The ninth World Junior Swimming Championships will get underway next Monday, 4 September, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in Israel as some of the future aquatic stars will be on display across the six days. For some, this will be their first time racing in an international meet, while for some this will be what sparks their dreams that they could be on top of the world one day.

Some of the current world record holders in 2023 were once competitors at the World Juniors, including France’s Leon Marchand, Australia’s Mollie O’Callaghan and Italy’s Thomas Ceccon.

The meet will be held at the Wingate Institute in Netanya, a training facility that has produced some of the best athletes in Israel. The facility hosted the 2015 European Short Course Swimming Championships.

Last year, the World Juniors were held in Lima, Peru, where world record holder David Popovici closed out his junior career in style with three gold medals and a silver, while Portugal’s Diogo Ribeiro set the world junior record in the 50m butterfly.

Here are 12 swimmers you have to watch at this year’s World Juniors

Lana Pudar- Bosnia & Herzegovina

Age: 17; Events: 50m, 100m, 200m butterfly

Image Source: Clive Rose/Getty Images

Pudar has the highest world ranking amongst the entrants for the World Juniors in Netanya as she is ranked fourth in the world for 2023 in the 200m butterfly. Padar nearly won her first medal at the World Aquatics Championships last month in Fukuoka with her fourth place finish in the 200m butterfly.

Padar has a fair amount of experience at age 17, finishing 19th at the Tokyo Olympics two years ago in the 100m butterfly and winning the 200m butterfly at last year’s European Aquatics Championships in Rome. Padar was also named the Bosnian Sportsperson of the Year for 2022 as she will take aim at Claire Curzan’s world junior record in the 100m butterfly at 56.43 this week in Israel.


Oleksandr Zheltiakov - Ukraine

Age: 17; Events: 50m, 100m 200m backstroke


Zheltiakov is the highest ranked male swimmer competing in Netanya as his 200m backstroke of 1:55.79 from the European Juniors in July puts him sixth in the world for 2023. Last year, Zheltiakov competed at the Worlds in Budapest where he was 21st in the 100m and 23rd in the 200m backstroke. Zheltiakov did not compete at the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka this year, where his time would have placed him fourth in the final, as he is going all in on Netanya. The men’s backstroke fields are particularly stacked with the likes of American Daniel Diehl and the Czech Republic’s Miroslav Knedla as the challengers in the 100m and 50m events, and Zheltiakov will be in the thick of it in all three finals if he is on form.

Petar Mitsin- Bulgaria

Age: 18; Events: 200m, 400m, 800m freestyle; 100m, 200m butterfly

Mitsin is the only current holder of a junior world record to be competing in Netanya as his 3:44.31 in the 400m freestyle set earlier this summer at the European Juniors in July was a head-turning swim.

The Bulgarian will be racing the 200m, 400m, and 800m freestyle events along with the 100m and 200m butterfly and will be a medal favorite in all five. If Mitsin can follow up his swims from Belgrade in July, he will certainly vault himself into future stardom consideration as he moves forward in his career.

Eneli Jefimova - Estonia

Age: 16; Events: 50m, 100m, 200m breaststroke

Image Source: Eneli Jefimova (R) of Team Estonia competes in the Women's 50m Breaststroke semis at the 2022 World Aquatics Championships (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Jefimova is finishing up a long summer of racing where she won two golds at the European Juniors in July and followed that up with two finals appearances in the 50m and 100m breaststrokes at the World Aquatics Championships later that month. Jefimova has already collected a fair amount of success in her career at age 16, having been one of the youngest swimmers to compete at the Tokyo Olympics two years ago where she reached the semi-finals in the 100m. Jefimova is the top seed in both the 50m and 100m breaststrokes in Netanya and the second seed in the 200m.

Flynn Southam - Australia

Age: 18; Events: 50m, 100m, 200m freestyle

Image Source: Flynn Southam competes for Australia in the Men's 4 x 100m Free Relay Final at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships (Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

Southam made a big jump last month at the World Championships in Fukuoka when he swam on Australia’s gold medal winning 4x100m freestyle relay team. Southam will be the top seed in the 50m, 100m, and 200m freestyle in Netanya and will be relied upon heavily on relays for Team Australia.

The world junior records set last year by Romania’s Popovici are probably out of reach for Southam, who was a 47.77 in June to sit just outside the global top ten. But he has usurped himself as a future star in Australia, as he reached the semi-finals at the Worlds in Fukuoka last month in the 100m freestyle.

