On the first day of the 2022 Junior Pan Pacific Championships, Canadian swimmer Adam Wu (also known as Yu Tong Wu) had two massive swims in the 200 free, where he dropped nearly three seconds off his best time throughout the course of prelims and finals. He came into this meet with a lifetime best of 1:51.12, proceeded to go 1:50.11 in prelims, and capped things off with a 1:48.26 in finals to take bronze.
Wu is now the #3 ranked Canadian 200 freestyler this year, just behind Ruslan Gaziev and Finlay Knox, who went 1:47.44 and 1:47.92 respectivley at April’s World Championships trials. In addition, his time is also the second-fastest 18-and-under performance by a Canadian, with only Markus Thormeyer having been faster at age 18 when he clocked a time of 1:48.19.
This fall, Wu is headed to swim collegiately at Columbia University in the United States. His breakout international success begs us to ask: how much of an impact is he going to have on the Lions? The answer is that he could potentially become the program’s best middle-distance swimmer in history.
First off, Columbia didn’t have a single ‘A’ or ‘B’ finalist in the men’s 200 free at the 2022 Ivy League Championships. Their top finisher was Tristian Pagnell, who placed 18th in the ‘C’ final with a 1:38.11. Wu has never competed in short course yards before, but his long course personal best would have converted to a yards time of 1:34.01 (using the Swimulator real-time converter). Not only would that time have taken second overall at the meet behind Dean Farris, but it is also faster than Columbia’s school record, which is a 1:34.31 held by Nianguo Lu.
In the 800 free relay at Ivies, Columbia finished in dead-last as Seungjoon Ahn (1:38.15), Kyle Won (1:39.78), Stanford Li (1:38.06), and Demirkan Demir (1:35.90) combined for a time of 6:31.89. If you swap Won’s time with Wu’s converted time, the total adds up to 6:26.25, which would have moved them up to fifth place.
Wu’s converted 200 free time also puts him within a second of NCAA qualification. Columbia already had one NCAA swimming qualifier last year—Ivy League champion Demir, who raced in the prelims of the 100 and 200 breast. Like Wu, Demir has seen international success in his past, most notably when he took bronze at the 2019 European Junior Championships. If Wu ends up qualifying to NCAAs alongside Demir next year, it will be the first time since 2014 that Columbia had more than one men’s swimmer compete at the meet. In addition, Wu also would become Columbia’s first-ever men’s NCAA qualifier in middle-distance freestyle, as no swimmer in program history has ever made the meet in the 200 or 500 free.
And while 1:48.26/1:34.01 isn’t exactly huge from a national standpoint, it’s a big deal for an incoming freshman going to a school that doesn’t have a top NCAA swimming program. In fact, Wu’s converted 200 free time is just 0.21 off Michael Cotter‘s best yards time of 1:33.80, which is the fastest time in the U.S. boys’ class of 2022.
Wu’s impact extends beyond the 200 free though, as he also had a strong showing at Junior Pan Pacs in the 200 fly. There, he put up a 1:59.99 to finish fifth in the finals, dropping over a half a second from his previous personal best of 2:00.67. 1:59.99 in long course converts to approximately 1:44.83 in yards, a time that would have made the finals at 2022 Ivies and placed fourth. Columbia already had an Ivies finalist in the 200 fly—Ahn, who finished third in 1:43.75. Aside from him though, not a single Lion placed top 1, so Wu would be a huge boost in that event as well.
From just the 200 free and 200 fly alone, Wu would score 54 individual points at 2022 Ivies from his converted best times. Only two Columbia swimmers managed to beat that: 100 breast conference champion and 200 breast runner-up Demir scored 72, and 100 fly runner-up and 50 free third place finisher Jonas Nevil Kistorp scored 70.
Later at Junior Pan Pacs, Wu is set to swim the 100 and 400 free, where he holds long course personal bests of 51.24 and 3:54.81 respectively. If he makes similar drops in both events, the discussion of his potential impact for Columbia could get even more interesting. It’s rare to see an incoming freshman male swimmer arrive at a small mid-major program with the capability to become the team’s best-ever swimmer in an event, let alone come close to some of the top swimmer in his class (such as Cotter, who is headed to a top five NCAA program in NC State).
So with Wu being this good at a young age, what could the future hold for him and Columbia? Obviously, meters and yards are very different forms of swimming, and sometimes success in one course doesn’t transfer to another. However, the potential is there, and it’s just a matter of if he’s going to reach it.