DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, August 26. OLYMPIC champion Ruta Meilutyte was not the only headliner of today's competition at the world junior swimming long course championships, as Australia's Mack Horton impressed with two gold medals in distance and sprint events.
Boys 400 freestyle
Mack Horton of Australia wasted no time in declaring himself the distance freestyler to watch here with a meet record time of 3:50.25 in prelims, breaking Fumiya Hidaka's mark of 3:50.97 from 2011. With a strong battle from three others pushing him in the final, Horton dipped under the 3:50 barrier to win with a 3:47.12. It's a lifetime best for the 17-year-old, and puts him just outside the top 10 globally, with Robbie Renwick's 3:47.02 standing 10th in 2013.
Great Britain's James Guy took the silver medal with a 3:48.05, and Jan Micka of the Czech Republic won bronze with a 3:48.32. Andrea D'Arrigo of Italy, coming off a strenuous summer that caused him to transfer to the University of Florida, placed fourth with a 3:49.02, chopping two tenths off his lifetime best. France's Joris Bouchaut (3:52.73), Italy's Nicolangelo Di Fabio (3:53.53), Pawel Furtek of Poland (3:53.53) and Teddy Kalp of Canada (3:54.64) also raced in the final.
The United States was unable to put its swimmers in this final, as Aidan Burns and Jon Roberts tied for 11th place in preliminaries with matching times of 3:55.84.
Girls 400 individual medley
Ella Eastin of the United States took command of the race early and never relinquished it despite challenges across the pool. Eastin posted a meet record time of 4:40.02 to erase Miyu Otsuka's time of 4:40.98 from the 2011 championships, falling about a second shy of her lifetime best of 4:38.97 from the junior national championships earlier this month. Eastin's teammate Becca Mann put together a strong second half to place second with a 4:40.26, good enough to also dip under the old meet record. Her lifetime best is a 4:39.76 from the 2012 junior Pan Pacific championships. Taking the bronze was Canada's Emily Overholt with a 4:42.03.
Also racing in the heat were Emu Higuchi of Japan (4:42.82), Iuliia Larina of Russia (4:45.52), Sydney Pickrem of Canada (4:46.07), Hiroko Makino of Japan (4:47.57) and South Africa's Marlies Ross (4:48.13).
Boys 400 freestyle relay
Australia was never challenged in the race, taking the lead after the 50-meter mark and blazing through to win in a meet-record time of 3:16.96, taking down Italy's 3:19.09 from the 2008 championships. Anchored by 400 freestyle winner Mack Horton's 49.33 split, Luke Percy (49.14), Regan Leong (49.11) and Blake Jones (49.38) will celebrate their gold medal. After falling to third -- and briefly to fourth -- for the majority of the race, a strong leg by anchor Caeleb Dressel with a 48.29 split helped the Americans, which included Paul Powers (49.94), Brett Ringgold (50.33) and Kyle Gornay (50.65), take silver with a 3:19.21. Russia held second for 395 meters until settling for bronze at the finish with a 3:19.51.
Notably, Powers's leadoff swim tied his lifetime best that he swam a couple of weeks ago at the junior national championships, while Dressel was the only swimmer under 49 seconds in the field.
Canada (3:21.06), Brazil (3:21.35), Poland (3:21.70), South Africa (3:23.63) and Japan (3:24.17) also competed in the final.
Girls 800 freestyle relay
The United States showed their dominance in the longer relay with the first sub-8:00 swim of the championships, posting a 7:59.42 to lower the record set by another American team in 2011 with an 8:00.33. Quinn Carrozza (2:00.35), Katie McLaughlin (1:59.34), Katherine Drabot (2:00.08) and Cierra Runge (1:59.65) made up the barrier-breaking relay squad.
Australia held on comfortably for second with an 8:03.07. Russia placed third with an 8:05.45. Canada (8:06.88), Slovenia (8:13.90), Brazil (8:16.58), Japan (8:20.64) and Mexico (8:22.16) rounded out the top eight.
Girls 50 breaststroke
World record holder Ruta Meilutyte twice set the meet record in this event, with a 31.10 in prelims and a 30.04 in finals. Her world record of 29.48 from the Barcelona world championships could be challenged in tomorrow's final.
Also placing in the top eight and earning a lane in the final were Hungary's Anna Sztankovics (31.30), Great Britain's Sophie Taylor (31.38), Australia's Jenna Strauch (31.50), Ukraine's Viktoriya Solnceva (31.51), Sweden's Jessica Bilquist (31.78), Hungary's Dalma Sebestyen (31.80) and Italy's Arianna Castiglioni (31.85).
Boys 100 backstroke
Danas Rapsys gave Lithuania another shot at a gold medal in tomorrow's finals with a top-seeded time of 55.03, just missing Daniel Bell's meet record of 54.99 from 2008. Apostolos Christou of Greece was second with a 55.20 and Keita Sunama of Japan qualified third with a 55.52.
Also qualifying for the final were: Russia's Grigory Tarasevich (55.59), Trinidad and Tobago's Dyland Carter (55.65), Brazil's Vitor Santos (55.66), Connor Green of the United States (55.87) and Luca Mencarini of Italy (55.89).
Boys 100 breaststroke
The field for tomorrow's 100 breast final is set, with the top eight separated by exactly one second. Kohei Goto will take lane four in the final with a 1:01.52 and will be aiming for Craig Benson's meet mark of 1:01.34. Ilya Khomenko of Russia qualified second with a 1:01.60 and Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan was third with a 1:01.61.
Vsevolod Zanko of Russia (1:01.87), Pedro Cardona of Brazil (1:02.14), Antoine Bujold of Canada (1:02.25), Carlo Claverie of Venezuela (1:02.40) and Krzysztof Tokarski of Poland (1:02.52) will also race in the final. Gunnar Bentz of the USA just missed out on a spot in the championship heat, placing ninth with a 1:02.58 in a tie with Yannick Lindenberg of Germany.
Girls 100 backstroke
Daria Ustinova, who raced in the championship final of the 200 backstroke a couple of weeks ago at the world championships in Spain, qualified first in the sprint backstroke with a 1:01.09. The meet record of 1:00.59 by Daryna Zevina could be in jeopardy in tomorrow's final. The United States' duo of Kathleen Baker and Clara Smiddy will be looking to take down Ustinova tomorrow, with qualifying times of 1:01.28 and 1:01.35, respectively. Both of them have more in the tank, with Smiddy's best time sitting at 1:00.51 and Baker posting a 1:00.62, both at the junior nationals this month.
The Commonwealth of Nations took up the rest of the qualifying spots: Great Britain's Jessica Fullalove (1:01.40), Australia's Sian Whittaker (1:01.78), Great Britain's Charlotte McKenzie (1:01.83), Australia's Lauren Rettie (1:01.98) and Canada's Kennedy Goss (1:02.27) are set to race in tomorrow's final.
Results: World junior championships, day one