all-time in the U.S. girls’ 15-16 age group behind the ultra-elite quartet of Missy FranklinElizabeth BeiselRegan Smith and Elizabeth Pelton. O’Dell dropped exactly one second off her previous best time and neared the Championship Record of 2:07.48 set by Smith in 2017. The time would’ve comfortably made the final at the World Championships and finished 6th (though it took 2:05.77 to qualify at U.S. Nationals).

5. LEAH HAYES (USA), GIRLS’ 400 IM

Leah Hayes knocked off the Championship Record in the girls’ 400 IM by nearly a full second in a time of 4:36.84, dropping over a second and a half from her previous best to move into #6 all-time in the girls’ 17-18 age group in the United States. The 17-year-old used an impressive breaststroke leg to win an exciting battle with Canadian Ella Jansen, who also went under the old CR (Mio Narita‘s 4:37.78 from last year) in 4:37.35.

Hayes also went under the CR in the 200 IM in 2:10.24, though that fell short of her personal best set last summer at Worlds (2:08.91).

6. ALEXANNE LEPAGE (CAN), GIRLS’ 100 BREAST

In what has to be regarded as the upset of the meet, Canada’s Alexanne Lepage engineered a massive comeback to win gold in the girls’ 100 breast over Estonian Eneli Jefimova, clocking 1:06.58 for gold after trailing by more than a second at the halfway mark. Lepage entered the meet with a best time of 1:09.07, and Jefimova had set a new Championship Record in the semis (1:06.23), making the victory even more improbable. Lepage narrowly missed the Canadian 15-17 NAG record by five one-hundredths in the swim, though she did go on to take hold of the 200 breast mark later in the meet (2:24.70).

Jefimova’s semi-final performance also deserves recognition, though despite being faster, it falls shy of Lepage’s swim since it didn’t come in a final. (Read more on it here).

7. TOMOYUKI MATSUSHITA (JPN), BOYS’ 400 IM

Japan’s Tomoyuki Matsushita got a bit of redemption in the 400 IM after he was disqualified in the 200 IM final, as he stormed to gold in a time of 4:10.97, setting a new Championship Record. The 18-year-old dropped more than a second from his lifetime best to crush the previous meet record of 4:11.93 set by Greece’s Apostolos Papastamos in 2019, using a quick free split to run away from teammate Riku Yamaguchi. Matsushita had set the CR in the 200 IM prelims before being DQed in the final (where he initially touched 2nd).

8. JACLYN BARCLAY (AUS), GIRLS’ 100 BACK

Australia’s Jaclyn Barclay secured the gold medal in the girls’ 100 back with a new lifetime best of 59.47, earning victory over countrymate Iona Anderson and American Erika Pelaez as the three of them went head-to-head in both sprint backstroke events. Barclay, who won’t turn 17 until December, undercut her previous best of 59.81 to move into #3 all-time among 16-year-olds in Australia, overtaking Mollie O’Callaghan (59.59) and Kaylee McKeown (59.62).

9. ENELI JEFIMOVA (EST), GIRLS’ 50 BREAST

Jefimova had a hot start to the meet when she fired off a time of 30.19 in the prelims of the girls’ 50 breast during the opening session, missing her Estonian Record by 11 one-hundredths. The 16-year-old went on to win gold in the event, clocking 30.48 in the semis and 30.42 in the final, and despite the fact the swim largely flew under the radar, especially after she was upset later in the meet in the 100 breast, Jefimova’s 50 breast was still the top FINA point-scoring swim on the girls’ side.

10. ZHANG ZHANSHUO (CHN), BOYS’ 400 IM

There’s certainly an argument that this swim should be much higher (and maybe right at the top), though we’re ranking these performances on a relatively level playing field and not accounting for age too much (like we would for the World Championships). Despite all that, Zhang Zhanshuo‘s 400 IM swim couldn’t be left off the list, as the Chinese native became the fastest 16 & under swimmer of all-time in 4:12.44, using a Herculean freestyle split of 56.42 to move up from 4th at the 300 into the silver medal position. He entered the meet with a best time of 4:17.68. Despite Matsushita winning the event, Zhang’s swim still would’ve been fast enough to qualify for the World Championship final (4:12.85 cut-off).

