Top 10 Men To Watch At 2019 World Junior Championships


The 2019 FINA World Junior Swimming Championships kick-off on Tuesday in Budapest, Hungary. We’ve seen the initial entry lists to help build the hype, but let’s take things one step further by looking more closely at our top 10 men to watch over the course of the 6-day meet.

The following men have proven themselves on the junior, and sometimes senior, circuit, posting world-class times and putting them in the hunt for one or more medals. We’ll publish a similar post for the women to watch, but, for now, here are the top 10 men, in no particular order.

#1 – Carson Foster, USA

17-year-old Carson Foster of the United States put the elite swimmers of these World Junior Championships on notice as he recently clocked a shiny new World Junior Record in the men’s 400m IM. While competing at this year’s U.S. Nationals in Palo Alto, the Mason Manta Rays star clocked a monster time of 4:13.39, taking .61 off of the previous WJR held by Sean Grieshop, also of the U.S. since June 2016.

But Foster not only enters the Championships as the #1 seeded 400m IMer, but he also carries the top-seeded time in the 200m IM as well with his PB of 1:58.69. He represents just 1 of 4 sub-2-minute swimmers, ranked among the likes of Italy’s Thomas Ceccon, Greece’s Apostolos Papastamos and Israel’s Ron Plansky.

Foster will also be taking on the 200m free and 200m back, entered as the 2nd-seeded swimmer in times of 1:47.53 and 1:57.70, respectively.

And, Foster, has the experience, having competed at these World Junior Championships back in 2017. At just 15 years of age, the American took silver in the 200m back in a time of 1:57.87 and added another runner-up finish as a member of the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay.

#2 – Thomas Ceccon, Italy

Speaking of Thomas Ceccon, the 18-year-old Italian has been on a tear the past year or so, racking up international medals left and right. Starting with the 2018 European Junior Championships, Ceccon busted out double gold in the men’s 50m and 100m back, hitting times of 25.24 and 54.13 to add to 3 relay medals in Helsinki.

Moving on to the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, the Italian Junior Record holder showed his remarkable versatility, reaping gold in the 50m free in 22.33, followed by 2 silvers in the 50m back (25.27) and 200m IM (2:01.29), along with a bronze in the 100m back (53.65).

Ceccon continued to make waves at the Italian Nationals in Riccione this spring, with the teen producing his nation’s Junior National Record in the 100m back with a speedy 53.60. That time represents his seed for these Championships and marks the only competitor carrying a sub-54 second time into Budapest.

The Italian also holds Italy’s Junior Record in the 50m back in 25.16 and will be racing the 50m fly and 200m IM, where he holds the #1 and #2 seeds, respectively.

#3 – Federico Burdisso, Italy

Another Italian ready to make it happen in Budapest is 17-year-old butterfly beast Federico Burdisso. Sticking to his bread-and-butter events, the national record-holding teen is only racing the 100m and 200m fly individually, but that means he’ll be laser-focused on taking a stab at American Luca Urlando, the top-seeded 2flyer.

Burdisso raced the swim of his life at the 2019 Italian National Championships this spring in Riccione, firing off a new personal best and Italian National Record time of 1:54.64. That mark laid waste to the 1:55.97 he notched for bronze at last year’s European Championships and also outperformed the 1:57.16 he punched for 2fly bronze at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games.

His sub-1:55 time in Riccione wet his tastebuds for another monumental swim, which he threw down in Gwangju at the World Championships. Finishing in 4th place, only .24 away from bronze, Burdisso cranked out his best 2fly time yet, a quick 1:54.39 to make his presence known and lay claim to this event for elite meets to come.

#4 – Leon Marchand, France

17-year-old Léon Marchand had a breakthrough French Junior Nationals meet in April, producing multiple personal bests across several events, including the 200m breast, 200m fly and both IM distances. Just over 2 months later, Marchand one-upped himself with huge performances in Kazan to land on the podium twice at the European Junior Swimming Championships.

