Top 4 (+2 Bonus) Boys’ Storylines to Watch At the 2023 World Junior Championships

2023 World Junior Swimming Championships

The 2023 World Junior Championships will begin this Monday in Netanya, Israel. After the 2022 edition of the meet was rescheduled twice (once due to the pandemic and then again as a response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine), the meet is back to a larger size with the return of the U.S., Australia, China, and Canada.

Flynn Southam: Certified Sprint Star

After a taste of the big leagues at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, held last summer in Birmingham, England, Flynn Southam has exploded onto the sprinting world stage. At the Junior Pan-Pacs, he swept the 50, 100, and 200 frees, all in personal bests. He qualified for the 2023 World Championships in the 100 free and placed 11th overall. He also contributed by swimming the second leg of the gold medal-winning men’s 4×100 free relay as well as swimming in the heats of the men’s 4×200 free bronze medal-winning relay and gold medal-winning mixed 4×100 free.

In Netanya, Southam will have the middle lane in each of the prelim heats of the 50, 100, and 200 free. In the 50, he is entered with a time of 22.32, sitting ahead of the U.S.’s Diggory Dillingham’s 22.48 and Trinidad and Tobago’s Nikoli Blackman‘s time of 22.54. In the 100, Southam (47.77) sits over a second ahead of the 2nd seed, American Max Williamson (48.91), but faces much stiffer competition in the 200, where Bulgarian Petar Mitsin lies in wait with his 1:46.50 entry time, just .26 behind Southam’s 1:46.50.

Petar Mitsin on the Hunt

Speaking of Mitsin, the Bulgarian will be taking on a heavy schedule of the 200, 400, and 800 free, as well as the 100 and 200 butterfly. Mitsin had an explosive summer, winning the 200, 400, and 800 free (all in new personal bests) at the 2023 European Junior Championships.

Of particular note was the 3:44.31 winning time in the 400, a time that not only represented a new PB by close to four seconds but also a new World Junior Record (technically, Ian Thorpe’s 3:40.59  is the fastest by a junior, but it is not ratified as a record). Mitsin’s time would have qualified him as the 4th fastest swimmer out of prelims at the 2023 Worlds (3rd was Guilherme Costa’s 3:44.17) and would have placed 8th in the finals (7th was Elijah Winnington’s 3:44.26).

Mitsin sits nearly three seconds ahead of Romania’s Vlad Stancu in the 400 and by just over two seconds in the 800. The aforementioned Southam will prove the biggest competition in the 200 free, as the pair are the only two with entry times under 1:47.  In the 200 fy, Mitsin also finds himself as the 2nd seed, just .16 behind the entry time of 1:57.68, which belongs to China’s Wang Xizhe and in the 100 fly Mitsin is the 17th seed.

Can Diehl Deal with 5 Events (Plus Relays)

Much like Mitsin, Daniel Diehl finds himself entered in five individual events. He will contest all three backstroke events, entering as the 4th seed in the 50 (25.28) behind top-seeded Czech swimmer Miroslav Knedla (24.75). In the 100, Diehl and Knedla swap spots, with Diehl taking the top billing with a time of 53.07, a full second faster than the 2nd seed, Ulises Saravia, and in the 200, Diehl is entered with 1:56.04 and only sits behind Ukraine’s Oleksandr Zheltyakov’s 1:55.79.

His other two individual events are the 100 free and 200 IM. In these events, he sits behind teammate Max Williamson, and in the 100, he and Williamson are both over a second behind Southam.

While there are swimmers entered in more events (Botswana’s Melodi Saleshando is entered in ten), when Diehl‘s projected relays are taken into account, he will have a very busy schedule. On day 2, he could have a triple of the 100 back finals, 200 IM finals, and 4×100 mixed medley relay, and on day 6, he could swim in the finals of the 100 free and 200 back, which are only separated by one event (the women’s 200 breast), as well as the finals of the 4×100 medley relay. If he makes the finals in all of his events, Diehl is projected to swim 13 times individually and likely on at least four relays.

After finishing a tantalizing 3rd at the 2023 U.S. Trials (and in a time that would have finished 6th at Worlds), it will be very interesting to see not only how Diehl deals with the crowded schedule but also if he can drop even more time, in preparation for the 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials.

Breaststroke Wide Open

This section was going to be about Singapore’s Nick Mahabir and his quest to sweep the breaststroke events. He was seeded 1st in the 100 breast, with the only time sub-1:00, in fact, the only time sub-1:01. In the 200, he was also the top seed but by a much closer margin, only sitting .02 ahead of the 2nd seed and in the 50 he was seeded 4th, but within .50 of the top seed.

