Introducing the New Wave of Swimmers For the Tokyo 2020 Quad

Photo Courtesy: Ian MacNicol

By Andy Ross

With the summer of 2018 now over, we are less than two years away from the big show at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It has been an interesting summer to say the least.

World records fell the way to Adam Peaty and Kliment Kolesnikov at the European Championships and to Liu Xiang at the Asian Games. Michael Andrew won four national titles. Katie LedeckyCaeleb Dressel and Simone Manuel all went pro.

Dressel had an underwhelming set of taper meets and then revealed he was involved in a motorcycle accident. Ledecky broke a world record in May and then didn’t go faster the rest of the summer. Madisyn Cox was hit with a doping violation but then was cleared, albeit after the U.S. Nationals. Katinka Hosszu didn’t register a time in the top eight in the world a year after winning four medals at the 2017 World Championships. Reigning World Champions Mireia Belmonte and Gabriele Detti sat out the European Championships to nurse injuries.

It has been a whirlwind of a summer, which is somewhat expected. Staying at the top in this sport is hard. Four years is a long time. As one wave of swimmers leave, a new wave emerges. There were a few swimmers that used 2018 as a coming out party, using the smaller level international meets such as the Commonwealth Games and the European Championships as their stage to announce they mean business.

Ariarne Titmus

ariarne-titmus-australia-pan-pacs

Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr/Swimming Australia

Age: 17

Country: Australia

Virtual World Championship medals: 4×200 free, gold; 200 free, silver; 400 free, silver; 800 free, bronze

Australia’s newest teenage sensation Ariarne Titmus gave Katie Ledecky a serious race in the 400 free at Pan Pacs. She became just the third swimmer to break four minutes in the final in Japan with her 3:59.66 to sit only behind Ledecky and Federica Pellegrini in the all-time rankings.

Titmus is now tied for 10th all-time in the 200 free and eleventh in the 800. She turns 18 on September 7 and is already one of the best distance freestylers in the world. She burst on to the scene last year as a 16-year-old when she reached the final of the 400 at the 2017 World Championships, and followed that up with an even better 2018.

With another year of international racing behind her, Titmus has all the confidence in the world to challenge for medals in 2020, and maybe, just maybe take down the seemingly invincible Ledecky.

Taylor Ruck

taylor-ruck-

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Age: 18

Country: Canada

Virtual World Championship medals: 200 free, gold; 4×200 free, bronze; 4×100 free, bronze

Canada’s Taylor Ruck took the world by storm at the Commonwealth Games in April where she won eight total medals, including a gold in the 200 free. Ruck then followed that up with five total medals at the Pan Pacs in August, highlighted by the world’s fastest time in the 200 free, taking down the almighty Katie Ledecky.

Ruck will be joining Ledecky in Palo Alto at Stanford this fall where she will start her freshman year. Greg Meehan has been known to get great swimmers and make them even faster, guiding Simone Manuel and Maya DiRado to individual Olympic gold medals in 2016. The 6-foot, slender Ruck has all the makings of being a great swimmer, and could be seeing a huge medal haul over the next couple years.

Rikako Ikee

rikako-ikee-

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Age: 18

Country: Japan

Virtual World Championship medals: 100 fly, gold; 200 free, silver

By the time we hit the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, all eyes will be on the Japanese swimmers and what they can achieve in front of their home country’s fans. 18-year-old Rikako Ikee will be one of Japan’s gold medal hopes in two years. In 2018, she swam the world’s fastest time in the 100 fly and also produced a Pan Pac silver in the 200 free.

Ikee was recently named the MVP of the Asian Games where she won eight total medals, including six golds. Ikee will have her hands full in the 100 fly with world record holder Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden in two years time, but Ikee is fourth all-time in that event and is knocking on the door to become the third swimmer to break 56 seconds after Sjostrom and Dana Vollmer.

Regan Smith

regan smith

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Age: 16

Country: United States

Virtual World Championship medals: none

Already with two national team trips under her belt, it’s hard to believe Regan Smith is just 16 and entering her junior year of high school. But Smith is one of the best backstrokers in the United States as she will represent Team USA next summer at the World Championships in the 200 back.

The backstroke events are pretty stacked right now with the likes of Kylie MasseKathleen Baker and Emily Seebohm dominating the world rankings. But if any three of those swimmers falter, Smith could be next in line to take the throne of best backstroker in the world.

Mykhailo Romanchuk

ROMANCHUK Mykhaylo UKR Gold Medal 400m Freestyle Men Finals Glasgow 03/08/18 Swimming Tollcross International Swimming Centre LEN European Aquatics Championships 2018 European Championships 2018 Photo Andrea Masini/ Deepbluemedia/Insidefoto

Photo Courtesy: Andrea Masini/ Deepbluemedia /Insidefoto

Age: 22

Country: Ukraine

Virtual World Championship medals: 800 free, gold; 1500 free, silver

Gregorio Paltrinieri and Sun Yang have been the face of distance swimming in the world the last couple years, but neither have been as consistent across all three distances as Mykhailo Romanchuk of the Ukraine.

