By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Monday, August 21, 2017It’s one of the last major championship meets of the season: The eyes of the competitive swimming world turn to the IUPUI Natatorium in Indianapolis, Indiana for the 2017 FINA World Junior Championships, presented by Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. This week, more than 600 swimmers from nearly 100 countries will attend the World Juniors. For the United States, 18 boys and 24 girls are scheduled to compete — and many of them could be names to watch in the coming years.
In fact, a number of 2016 Olympic swimmers began their international competition career at the World Juniors, proving that this kind of experience becomes incredibly valuable as a swimmer matures. Anyone who wants to know who the next up-and-coming Olympic swimmers are need only to glance at this week’s World Juniors roster.
And among these names, there are five in particular to pay attention to. Here they are…
1. Michael Andrew
This week, one of the most anticipated swimmers-to-watch will be Michael Andrew; it seems as though the spotlight follows the young professional swimmer no matter which meet he attends. Andrew has a number of races this week, including a scheduled showdown against teammate Reece Whitley in the 100m breaststroke. It’s the event many have been waiting for: Two of the most promising young swimmers squaring off against each other in the sprint breaststroke. Michael Andrew is one of the most promising swimmers in years, with numerous age group records left in his wake. This week’s 100m breaststroke could be a foreshadowing of things to come.
2. 15-year-old Regan Smith
If these World Junior Championships give valuable international racing experience to the next up-and-coming swimmers, expect the young Regan Smith to take advantage. At just 15, Smith has lit up the age group record boards, and could compete in as many as six events this week, including all three backstroke events. Smith, representing Riptide Swimming in Minnesota, will also show prowess in the sprint butterfly.
3. Carson Foster, a well-rounded up-and-coming swimmer.
Anyone who paid attention to this summer’s Speedo Junior National Championships couldn’t escape noticing the Foster brothers, from the Mason Manta Rays in Ohio. The younger of the two Foster brothers, Carson, is scheduled to compete this week. At the Speedo Junior Nationals, he swam well in a number of events, including a showdown with older brother Jake in the 200 IM. This week, fans can see Carson swim the 200-meter backstroke. This kind of international competition is invaluable for a young athlete, and it’ll be fascinating to see how Foster transitions from the event-packed Speedo Junior Nationals to a relatively less event-heavy Junior Worlds.
4. Grace Ariola taking on the sprint world.
Ariola, an Illinois native, will be sprinting close to home; she has a packed event schedule on top of that. She’ll be in both free and back sprint events. At last summer’s Olympic Trials, Ariola placed 9th in the 100-meter backstroke; the Texas commit has also been to the World Junior Championships before, back in 2015. In sprinting, more experience usually means the better. Expect big things from the competition-experienced Ariola this week.
5. Nicolas Albiero
This Kentucky native representing Cardinal Aquatics is a backstroke and butterfly specialist. In fact, Albiero is scheduled to compete in all of the butterfly events. Butterfly, vastly different in long course than in short course, is one of those events difficult to do both as a sprint and mid-distance; when it comes to butterfly, Albiero can do it all.