Entering Euro Jrs, Marchand’s personal best in the 200m IM rested at the 2:01.22 age record he established at April’s Junior Nationals. However, the teen found a way to drop that down to 2:00.66 in the semi-finals, ultimately finishing just off the podium in Kazan in 4th with a time of 2:01.14.

He did come up with hardware in the 200m breast, however, smashing his previous PB of 2:14.45 to a big-time mark of 2:12.17 to take the bronze. Marchand landed on the podium again with a bronze in the 400m IM, obliterating his previous age record of 4:19.41 from April with a shiny new lifetime best of 4:17.22.

Marchand holds personal bests of 53.70 in the 100m fly and 1:58.60 in the 200m fly as well.

#5 Shoma Sato, Japan

18-year-old Shoma Sato hasn’t competed too prevalently on the international circuit, but he carries the top time in the men’s 200m breaststroke to make him one to watch.

Sato notched a lifetime best of 2:09.42 at the Japan Swim, making him the only competitor of the field to own a time under the 2:10 threshold.

Although Sato will also be competing in the 50m and 100m breaststroke events as well, he is way more dangerous in the 200m distance. And he has pedigree on his side, with 3 of the 7 World Record holders in the event over the past decade stemming from Japan in Kosuke Kitajima, Akihiro Yamaguchi, and Ippei Watanabe.

#6 – Thomas Neill, Australia

Aussie Thomas Neill of Rackley has a solid domestic resume from the past couple of years.

In 2019 alone, Neill wracked up an impressive 5 individual titles at this year’s Australian Age Swimming Championships, reaping the top prize across the 200m/400m/800m/1500m free events, as well as the 200m IM. He also notched silver in the 400m IM and 100m freestyle for good measure.

At the Australian Senior Nationals, Neill hacked almost 5 solid seconds off his previous PB in the 400m free to collect a then-new personal best of 3:50.99. He took that mark down to entirely new territory with his first sub-3:50 time ever in 3:49.98 to place 5th in the Aussie World Championships Trials final. That time ranks him as the 3rd seeded swimmer here in Budapest.

#7 – Michael Pickett, New Zealand

Kiwi Michael Pickett owns the 3rd fastest 50m freestyle time of the field headed into Budapest, represented by the 22.34 he punched at the New Zealand Open Championships earlier this summer when he was just 16.

Now a 17-year-old, Picket is ready to drop more time, as has been his modus operandi of late. Entering the aforementioned Championships, North Shore’s Pickett’s lifetime best sat at the 22.66 he produced at the New Zealand Age Group Championships this past April. Before that, he competed at the Junior Pan Pacs Championships where he collected New Zealand’s only medal, a bronze in the 50m free in his first sub-23 second time ever.

Pickett did represent New Zealand in Gwangju where he put up a time of 22.59 for 38th place amind a stacked senior field.

#8 – Luca Urlando, USA

17-year-old Luca Urlando has been causing a big buzz in the United States, throwing down super quick times that rival some of the nation’s best-ever athletes at the same age and even beyond.

Urlando most recently rocked a big-time mark of 1:53.84 in the 200m fly at the TYR Pro Swim in Clovis back in June. That outing checked in as a new boys 17-18 American National Age Group Record. The swim lowered an iconic record that had stood since 2003 – Michael Phelps clocked a 1:53.93 in the semi-finals at the 2003 World Championships. This marked Urlando as the third-fastest American in history as just a teenager.

Urlando also rocks a lifetime best 100m fly of 52.04, as well as a 200m free of 1:46.51 notched at this summer’s U.S. Nationals. He carries that 2free time to enter Budapest as the top seed in that event, along with the 2fly.

#9 – Andrei Minakov, Russia

17-year old, American-trained Andrei Minakov won 6 gold medals and 1 silver medal at last year’s Youth Olympics and followed that up with more hardware at this year’s European Junior Championships.

In Kazan this year, Minakov came away with 4 gold, 1 silver, and 1 bronze medal, including an individual title in the 100 fly (51.66).

