PHOENIX, Arizona, September 28. THE FINA World Cup circuit begins Tuesday in Dubai, and while last year's overall prize winner and 2012 Olympic champion Chad Le Clos will be a major name to watch throughout the eight-meet tour, two meets are set to feature eight American teenagers with bright futures.
Dynamo Swim Club head coach Jason Turcotte will help guide the seven girls and one boy through two meets in the European leg of the circuit from October 13 to 21. All eight swimmers are part of the 2012-2013 USA Swimming national junior team, and will compete in Berlin and Moscow against Le Clos and other high-level international competition in short course meters.
“I am honored to be accompanying this 18-and-under group to the World Cup stops in Moscow and Berlin,” Turcotte told Swimming World. “I look forward to the challenge of racing in a foreign meet format and course with this talented group of athletes, while gaining invaluable international experience.”
Turcotte and the junior teamers will be joined at the meets by three USA Swimming national team members who will serve as mentors.
Olympians Anthony Ervin and Jessica Hardy, as well as NCAA champion Tom Shields, will also compete in the World Cup meets. Hardy has handled this double duty before in her previous years as a star on the World Cup circuit. Since Shields is a senior student-athlete at UC-Berkeley, he cannot accept prize money should he place in the top three in any event, but he will gain the experience racing in short course meters that will come in handy when he becomes a professional swimmer next year. Shields mentioned in an interview on “The Morning Swim Show” that participating in the World Cup meets was definitely a future goal. This will also be Ervin's first time racing in the World Cup, and as Swimming World previously reported, Ervin plans to attend all eight World Cup meets.
USA Swimming has been sending mentors to the World Cup with junior national level swimmers for many years, helping the younger swimmers understand the ins and outs of race preparation, team bonding and motivation. Last year, Michael Phelps traveled with the teens to Berlin and Moscow.
Below, a rundown of the eight junior teamers set to compete next month in Europe:
Gunnar Betz, coached by Turcotte at Dynamo Swim Club, is 16 years old and won a bronze medal in the 400 IM at this summer's Junior Pan Pacific championships. He also held a few national age group records in the 200 breaststroke.
Michelle Cefal, 16, swims at Tualatin Hills Swim Club in Oregon, and is the top-ranked junior swimmer in the United States in the 100 and 200 butterfly.
Kaitlyn Jones swims for the Delaware Swim Team and placed eighth in the 200 backstroke at the Olympics Trials. The 18-year-old earned a silver in the 200 back at this summer's Junior Pan Pacific championships.
Celina Li recently made headlines when she committed to attend the University of California-Berkeley next fall. Just 17 years old, Li was a finalist in the 200 individual medley at the Olympic Trials, finishing in sixth place.
Becca Mann of Clearwater Aquatics had a breakthrough meet at the Olympic Trials, making the finals in the 400 and 800 freestyles, as well as the 400 IM. At 14 years old, Mann made headlines at the Junior Pan Pacs by breaking a 28-year-old record in the 1500 freestyle.
Leah Smith of the Jewish Community Center Sailfish competed in her first Olympic Trials this summer, coming off a third-place finish in the 800 freestyle at the 2011 winter nationals. The 17-year-old was fifth in the 800 freestyle in Omaha.
Kylie Stewart, the 16-year-old representing Dynamo Swim Club domestically, won the 200 back and placed second in the 100 back at this summer's Junior Pan Pacs, a major improvement from the 2010 meet, where she was fifth in the 100 back. She also made the finals of both events at the Olympic Trials, placing seventh in the 100 back and fifth in the 200 back.
Allie Szekely is arguably the biggest name on the list, having emerged quickly from obscurity in just a matter of months. First, she dazzled the crowd at the Olympic Trials at 14 years old, winning a swimoff for 17th place in the 200 breast and greeting a long line of admirers after the race. At the junior nationals, she nearly broke Amanda Beard's national age group record in the same event.
Last year's World Cup touring roster included Olympic Trials finalist Chase Kalisz and five-time Olympic medalist Missy Franklin, who broke the world record in the 200 short course backstroke in Berlin. Swimming World has learned that school and training will keep Franklin from returning to the site of her first world record, or any other World Cup meets this year.
The Russian swimming federation announced this week that Ryan Lochte was also competing in Moscow, but USA Swimming confirmed to Swimming World today that Lochte will not be swimming in the meet.