With his withdrawal due to illness, the breaststroke events now all have different top seeds. In the 100, Kazakh Arsen Kozhakhmetov took over as the top seed with a time of 1:01.00, and with four other swimmers under 1:02, this race certainly got more competitive. In the 200, Hong Kong’s Sai Ting Adam Mak is now the top seed and the only swimmer with an entry time under 2:12. Japan’s Yamato Okadome is slightly back at 2:12.86. The top seed in the 50 remains the same (as Mahabir was the 4th seed), with Indonesia’s Felix Iberle’s 27.56 (his only event) remaining at the top.

With Mahabir out, Okadome may have the best chance to sweep the event as he is the 3rd seed in the 50 and the new 2nd seed in both the 100 and 200.

Bonus: Relays & The Next Step

  • As with the girls, the return of Australia and the U.S. puts immediate pressure upon the defending champions in the relays. Last year in Lima, Romania (with Popovici) won the 4×100 free in 3:18.84, Italy won the 4×200 free in 7:17.08, and Poland won the 4×100 medley in 3:40.17. At Junior Pan Pacs, however, the Americans and Australians took top honors in all of the relays in times faster than those at World Juniors. In fact, even the 2nd place team’s times at Junior Pan Pacs were faster than the winning times at World Juniors.
    • The US set the World Junior Record in the 4×100 free relay with a time of 3:15.79 but lost all but Diehl from that relay, and while the Aussies were well back in 2nd with a time of 3:18.06, they certainly cannot be counted out, especially when taking into account Southam’s improvement.
  • Flynn Southam is not the only male swimmer to be pulling double duty this year. Canadian Lorne Wigginton swam the 400 IM in Fukuoka, placing 9th in a time of 4:13.75. He has expanded his event list in Netanya to include the 400 and 1500 free as well as the 200 IM. Much like Southam, Diehl, and Mitsin, Wigginton and many others will look to use this meet as a springboard into 2024 and the Olympics to prove that they are capable of making the A-finals at senior international meets like the Olympics.
    • Wigginton was only .90 off of making the 400 IM finals, and Southam was just .09 away from the finals of the 100 free.
    • Diehl and Mitsin did not attend the 2023 Worlds but put up times in other meets (U.S. Trials and European Juniors, respectively ) that could easily have A-finaled.

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3 months ago

Curious to watch swimming 16 year-old Chinese Zhang Zhanshuo: he has swum great times at Nationals in early May from 400 to 1500 free and in the IMs, so (as usual) different scenarios for him: 1) a further rise (and this would be really remarkable), 2) swimming around his PBs on international stages (and this would be good), 3) swimming slower than his PBs (and this would be “average”).

3 months ago

Would have loved to have seen the Heilman, Diehl, Williamson, Winkler 4×100. A bunch of factors prevented it from happening, but that would have been special

Swim Nerd
3 months ago

Canadian team looking very strong this year on the men’s side. Wigginton seeded 2nd in the 400 IM will definitely be looking to prove what he can do and Filip Senc-Samardzic in 4th for the 100 fly. So excited to see what they can do and how they contribute to some relays

3 months ago

Max Williamson uses pronouns “dawg, him, him”

3 months ago

Daniel is the real Diehl. Him and Maximus are going to be huge for USA here.

Reply to  SwimFASTER
3 months ago

This comment been bookmarked by writers everywhere. Can see it being used at the first opportunity. And for the kid’s sake, I hope you’re right, good luck to him.

3 months ago

I love Flynn Southam but I’m not going to overhype him just yet .. for me rookie Kai Taylor was more impressive at Worlds than him overall

Reply to  Verram
3 months ago

Whats not impressive about southam as a teenager at his first world championships coming 11th overall in the 100 free?

Reply to  Danny
3 months ago

i didnt say he was NOT impressive, but if were gonna hype it up, it has to be commensurate to his latest performances, ie World Champs? Thats why im not overhyping him

Reply to  Verram
3 months ago

He was unfortunately one of the very few Australians who was slower at Worlds than trials. Even so, he’s ranked 11th in the world for the 100 free this year and is the fastest junior by over a second. I would have liked to see a little more from him at worlds but he’s still got a lot of potential and room to improve.

However, Taylor definitely stepped up at Worlds and seems a strong candidate for Paris.

Swim Dad2008
3 months ago

L Wigginton…. such big things coming for this 🇨🇦 🦖!!!

Bo Swims
Reply to  Swim Dad2008
3 months ago

Lets goooo 🦖🦖

3 months ago

Of the 42 contested events for men and women, I count 8 for which TEAM USA does not have any real chance to medal. if that guess [and it’s just that!] is even ballpark correct, then both men’s and women’s teams should be very much in the hunt for being at the top of the medals table, no matter how one counts medals (total golds? total medals?)

3 months ago

Yes, I think it’s pretty much expected that USA will top the medal table every time. USA’s population/infrastructure advantage is even more pronounced in juniors because other countries who rely on a few big stars can only use them for a couple of years before they age out

Fukuoka Gold
3 months ago

If we use total medal (instead of gold-silver-bronze), USA will always win medal table until the day when China replace them.