By Mike Gustfson//Contributor | Wednesday, August 30, 2017
The Indiana University Natatorium waters have settled. The medals have been awarded. And, after quite the week of racing, competition, cheers, and Team USA chants, the 2017 FINA World Junior Championships, presented by Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., have concluded.
In the end, 32 medals (12 of them gold) were earned by Team USA along the way, and several American swimmers burst onto the international scene. All athletes garnered incredible international experience, racing competitors from other nations they’ll surely face again down the road. Looking ahead, Team USA looks to be in great shape.
And as we re-calibrate and begin to focus on the upcoming winter and short course seasons, here are 5 takeaways from the last major swim meet of the summer…
1. Michael Andrew: King of the 50s.
Is there any doubt who was the best overall sprinter at this meet? Michael Andrew, the heralded professional teenage swimmer, came out on top in three out of four 50-meter sprints (back, fly, and free). Andrew also charged his way to bronze medals in the two shorter breaststroke events, earning him the Male Swimmer of the Meet Award. Could this sprint prowess transition to 2020 Omaha success? Only time will tell.
2. Regan Smith could be the future of United States female backstroke.
Smith swept the 100 and 200 backstrokes, setting a FINA World Junior record in the shorter distance. She’ll be a force in years to come in backstroke. At just 15 years-old, Smith has competed in two world championship meets this summer. What incredible experience for a swimmer just now coming into her own. It reminds me of another incredible 15-year-old female swimmer we saw back in London not too long ago…
3. American men go out in style, winning the medley relay.
Any international competition is less about the individual, and more about the flag on the cap. It’s about the team, and any team is about relays. All meet, the American males just couldn’t come up with a win in a relay… until the final night of swimming. There, the quartet of Drew Kibler, Reece Whitley, Cody Bybee, and Matthew Willenbring took down the Russians and earned that elusive victory.
4. Andrew Abruzzo, carrying the distance torch.
The swimmer from Pennsylvania dominated the distance events, earning gold in the 400, 800, and 1500-meter freestyles. That kind of versatility should prove that Abruzzo could be a force by 2020 in a variety of longer events.
5. Team USA: In good shape…
All in all, the meet was a success for Team USA. The Americans won more points than any other country, and displayed once again that the United States has the world’s best swim talent. This is perhaps the most important World Juniors event in any Olympiad, as it gives the “next generation” of swimmers the kind of experience needed to tailor training programs leading up to the 2020 Olympic Trials. Though a few of these swimmers have already had quite a lot of big-meet experience, the more experience, the better.