Swimming World Juniors, Day 6, Singapore: Gunes’s blast would have earned her the title in Kazan as well!

FINA World Junior Swimming Championships

Just as in Dubai, Australia tops the medal table with a 9-7-3 tally (they had 10-6-2 in 2013) and the USA earned the most medals, 26 (6-13-7 – in 2013: 9-7-12, 28) and captured the Championship Trophy. Fifteen World Junior Records and 38 Championship Records fell during the six days. The last session brought a truly outstanding swim: Victoria Gunes (TUR) clocked better time in the 200m breaststroke than the eventual world champion in Kazan at the ‘big’ World Championships! She was crowned the best female swimmer of the meet while among the men the versatile Michael Andrew of the USA earned this honour.

A never seen feat on the closing day of the 5th FINA World Junior Swimming Championships: the winning time would have been enough to earn the gold medal at the ‘big’ World Championships! Turkey’s Viktoria Gunes produced that amazing swim: her 2:19.64 blast in the 200m breaststroke was way better than the world champion’s time from Kazan. There, Japan’s Kanako Watanabe clocked 2:21.15 – here, in Singapore Gunes even threatened the senior WR, she was just 0.53sec away, and set the bar really high for future generation to beat this World Junior Record.

The former Ukrainian swimmer is now a proud owner of 8 world junior medals (!) as under the name of Viktoriya Solnceva she clinched three already in Dubai 2013 (one colour each, gold in the 200m there, too) and she earned four titles in Singapore, the treble in the breaststroke and the gold of the 200m IM.

“It’s amazing…” Gunes looked for words after the race. “This time… Seriously… I don’t know, how… I tried to break 2:22 many times… When I saw 2:19 on the board, I thought it should be wrong… It cannot be mine… It must be great what my parents feel now in Turkey. My Mom is crying, for sure.”

Viktoria Gunes / (TUR) and Michael Andrew (USA) photo credit: Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia

As for the comparison with Kazan (where she finished 11th with 2:24.01 in the semis), she added: “I know that I could have swum better in Kazan. There were too much pressure for me, here I knew I could win and had to focus to achieve the best time I could. That’s amazing that I’m so close to the senior world record… We have to work on…

The usual flood of finals on the last day wrote other remarkable stories as well. The session began with a double: Australia’s Kyle Chalmers became the men’s sprinting king of the meet by adding the 100m crown to his win in the dash while beating the Championship Record (48.47). He was 0.4sec ahead of Maxime Rooney of the USA.

“I put focus on my speed in the last two months, and hoped to have some good individual swims here and I’m pretty happy with the one tonight” Chalmers said. “It’s really special as my whole family is here, my grandparents, my little brother, Mom and Dad, looking up to the stands and seeing them is just awesome.”

Kyle Chalmers (AUS) photo credit: Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia

And another double followed a bit later, Japan’s Rikako Ikee, just 15 years of age, won the 100m fly with 58.28 (new CR), 0.22sec ahead of Penny Oleksiak of Canada. Ikee also triumphed in the 50m fly, beating the Canadian there by 0.17sec.

After some ups and downs, Hugo Gonzalez reached the top and earned the first title for Spain: the 16 year-old was disqualified in the 200m IM (he came second in that event), earned a bronze in the 400m IM and now managed to capture the 200m back title in a thrilling race. US’ Michael Taylor was in the lead on lane 1 but Gonzalez’s speed was unmatchable in the last 20m, he reached the wall 0.28sec ahead of Taylor, the other American, Hugo Katz came a further 0.12sec apart.

I didn’t expect to win here” Gonzalez said. “I didn’t see anyone, just concentrated on my swim. It’s huge that I could do that…

The men’s 1500m free offered a truly magnificent contest. Brazil’s Brandonn Almeida yesterday was finished off by US Sean

Grieshop in the 400m IM – but he bounced back and just did the same in the final of the 30-lappers, this time he came from behind to pass USA’s Taylor Abbott in the last 20 metres. Though Abbott built a 3sec lead by the 800m mark, Almeida switched gears after 1000m and started to clock 30.5sec legs while Abbott produced 30.7-30.9sec splits. And the substantial lead started to melt, at the last turn only 0.64sec remained from it and that wasn’t enough against the Brazilian’s devastating speed in the last leg which also secured the first title for his country in Singapore.

Brandonn Almeida (BRA) photo credit: Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia

“Yesterday I didn’t swim well in the 400m IM, I talked to my coach, who told me, ‘Go, go, go, you can do it!’ and I just did that” Almeida said. “I’m really excited now but in the meantime I’m pretty tired and really happy!”

The women’s dash saw Russia’s Mariia Kameneva making the luckier touch at the wall, but this is an example when sport gives something back: she was just 0.02sec shy of the silver in the 50m fly – that title had gone to Ikee (JPN) who came 0.07sec behind Kameneva this time (just 35min after the victorious 100m fly final). Australia’s Shayna Jack was also close, she arrived a further 0.05sec behind for the third place.