Honorable Mentions:

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rhode
2 months ago

Felix Iberle missing Nicolo Martinenghi’s WJR by only 0.01 is worth mentioning as well.

rhode
2 months ago

Interesting that only one European is on the list and ranks 10th. I think they are punished for previous success at European juniors and Worlds. Tuncelli’s time in both 800 & 1500 are very very good for a boy that barely turned 16. Pudar set CR in 200 fly in a time that’s close to winning bronze at senior Worlds.

rhode
Reply to  rhode
2 months ago

I would also argue that Zheltiakov 200 back time is better than Teagan O’Dell’s, although it’s slightly off his PR.

swimfast
2 months ago

I appreciate this list and roughly agree…..it’s hard to decide, though, whether the 52.61 was the greatest swim of the meet or not. I see where you’re coming from on Williamson, as a 1:57 is lightning for that age and he’s certainly a potential future asset to Team USA; but a 52.61…like damn…

swimfast
Reply to  swimfast
2 months ago

In any case, both are destined for big, big accomplishments.

TXSwimDad
Reply to  swimfast
2 months ago

I struggled with this as well.

SHRKB8
2 months ago

How does a female race with highest fina point score rank down in 9th in this list? I would also rank “the biggest upset of the meet” higher on this list also. Seems like a top heavy US biased list to me, not trying to take away from the fact that those US swims were fantastic swims, I just think the fina point score system rates a swim on an open level with the higher points making the result more relevant in the “big boy” and “big girl” world.

swimapologist
Reply to  SHRKB8
2 months ago

FINA Points System sucks. HTH.

Laps
Reply to  swimapologist
2 months ago

Even SwimSwam’s Performance Index has Jefimova’s 50 and 100 swims as the top two women’s performances.

Troyy
Reply to  swimapologist
2 months ago

Also highest ranked in this year’s official WA rankings. Maybe she’s being demoted because it was a heat swim.

smithrc
Reply to  Troyy
2 months ago

stroke 50s are extremely biased

swimfast
Reply to  SHRKB8
2 months ago

They’re based on the World Records…and as a swimming fan it’s essential to know that there are world records that are just plain soft and not-as-often-attempted-under-the-most-world-record-setting-conditions, and there are some world records that are mind blowing. So, the events that the WR is mind blowing yields lower FINA points proportionally than do events with “easier” (yes, easier) WR’s

SHRKB8
Reply to  swimfast
2 months ago

Which WR’s are “soft”? I sure as hell never got close to one, not even a soft one, maybe I am doing something wrong 🤷.

My personal opinion is a WR is no joke and the closer you get to it the greater your personal performance. Hence the Fina point score being relevant to me.

Breezeway
2 months ago

Shackley upsetting Pudar in the 50fly

Mr. Saucy Pants
2 months ago

Daniel Diehl will flourish when he goes to NC State

Rush
2 months ago

No Pudar, no good!

Gowdy Raines
2 months ago

Don’t forget the Men’s breastroke events. Chen’s 100 time and Mak and Willis coming back in the 200 to finish 1st and 2nd. I think you will see all 3 of those guys competing on a bigger stage one day.

Swim
Reply to  Gowdy Raines
2 months ago

AGREED. Look out for Chen in the future.

Chen won Summer Juniors in the 200 Breast with an amazing last 50 similar to what he did at Worlds to Win.

He has last 50 speed that is hard to ignore.

Coleman’s favorite pancake
Reply to  Swim
2 months ago

Willis as well, his progression in the past year is absolutely insane. Coming into the long course season with a 2:18.74 and finishing with a 2:12.07. Chen came in with a 2:13.71 and finished with a 2:12.2. Willis and Chen will definitely be two to watch out for during next years Olympic trials as they could be looking at breaking the 60 second barrier in the 100br and 2:10 in the 200.

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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