Leah Hayes - United States

Age: 17; Events: 200m, 400m IM; 200m freestyle

Image Source: Istvan Derencsenyi/World Aquatics

Hayes is the only swimmer on this list to have already won an individual medal at the World Aquatics Championships, which she did last year at age 16 in the 200m IM in Budapest. Hayes has since lost her world junior record in the event, but has not lost her competitive edge as she will compete in the 200m and 400m IM as well as the 200m freestyle. She has already proven herself on the world’s biggest stage, and it will be a challenge for anyone to take her down in either the 200m or 400m IM as she is nearly three seconds faster than the second seed in both races.

Honourable Mentions

Daria Golovaty - Israel

Age: 18; Events: 100m, 200m, 400m freestyle

Image Source: Daria Golovaty (far right) of Israel competes in the Women's 50m Freestyle Heats at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships (Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Golovaty is perhaps Israel’s best chance for a medal as she is seeded second in the 200m freestyle and sixth in the 100m freestyle. Golovaty has already swum in two World Championships at the senior level as she is one of the more experienced swimmers competing in Netanya. Last month in Fukuoka at the World Championships, Golovaty was 27th in the 200m freestyle and the year before in Budapest, she was 23rd. The 200m freestyle will certainly be a marquee event on the final night as the Israeli will definitely hear the cheers of the crowd.


Riku Yamaguchi- Japan

Age: 17; Events: 200m, 400m IM; 200m breaststroke

Image Source: Riku Yamaguchi of Japan competes in Men's 400m IM Heats at the 2022 World Junior Swimming Championships in Lima (Raul Sifuentes/Getty Images)

Yamaguchi is the sole male Japanese champion from last year’s meet in Lima to return in 2023 (Japan's Mizuki Hirai also does so in 100m fly on the women's side) as he won the 2022 400m IM gold by nearly three full seconds. Yamaguchi will have his hands full to repeat this year as he will be pushed by teammate Tomoyuki Matsushita as they look to eventually maybe take the torch from Daiya Seto as the best 400m IM’er in Japan. The Japanese have produced great 400m IM’ers in recent years and Yamaguchi is certainly one to watch moving forward in that event.


Kuzey Tuncelli- Turkey

Age: 16; Events: 800m, 1500m freestyle


Tuncelli turned a lot of heads in April when he swam 14:56 in the 1500m freestyle at age 15 at the Turkish Open. He followed that up in July with a 14:58 to win the European Juniors in Belgrade to prove that wasn’t a fluke. Having just turned 16 on August 30, his attention turns to World Juniors where he is the top seed in the 1500m and the third seed in the 800m behind the aforementioned Mitsin and last year’s three-time junior Worlds medalist Vlad Stancu of Romania. Tuncelli is the youngest male swimmer to break 15:00 in the 1500m all-time, and if he can finish off this impressive season with World Juniors gold, it would certainly boost his profile internationally.


Teagan O’Dell - United States

Age: 16; Events: 50m, 100m, 200m backstroke

Image Source: Teagan O'Dell at the 2022 TYR Pro Swim Series in Mission Viejo, California. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

O’Dell first caught the attention of American audiences when she broke a Missy Franklin national age group record at 12, and she has progressed nicely into one of the top teenage swimmers in the world. O’Dell is the top seed in the 100m and 200m backstroke, where she is ranked as high as 21st in the world in the 200m. The Americans have a rich history in backstroke and she will be joined by teammates Erika Pelaez and Jojo Ramey in what could be some great races in those events.


Miroslav Knedla - Czechia

Age: 18; Events: 50m, 100m backstroke; 200m butterfly; 200m IM

Image Source: Bronze medallist Miroslav Knedla of Czechia stands on the Men's 50m Backstroke medal podium at the 2022 World Junior Swimming Championships in Lima (Raul Sifuentes/Getty Images)

Last year, Knedla won two bronze medals at the World Juniors in Lima in the 50m and 100m backstroke and will be the top seed this year in the 50m and the third seed in the 100m. Knedla is the only swimmer amongst the field to break 25 seconds this year in the one lap event, as he will also do battle in the stacked 100m back field with the likes of the aforementioned Zheltiakov and Diehl in the race to break 54 seconds.


Ella Jansen - Canada

Age: 18; Events: 200m, 400m freestyle; 200m, 400m IM; 100m butterfly

Image Source: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Jansen will be one of the busiest swimmers in Netanya as she is entered in five individual events, and is the top seed in both the 200m and 400m freestyle. Jansen is also entered in the 200m and 400m IM as well as the 100m butterfly where she is a medal contender in all five events. Jansen will also likely be on relay duty for the Canadians, who look to hang with the Australians and the Americans in the 4x200m. Jansen raced both the 400m freestyle and IM at the Worlds in Fukuoka, where she was as high as 17th in the 400m IM. With that experience under her belt, she will be a major force amongst the juniors in Netanya.

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