It is just over six weeks until the best swimmers in the world descend on the French capital and alongside the household names that were fine tuning their preparations across the three leg Mare Nostrum Tour, some top teenage talent was also emerging as potential swimmers to watch at Paris 2024.

Tomoyuki Matsushita, 18 (Japan)

Image Source: Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

When Tomoyuki Matsushita touched the wall at the end of the 400m Individual Medley at the third and final Monaco leg of the Mare Nostrum Tour, it completed a clean sweep of wins on the Mediterranean for the Japanese teenager. Sweeping the pool by more than five seconds in Canet-en-Roussiillon and two seconds in Barcelona, Matsushita turned third at the halfway mark in Monaco before overrunning the competition to make it three from three.

It has been a remarkable journey for teenager Matsushita. Back in March, he earned his first senior international berth when he claimed the 400m Individual Medley title at the Japanese Olympic Trials, securing his spot on the team for Paris 2024. The 18 year-old has been a rising star in Japanese swimming, but even so, he entered the Olympic Trials behind quicker seeds Tomoru Honda and Daiya Seto. Matsushita was also needing a career-best time to achieve the tough qualifying standard set by the Japan Swimming Federation, a challenge he was determined to overcome.

The door opened slightly when Honda misjudged his preliminary swim and missed the final, with Matsushita then putting in the swim of a lifetime to power past Daiya Seto over the final lap of the race to record a lifetime best of 4:10.04. Matsushita was more than two seconds behind Seto at the end of the backstroke leg, and still 1.69 seconds behind when transitioning to freestyle, however the teenager charged home in 56.71 putting almost a second between himself and Seto at the touch with the veteran missing the qualifying standard.

Image Source: Tomoyuki Matsushita celebrates qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games after competing at the Japanese Swimming Olympic Qualifier in Tokyo, Japan (Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)

Matsushita is clearly is a big event swimmer that thrives over the final two laps of his main event. At his last major international competition, the World Aquatics Junior Swimming Championships back in September 2023, it was a similar story. In Netanya, Matsushita brought down teammate and defending champion Riku Yamaguchi in a race that changed leaders four times on the first four walls. Yamaguchi pulled away in the breaststroke leg to lead the field through the 250m and 300m turns before Matsushita charged past the defending champion over the final two laps to claim his first junior world title in a new Championship Record time of 4:10.97.

Matsushita did not swim at Doha 2024 - although his time from the Japanese Olympic Trials would have challenged New Zealand’s Lewis Clareburt in the race for gold. That time however is still going to have to get considerably faster to challenge the very best in Paris, however if one thing is for certain, expect the Japanese teenager to fight to the end regardless of what place he turns on the final wall.

Nikolett Padar, 18 (Hungary)

Image Source: Istvan Derencsenyi/World Aquatics

While Siobhan Haughey continued her world championships dominance in the 200m Freestyle at the recent Mare Nostrum Tour, there were a couple of Hungarian teenagers who were taking up the challenge to the Doha 2024 champion at the Mediterranean-based series. One of those teenagers was 18-year-old Nikolett Padar, who used the renowned swimming series as another opportunity to race against some of the world’s best talent as she prepares for a debut Olympic Games.

Padar is no stranger to high-level competition and actually swam at the Budapest leg of the World Aquatics Swimming World Cup 2018 as a twelve-year-old invitational club swimmer. Padar may have been twenty seconds behind winner Sarah Sjostrom at the time, but no doubt the experience lining up against some of the best swimmers in the world lit a spark that would help elevate an already exceptional junior swimmer.

Image Source: Nikolett Padar celebrates winning gold in the Women's 100m Freestyle Final at the World Junior Swimming Championships Lima 2022 (Raul Sifuentes/Getty Images)

By the age of fifteen Padar was already a European junior champion in the 200m Freestyle and in the same year made her senior international debut for Hungary at the World Aquatics Swimming Championships (25m) at Abu Dhabi 2021. An open national title followed in 2022, as well as one individual and three relay swims at Budapest 2022, and five gold medals at the World Aquatics Junior Swimming Championships at Lima 2022.

When Padar recently lined up against reigning world champion Haughey at the Canet-en-Roussillon leg of the Mare Nostrum Tour, the Hungarian teenager already had three World Aquatics Championships appearances under her belt, and when Paris 2024 ticks around she is definitely one swimmer who is unlikely to be overawed by taking on the world’s best at the highest level possible.

Mary-Ambre Moluh, 18 (France)

Image Source: Mary-Ambre Moluh competes for Team France at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan (Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

There was plenty of local talent on display across all three legs of the Mare Nostrum Tour with French teenager Mary-Ambre Moluh again showing why she is routinely getting discussed as part of the next generation of elite female backstrokers. Moluh has been breaking junior and senior records over the past two years, and at the Canet-en-Roussillon leg of the series, she again looked on track to earn a start at a debut Olympic Games.

At the beginning of the calendar year, the 18-year-old posted the fastest 100m Backstroke time of her career at the Luxembourg Euro Meet, clocking a 59.67 that puts her under the qualifying standard for Paris. An extended training period in Tenerife, Spain, was followed by another sub-minute 59.91 at a domestic competition in Lyon, France, before the teenager honed up her race skills alongside a world-class field on the Mediterranean, including Ingrid Wilm, Kira Toussaint, and French national record holder Pauline Mahieu.

With the French Swimming Federation using a ‘selection trials meet’ for the Paris 2024 team, the battle between 25-year-old Mahieu, Molu, and the sub-minute qualifying standard will no doubt be one of the races to watch in Chartres in a week’s time. A former Youth Olympics athlete back in 2014, Mahieu had to wait until she was 24 before debuting at a World Aquatics Championships. At Fukuoka 2023, she set the French national record in the semi-finals, placed sixth in the final, and has been hovering around the minute mark in the 100m Backstroke ever since.

With Moluh now just a third of a second outside Mahieu’s national record and just 0.17 outside the lifetime best of French icon Laure Manadou, expect a nail-biting battle in Chartres as both swimmers chase a spot on the team for a rare home Olympic Games.