3 weeks later, he won individual silver at the senior edition of the World Championships, swimming a 50.83 Russian Record to finish 2nd to only American swimmer Caeleb Dressel. That was part of a 2 silver, 1 bronze medal meet overall for him.

#10 – Franko Grgic, Croatia

At just 16 years of age, Croatia’s Franko Grgic is on the younger end of the ‘ones to watch’ spectrum but still has written a solid swimming resume up until this point.

Swimming at the 2019 Croatian Team Championships in March, Grgic swam a 14:56.55 in the 1500m free. That time broke the old Croatian Record of 15:04.45 and made him the country’s first-ever swimmer under 15 minutes in the event.

Later this year, the teen collected 2 gold medals at the European Youth Olympic Festival in Baku, hitting a time of 3:52.10 in the 400m free and 15:04.75 in the 1500m free.

Here in Budapest, the Croatian is only entered in the 1500m and 800m free events, but he ranks as #1 and #3 (7:53.75), accordingly.

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 years ago

When the first line reads “American trained Minakov”, what do you mean by that? He is coached by Nikolai Lugovkin and lives in St Petersburg (the one in Russia). That he re TA chooses to hold his camps in California?

Reply to  Daden
3 years ago

He went to high school in California where he trained until recently. Did not he?

3 years ago

Carson Foster and Thomas Ceccon battling in the 200 IM. Maybe we’ll see a 1:57.

3 years ago

Start lists now available

3 years ago

Will be interesting to see if any junior world records will go down. I think men’s 200 free, men’s 200 breast and men’s 200 fly are the only ones under threat. On the women’s side i don’t see any junior world records going down.

Reply to  AnEn
3 years ago

The Men Medley and Mixed Medley has a shot of going down

McGill Rocks
Reply to  AnEn
3 years ago

Carson Foster can re-break his own in the 400 IM, Minakov is a threat in the 100 fly.

Coach MM
3 years ago

Murilo Sartori from Brazil should be pretty impressive also. He could be the key member to help Brazil 800free relay achieve a final in Tokyo.

Reply to  Coach MM
3 years ago

4th seed on 200 free.. and potential finalist on 100/400 also..
He just need to take out a bit faster to break the 1.47 barrier.. his 1.47.75 was 53.75/54.00 (26.20, 27.75, 27.25 and 27,76) , which is a pretty slow start.

Also he is the youngest of the top 4 (Urlando 3 months older is the favorite the other guys are 2001 born)

3 years ago

Good to see a promising your french men’s swimmer, feels they haven’t produced anyone new in years on the men’s side.

Texas Tap Water
3 years ago

“the Mason Manta Rays star clocked a monster time of 4:13.39, taking .61 off of the previous WJR held by Sean Grieshop, also of the U.S. since June 2016.”

Didn’t Kosuke Hagino swim 4:08.04 as a 17 yo in 2012 London Olympics?

Reply to  Texas Tap Water
3 years ago

FINA only started counting WJRs from 2014 onwards.

Reply to  Texas Tap Water
3 years ago

2012 was prior to FINA recognizing World Junior Records.

3 years ago

Where do these junior national records come from? Pretty sure Hagino’s 400IM time is much faster clocking at 4:08.94 during London Olympics 2012. He was only 17 at that time.

Reply to  Yunk
3 years ago

Pretty sure that FINA only started recording them since 2014 so none of Thorpes’ or Phelps’ times count (and others from prior to 2014).

Reply to  Yunk
3 years ago

They have not ratified Winnington’s 400 free from December 2018 either … Soooo slow …

Coach Mike 1952
Reply to  samesame
3 years ago

Probably don’t have the “budget” for it. A sad LOL

About Retta Race

Retta Race

Former Masters swimmer and coach Loretta (Retta) thrives on a non-stop but productive schedule. Nowadays, that includes having just earned her MBA while working full-time in IT while owning French 75 Boutique while also providing swimming insight for BBC.

Read More »