The Fastest All-Time Junior Swims Not Recognized As World Junior Records


By Daniel Takata on SwimSwam

Last Sunday, during the 2023 European Junior Swimming Championships, Bulgarian 17-year-old Petar Mitsin broke the world junior record in the boys’ 400 freestyle with a 3:44.31, shaving 0.29 seconds off of Australian Mack Horton’s previous WJR standard of 3:44.60 logged back in 2014.

The world junior records in swimming are the fastest times ever swum by a “junior” swimmer, with junior defined as 18 years old or younger as of December 31 of the year of the swim.

However, many remembered that there was a 17-year-old swimmer who clocked a time faster than 3:44 in the men’s 400 freestyle. It wasn’t just any swimmer: it was Australian Ian Thorpe, who, at the age of 17, was Olympic Champion in 2000 with a 3:40.59. At the time, the swim was a world record.

South Korean Tae-Hwan Park also clocked a faster time than Mitsin at 17 when he won the 2007 World Championships in 3:44.30.

Why, then, is Mitsin’s time considered a junior world record in the event?

There are other similar cases where the world junior record is not the fastest all-time junior swim. In most cases, the reason is the same: the fact that World Aquatics (formerly FINA) started recognizing world junior records only in 2014.

When world junior records were introduced by World Aquatics in 2014, they were initially based on the meet records from the Junior World Championship meets.

As Thorpe’s time was obtained before 2014, it was not recognized as a world junior record. The same can be said of Park’s. This explains why Mitsin is the current world junior record holder.

There are other emblematic cases. Michael Phelps, at age 17, broke the men’s 200 IM world record at the 2003 US Nationals with a time of 1:55.94. Sarah Sjostrom at the age of 15 cracked the women’s 100 butterfly world record in 2009 with a 56.06. Those swims are, through today, the fastest all-time junior swims, but not ratified as world junior records.

The following are the fastest all-time junior performances in long course meters that are faster than the “world junior records”, but they were not recognized because they were set before 2014.

Event World Junior record holder Time All-time fastest junior performer Time
Girls’ 50 free Claire Curzan (USA) 24.17 (2021) Cate Campbell (AUS) 23.99 (2009)
Girls’50 back Minna Atherton (AUS) 27.49 (2016) Fu Yuanhui (CHN) 27.22 (2013)
Girls’100 fly Claire Curzan (USA) 56.43 (2021) Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) 56.06 (2009)
Girls’100 fly Summer McIntosh (CAN) 2:04.70 (2023) Jiao Liuyang (CHN) 2:04.50 (2009)
Boys’ 400 free Petar Mitsin (BUL) 3:44.31 (2023) Ian Thorpe (AUS) 3:40.59 (2000)
Boys’ 200 back Kliment Kolesnikov (RUS) 1:55.14 (2017) Ryosuke Irie (JPN) 1:54.77 (2008)
Boys’ 200 breast Akihiro Yamaguchi (JPN) 2:07.01 (2012) Dong Zhihao (CHN) 2:08.83 (2023)
Boys’ 200 IM Hubert Kos (HUN) 1:56.99 (2021) Michael Phelps (USA) 1:55.94 (2003)
Boys’ 400 IM Ilya Borodin (RUS) 4:10.02 (2021) Kosuke Hagino (JPN) 4:08.94 (2012)

The tendency is that, over time, this list will decrease, since the evolution of swimming should provide young swimmers with increasingly faster times. But, let’s face it, it’s hard to imagine a swimmer under 18 years old setting a 3:40 in the 400 freestyle in the near future.

There are other times registered by junior swimmers that were not ratified as world junior records, and these swims occurred after 2014. That is, theoretically, there would be no obstacle for these performances to be recognized as records. For various reasons, sometimes the records are not recognized.

One of the reasons is the fact that, in 2023, World Aquatics shifted ages for eligibility for girls world junior records. Before 2023, World Junior Records were recognized for girls aged 14-17 and boys aged 15-18 based on end-of-year age. Now, world junior records are recognized for both male and female swimmers aged 14-18.

That’s why the fastest all-time junior in the women’s 800 freestyle, for example, belongs to Katie Ledecky with 8:07.39 in 2015, but the junior world record is held by Ledecky with 8:11.00 in 2014. That’s because, in 2015, Ledecky was ineligible for junior world records under the age rules at the time. If it were by today’s rules, the time would have been recognized.

In addition, sometimes a world junior record (WJR) is not recognized for various administrative reasons. For example, Kristof Milak‘s time of 1:52.71 in the 2018 200 butterfly during the Hungarian Championships has never been recognized as a world junior record. That way, WJR is 1:53.79 set during the previous year by Milak himself.

The following are swims that were set from 2014 onwards but which, for the aforementioned reasons, were not recognized as world junior records.

Event World Junior record holder Time All-time fastest junior performer Time
Girls’ 100 free Penny Oleksiak (CAN) 52.70 (2016) Mollie O’Callaghan (AUS) 52.49 (2022)
Girls’800 free Katie Ledecky (USA) 8:11.00 (2014) Katie Ledecky (USA) 8:07.39 (2015)
Girls’1500 free Katie Ledecky (USA) 15:28.36 (2014) Katie Ledecky (USA) 15:25.48 (2015)
Girls’50 fly Rikako Ikee (JPN) 25.46 (2017) Rikako Ikee (JPN) 25.11 (2018)
Boys’ 200 fly Kristof Milak (HUN) 1:53.79 (2017) Kristof Milak (HUN) 1:52.71 (2018)

SwimSwam: The Fastest All-Time Junior Swims Not Recognized As World Junior Records

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