“This was my last race so it was a kind of ‘all in’ effort. I gave what I had, and I’m happy to earn the gold with this. Now I can go home!” Kameneva smiled.

Another double was in sight, this time for Russia’s Daniil Pakhomov who had won the 100m and seemed to be on his way to capture the gold in the 200m fly but Japan’s Nao Horomura produced a tremendous finish to deny his rival by 0.13sec at the end (1:56.80). Still, Pakhomov can be proud of a full set of fly medals (gold in 100m, silver in 200m, bronze in 50m).
“As the team captain it was really important to show something special and I’m happy I could do that on this last day. But I have to work hard to improve in the future” Horomura said.

The last day brought another nation’s first: Lithuania also appears among the gold medal winners, courtesy of Andrius Sidlauskas who managed to finish atop in the 50m breaststroke (27.99). It couldn’t have been any tighter, Nicolo Martinenghi of Italy was just 0.04sec behind the Lithuanian and Nikola Obrovac was also ‘around’, just 0.12sec shy of the winner. He was still happy as his bronze put Croatia to the medal table. In this event, the previous day’s heroes couldn’t make wonders: Anton Chupkov (RUS), winner of the 100m and 200m, finished 7th, while Michael Andrew couldn’t add another medal to his impressive dash-tally: after the gold in the back and silvers in the fly and free, he finished 8th in the breast. Still, he was crowned the man of the meet with 13 points (he won 5 medals – 1-3-1), just one more than Chupkov earned.

Canada’s Taylor Ruck crowned her Singapore performance with another gold medal, making the 100m-200m free double. One of the most promising stars of the current field left no doubt of winning the 200m, though Russia’s Arina Openysheva was really fast in the last leg, Ruck still had a 0.41 winning margin. She set a CR, as usual (1:57.87), and finished the event with a meet-high 6 medals (3-1-2) among the girls, thanks to three podium-finishes in the relays.

“I just used my starting speed and tried to hold on to it” Ruck said with. “I’m excited to set another record, I worked really hard for that. And I want to go on like this, keep working hard. Actually, it doesn’t feel that I’m really buoyant, but I guess it looks like that.”

Taylor Ruck (CAN) photo credit: Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia

As for the relays of the final day, the battles of the medley quartets didn’t disappoint this time either. Both World Junior Records fell, the Russian men didn’t leave any chance for the others with two world champions on board (Chupkov and Pakhomov) and smashed the record by 1.58sec (3:36.44). The US came second, trailing by 1.07sec, while the Aussies got the bronze, which was risked a bit at the last take-over but Chalmers was just inside the limit (–0.02sec).

The last WJR to fall was the global mark in the women’s medley relay, downed by the Russians again (4:01.05). Their great effort also put them ahead of the USA (just as in Dubai) on the medal table. A bit surprisingly, the Americans couldn’t catch a title in the last day’s 11 finals, their seven medal-haul didn’t include a gold on Sunday (0-4-3), while the Russians also captured seven medals but the colours were much different (3-3-1).

All in all, 15 World Junior Records and 38 Championship Records were bettered in Singapore. It’s magnificent, as the Dubai meet set the bar high where the world’s best teenaged swimmers had clocked 47 Championship Records but the new aces here managed to outperform most of their predecessors two years later. Interestingly, almost all women’s event (13 out of 17) saw at least one new CR, and WJRs were brought down in all but one relays.

Just as in 2013, 20 nations shared the medals, this time, however, 15 countries could earn at least a gold respectively, compared to 2013, when only 12 nations travelled home with at least one title.

The Championship Trophy went to the USA, with 973 points, ahead of Russia (755) and Australia (699).

As for the individual merits, Kyle Chalmers (AUS) won the most medals, seven (3-3-1, two in individual events and five in relays), Anton Chupkov and Victoria Gunes (TUR) captured the most titles (4 apiece), and the Turkish finished atop in the individual race for the FINA Trophy with 24 points, Minna Atherton was ranked second with 21. These two produced the best swims, Gunes’s extraordinary 200m breast is worth 988 FINA points, while Atherton’s WJR in the 100m back amounts 928, the same as Anton Chupkov’s 200m breast which tops the boy’s FINA points ranks.

Team AUS photo credit: Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia

Seeing the efforts of these young greats, we are eagerly waiting them to make the headlines in the senior field pretty soon, as the Dubai heroes did in the following years: Ruta Meilutyte, Mack Horton and James Guy, just to name those reaching the farthest.

The overall medal table

AUS    9    7    3    19
RUS    7    4    10    21
USA    6    13    7    26
TUR    4    0    0    4
CAN    3    6    3    12
JPN    3    1    2    6
CHN    2    2    1    5
ITA    1    2    3    6
BRA    1    2    1    4
GBR    1    1    5    7
ESP    1    1    3    5
LTU    1    0    1    2
NZL    1    0    1    2
ROU    1    0    0    1
UKR    1    0    0    1
SWE    0    2    0    2
HUN    0    1    0    1
CRO    0    0    1    1
EGY    0    0    1    1
VEN    0    0    1    1


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