The FINA World Junior Swimming Championships have often served as the barometer for the future talent of the sport. Beginning in 2006, the event has offered an opportunity for the world’s best junior athletes to race against each other in what is oftentimes their first taste at international racing.
Many of the current best swimmers in the world have competed in this meet, including Olympic champions Caeleb Dressel (2013), Penny Oleksiak (2015), Kristof Milak (2017), and most recently world record holders Benedetta Pilato (2019) and Thomas Ceccon (2019) among many, many others.
Lima will serve as world juniors host for the second time, having previously hosted in 2011, albeit at a different facility, where future Olympic champions Gregorio Paltrinieri, Ryan Murphy and Simone Manuel would stand on the podium as their blossoming careers had only just begun.
Looking ahead to this year’s World Juniors meet in Lima at the Videna Aquatics Center, which previously hosted the 2019 Pan American Games here are some of the top names to keep an eye out for when the meet runs from 30 August - 4 September.
Age: 17; Events: 100m and 200m Freestyle
It’s the end of a long summer for the 17-year-old as the new world record holder will be swimming in his last meet as a junior before he embarks on his international senior journey. Popovici broke the world record in the 100m freestyle this summer at 46.86, and also swam the fastest 200m free by anyone in 13 years at 1:42.97. Both swims also stand as world junior records. Coming off of two gold medals at the Worlds in Budapest, Popovici will be the main attraction in the Peruvian capital as all eyes will be on the clock when he swims his two main events - the 100m and 200m free.
Age: 17; Events: 50m, 100m, 200m Backstroke
Masiuk broke through for a bronze medal in Budapest in the 50m backstroke in June and will be looking to follow up a strong showing in Hungary as he is the top seed in all three backstroke races. Although the 50m was where he got his first international senior medal, his highest world ranking is in the 100m where he is sixth globally at 52.58 after finishing sixth in the Worlds final. At just 17, Masiuk is one of the faces of a resurgent Polish national team that could certainly make some noise in Lima.
Age: 15; Events: 200m, 400m IM, 200m Backstroke
Had Narita swum at the World Championships in June, she could have been a major player for the podium in the 400m IM where her best time of 4:36.71 briefly stood as the world junior record this year. At just 15-years-old, Narita is the top seed in both IMs and will also be a factor amongst the stacked 200m backstroke field where she is seeded third behind two swimmers (Dora Molnar and Laura Bernat) who made the semifinals at the World Championships in Budapest. This could be the breakout moment for a young Narita swimming in her first international meet.
Age: 17; Events: 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m Freestyle
Tuncel is no stranger to international swimming. Having already made her Olympic debut last year, the 17-year-old ranks as high as 11th in the 800m freestyle this year with her 8:24 at the European Championships. Tuncel, who was as high as 11th in Tokyo in the 1500m, will be racing the 200m free all the way up to the 1500m. She has a very real chance to win all three distance races, much like Lani Pallister did in Budapest three years ago. Tuncel is one of the faces of a young Turkish national team that has started to make its presence known on the international senior stage.
Age: 16; Events: 100m and 200m Backstroke
Just a couple days before her 16th birthday in June, Molnar made her senior Worlds debut with a seventh place finish in the 200m back in front of a home crowd in Budapest. Now her attention shifts to World Juniors where she is the top seed in both the 100m and 200m backstroke. Her best 200m back time this year (2:09.34) puts her 13th in the world rankings as she will be in for a fight against the aforementioned Narita of Japan and Laura Bernat of Poland.
Age: 18; Events: 400m, 800m, 1500m Freestyle; 400m IM
South America’s best chance for a gold medal could perhaps come from Brazil’s Steverink, who is the top seed in the 400m IM, and will also race the three distance freestyle events. The 18-year-old has been as fast as a 4:16 this year in the IM, which puts him 34th in the world for 2022. Steverink did race at Worlds in Budapest, placing 16th in his major international debut. He has a history of racing in Peru, winning five medals at the South American Youth Swimming Championships in late 2021. Now Steverink enters as the man to beat in the 400m IM ahead of the Japanese duo of 16-year-old Riku Yamaguchi and 15-year-old Riki Abe.
Age: 18; Events: 400m and 800m Freestyle, 100m and 200m Butterfly, 400m IM
One of the other members of Poland’s strong junior team, Krzysztof Chmielewski is ranked 12th in the world this year in the 200m butterfly at age 18 and is also a strong distance swimmer where he is ranked 45th in the world in the 800m free and 65th in the 400m. Chmielewski was ninth at the Worlds in Budapest this year in the 200m butterfly when he just missed making the final, but he swam a lifetime best in the process. Chmielewski also has a twin brother Michal, who is ranked 34th in the world in the 200 fly. The two brothers went 1-2, led by Krzysztof, at last year’s European Juniors in the 200m fly, and will do battle one more time as juniors before their senior careers begin.
Age: 16; Events: 50M, 100M, 200M Backstroke; 50m Butterfly
Perhaps Peru’s best swimmer at the meet, Sotomayor is seeded as high as eighth in the 50m back (29.37) and ninth in the 200m back (2:15.03). The host nation is sending a large delegation of 23 total athletes, and Sotomayor would provide a huge spark for the Lima crowd if she can advance to a final in any of her three events.
Age: 17; Events: 50m and 100m Butterfly; 50m and 100m Freestyle
The 17-year-old ranks as high as 13th in the world in the 50m butterfly, 22nd in the 100m fly, and 40th in the 100m free. The lone representative for Portugal could be in for a big medal haul if he is to continue his momentum from the European Championships.
Age: 18; Events: 50m, 100m, 200m Backstroke, 100m Freestyle, 50m and 100m Butterfly
Ranked behind Masiuk on the psych sheet, 18-year-old Pieter Coetze had a strong showing at this year’s Commonwealth Games for South Africa, having won gold in the 100m, silver in the 50m, and bronze in the 200m. However it is the 200m where his world ranking is the highest at 14th while he is 22nd in the 100m. If anyone can beat Masiuk to the wall in any of the three distances, it could be Coetze.
Age: 16; Events: 100m and 200m Freestyle
The 16-year-old Padar had a strong showing at the European Championships earlier this month, putting herself as high as 33rd in the world in the 200m free. Having already accumulated ten medals at the European Juniors in 2021 and 2022, she takes her talents to the global level where she is the top seed in both the 100m and 200m freestyle.
Age: 16; Events: 50m, 100m, 200m Backstroke
Bernat was 11th at this year’s Worlds in the 200m back and was the European Junior champion in 2021. With the impending matchup between Narita and Molnar, Bernat could be in for a real good race when she lines up for the 200m back, and will also factor into the medals for the 50m and 100m.