Enticing Subplot Of Teenage Stars Makes 200 Freestyle a Can’t-Miss Event at World Championships

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Enticing Subplot Of Teenage Stars Makes 200 Freestyle a Can’t-Miss Event at World Championships

When South African Matt Sates cracked the 1:46 barrier in the 200-meter freestyle during the opening day of the Mare Nostrum Series’ Barcelona stop, he enhanced the teenage subplot in the event for the upcoming World Championships in Budapest. Now, the 200 freestyle will feature a trio of sub-1:46 teen performers, with Romania’s David Popovici and Korea’s Sunwoo Hwang having been sub-1:45.

The 200 freestyle is shaping up to be a showcase event at Worlds, with British stars Tom Dean and Duncan Scott among the headliners as the reigning Olympic gold and silver medalists. The teenage thread, however, is intriguing since it provides an opportunity to see the future of the sport. At the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Popovici just missed a medal with a fourth-place finish in 1:44.68, while Hwang was seventh in final, and clocked 1:44.62 in prelims.

In Barcelona, which is the second leg of the Mare Nostrum Tour, Sates won the 400 individual medley (4:11.58) and 200 freestyle (1:45.91) in personal-best times. While Sates remains more than a second slower than the career-best marks of Popovici and Hwang, it’s important to note that Sates is likely to peak in Budapest. Consequently, challenging his fellow teens is hardly a stretch.

Popovici has operated in under-the-radar fashion on the road to the World Champs, opting to focus on his training and giving little sense of his progressions over the past year. As for Hwang, he captured the gold medal in the 200 free at the World Short Course Championships late last year, and earlier this year was 1:45-high at the Korean Nationals.

“To get to the podium at Worlds, you will have to be in the mid to late 1:44s or early 1:45s at least,” Hwang said. “I’ve gained some experience since last year, with the Olympics and the World Short Course Championships. If I can continue to build on that, I should have a good result in (Budapest).”

The current triumvirate will be joined on the way to the 2024 Olympics in Paris by another teen, as Australian 16-year-old Flynn Southam is a rapidly rising star. Southam recently clocked 1:46.82 in the 200 freestyle at the Australian Championships.

 

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