The World Junior Swimming Championships 2023 kicked off on Monday at Israel’s Wingate Institute Olympic swimming pool in the coastal city of Netanya. The six-day event features over 600 young swimmers, aged 14 to 18, representing 95 countries and regions. Among them, two European swimmers stood out on the first day of heats: Petar Mitsin of Bulgaria and Eneli Jefimova of Estonia.
Mitsin Breaks World Junior Record in 400m Freestyle
Petar Mitsin, 17, made history by breaking the world junior record in the boys’ 400m freestyle with a stunning time of 3:44.31. He smashed the previous record of 3:44.60 set by Australia’s Mack Horton in 2014. Mitsin also broke the European junior record of 3:45.93 and the championships record of 3:46.26 with his impressive performance.
Mitsin led the race from start to finish, splitting 1:51.00 on the opening 200m and 1:53.31 on the second half. He touched the wall more than four seconds ahead of his closest rival, Italy’s Alessandro Ragaini, who clocked 3:48.42 for the silver medal. Romania’s Vlad-Stefan Stancu took the bronze in 3:50.21.
Mitsin had already shown his potential at the European Junior Championships in Belgrade in July, where he won the gold medal in the same event with a time of 3:44.31, setting a new junior world record then as well. He also claimed the gold medal in the boys’ 200m freestyle with a time of 1:46.50.
Mitsin said he was very happy with his result and thanked his coach and his family for their support. He added that he was looking forward to competing in more events at the World Junior Championships, such as the 200m freestyle and the relays.
Jefimova Dominates Girls’ 50m Breaststroke
Eneli Jefimova, 16, showed her class in the girls’ 50m breaststroke by posting a world-class time of 30.39 in the heats. She beat the field by nearly a second, with the next-closest swimmer being Spain’s Maria Ramos Najji, who clocked 31.38.
Jefimova’s time was only 0.12 seconds off the world junior record of 30.27 held by Russia’s Evgenia Chikunova since 2019. It was also faster than the winning time of 30.59 by Italy’s Benedetta Pilato at the senior World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan in August.
Jefimova is no stranger to success at the junior level, having won two gold medals at the European Junior Championships in Belgrade in July. She triumphed in both the girls’ 50m and 100m breaststroke sprints with times of 30.55 and 1:06.71 respectively.
Jefimova said she was very satisfied with her performance and hoped to improve her time in the final. She also said she was excited to race against some of the best junior swimmers in the world and learn from them.
Other Highlights from Day 1
The first day of heats also saw some other notable performances from young talents across different events and disciplines.
- Lana Pudar of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who is ranked fourth globally in the women’s 200m butterfly across all age groups, qualified first for the final with a time of 2:07.88.
- Oleksandr Zheltiakov of Ukraine, who is ranked sixth globally in the men’s 200m backstroke across all age groups, topped the heats with a time of 1:56.29.
- Leah Hayes of the United States, who won the bronze medal in the women’s 200m individual medley at the senior World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan in August, advanced to the final with a time of 2:13.02.
- Flynn Southam of Australia, who was part of the victorious team at the senior World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan in August in the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay, qualified first for the final with a time of 49.02.
- Riku Yamaguchi of Japan, who was the only champion from last year’s juniors in Lima competing in 2023, made it to the final with a time of 4:18.97 in the boys’ 400m individual medley.
The World Junior Swimming Championships 2023 will continue until Saturday, September 9, with more exciting races and records to be expected.