Paltrinieri has never been a great 400 freestyler and Sun has not been as dominant in the 1500 since he missed the final at the Rio Olympics two years ago. Romanchuk is blossoming into maybe the best distance freestyler in the world.

He is now fifth all-time in the 1500 and tenth all-time in the 800. Yes, he did get beat by Florian Wellbrock at the Europeans in the longer race, but he did manage a gold in the 400 at the same championships, which would have placed him fourth in the Virtual World Championships.

At just 22, Romanchuk is looking to dethrone the two-time reigning World Champion Paltrinieri in the 1500, and that could set him up to win a gold medal at the 2020 Olympics.

Zane Grothe

zane-grothe-

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Age: 26

Country: United States

Virtual World Championship medals: 800 free, silver

New wave doesn’t have an age limit. At 26-years-old, Grothe seems almost reborn as a swimmer. He is swimming faster than ever before and is the new face of distance swimming in the United States since the retirement of Connor Jaeger two years ago.

Grothe was the only American male swimmer to be ranked in the top ten in the world in three different events in 2018. He was as high as second in the 800 with his gold medal from Pan Pacs and was sixth in the 400 and 1500 with his Pan Pac times.

Grothe has yet to make an Olympic Team and is in the driver’s seat to make that happen in two years. He showed consistency this summer by staying undefeated at the Pro Swim Series in the 800 across all six stops. If he can keep that consistency up, Grothe could be the oldest first-time Olympian on the roster in two years.

Duncan Scott

Scott Duncan W GBR Gold Medal 200m Freestyle Men Glasgow 07/08/2018 Swimming Tollcross International Swimming Centre LEN European Aquatics Championships 2018 European Championships 2018 Photo Andrea Staccioli/ Deepbluemedia /Insidefoto

Photo Courtesy: Deepbluemedia/Giorgio Scala

Age: 21

Country: Great Britain

Virtual World Championship medals: 200 free, gold; 100 free, bronze

It’s hard to believe “baby-faced assassin” hasn’t become Duncan Scott’s official nickname, taking after NBA superstar Steph Curry. Scott has been one of Great Britain’s rising young stars since he first made an appearance for Team Scotland at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Flash forward four years later and Scott came away with six total medals from the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, including a gold in the 100 free, becoming the first ever man from Scotland to win the event.

Scott followed that up with a gold medal in the 200 free at the European Championships in lane eight, in front of a home crowd. His time of 1:45.34 was faster than anyone swam at any of the four major meets. His 100 free gold from Commonwealth Games (48.02) would have put him third in the Virtual World Championships behind Kyle Chalmers and Alessandro Miressi.

Scott is a part of a very strong British team that could challenge for gold medals in the 4×200 free and 4×100 medley relays over the next two major world meets. They had the fourth fastest time in the world this year in both relays, but will definitely be major players in the next two summers.

Kristof Milak

european-championships-kristof-milak

Photo Courtesy: eepbluemedia/Giorgio Scala

Age: 18

Country: Hungary

Virtual World Championship medals: 200 fly, gold

He was out less than a tenth within world record pace through 150 meters of the 200 fly at the European Championships. He faded badly down the stretch but Hungarian Kristof Milak won the gold medal in 1:52.79.

But Milak lay in the water from clear exhaustion. He was shaking his head with disappointment when he saw the time. Especially since he had swum a 1:52.71 earlier in the summer.

Milak made his international debut last summer when he won the silver medal in the 100 fly in front of the raucous Hungarian crowd at World Championships with a 50.62. It was one of the fastest fields ever assembled and Milak used the home crowd to his advantage by claiming the silver.

He did not swim the 200 at Worlds to allow European Record holder Laszlo Cseh and Olympic bronze medalist Tamas Kenderesi to take the reigns. But he did swim a 1:53.87 to win World Juniors last summer in Indianapolis, stamping himself as a legit contender in both distances.

Milak proved 2017 was not a fluke by winning the European crown in the 200, but his expression at the end of the race showed he believes there is more in the tank. And at just 18, he has plenty of room to grow to try and catch those seemingly impeccable butterfly world records held by Michael Phelps.

2 Comments

2 comments

  1. avatar
    Pluto

    Have we really gotten to the point where Dressel’s season which included 3 NCAA titles, 6 American records, and 5 Pan Pacs medals (despite a motorcycle accident), and Ledecky’s season which included 3 NCAA titles, a repeat team National Championship, 3 American records, a World record, 5 Pan Pacs medals (including three indiv gold and three virtual World Champ titles, both more than any other swimmer) can be so readily dismissed and lumped with Cox’s doping issue, Hosszu’s performance failures, and Belmonte and Detti’s injuries?

    • avatar

      It was a quick summary of the storylines of the summer.

Author: Andy Ross

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Andy Ross is the new man on board at Swimming World. He is based out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida at the International Swimming Hall of Fame. He is a 2017 graduate of Southern Illinois University where he graduated cum laude.

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