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.

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1 year ago

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it really seems like tougher events like mid-d strokes are being dominated by young swimmers while more explosive ones like the 50’s by veterans…
Maybe that can sound very obvious, but I feel like that’s the first time in history something like this is happening… And I wonder hoe that’s gonna look like in a few years from now.

Reply to  Observer
1 year ago

Dressel counts as a veteran?

JP input is too short
Reply to  Yabo
1 year ago

Got a full college career, an Olympics, and two LC World Champs under his belt, so yeah.

Reply to  JP input is too short
1 year ago

Not the kind of “veteran” I meant, but Dressel is one swimmer (even though he’s the champion)… I was talking about 25+ swimmers, old enough to compete masters

Reply to  Observer
1 year ago

In the US, you can compete in Masters at 18.

JP input is too short
Reply to  Observer
1 year ago

TBH, that’s a rather odd standard given the best 50 freestyler in the world (Dressel) is 23, the best 50 breaststroker (Peaty) 24, and best 50 backstroker (Kolesnikov) 19. Yes, Govorov is 27 for the best 50 flyer in the world.

12 of the 16 Worlds semifinalists in the 50 fly were under 25.
12 of the 16 in the 50 breast.
9 of the 16 in the 50 free.
11 of the 16 in the 50 back.

That is, if I counted right.

Texas Tap Water
Reply to  Observer
1 year ago

It’s always been the case that mid-d strokes dominated by younger swimmers and 50s by veterans. There are a few outliers of course, but in general mid-d strokes were always dominated by younger swimmers.

Reply to  Texas Tap Water
1 year ago

I think Ervin in 2000 and Chalmers (even though it’s 100) are the two big outliers for the sprints. Maybe Phelps 100 fly in Athens if you count that

Old Man Chalmers
Reply to  Pvdh
1 year ago

milak’s 100 fly in 2017, although he wasn’t number 1 in the world

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Observer
1 year ago

Define “tougher events.” They’re just different events. Unless this means that Dressel dodges all the tough events, then I’m with you.

Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
1 year ago

“common sense tough”… not saying the 50 free is not tough, but most here would agree a 200 fly is worse

Reply to  Observer
1 year ago

It’s always been like this. The combination of speed and stamina required by longer races favours the young. The only outlier I can think of is Federica Pellegrini.

Reply to  Luigi
1 year ago

Katinka is definitelly one of them medaling in so many events at the age of 30

1 year ago

Edwards- Smith of Australia in backstrokes too.

Daeleb Cressel
1 year ago

Minakov hasn’t been training in the States as of late

Reply to  Daeleb Cressel
1 year ago

Where was he training in US and with which coach?

Chaitha D.
Reply to  volmenusa
1 year ago

The terrapins swim team in Concord. I don’t know which coach tho.

Tea rex
Reply to  Daeleb Cressel
1 year ago

Is he going ncaa?

(G)olden Bear
Reply to  Tea rex
1 year ago

Likely after Tokyo.

About Retta Race

Retta Race

After 16 years at a Fortune 1000 financial company, long-time swimmer Retta Race decided to change lanes and pursue her sporting passion. She currently is Coach for the Northern KY Swordfish Masters, a team she started up in December 2013, while also offering private coaching. Retta is also an MBA …

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