On the Rise: A Look At Some of the Athletes Seeking Individual Breakthroughs at the World Championships

Mollie and Shayna

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On the Rise: A Look At the Athletes Seeking Individual Breakthroughs at the World Championships

In less than 48 hours, a collection of the best swimmers in the world will gather to compete at the FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary. From world-record holders to Olympic champions, those set to compete will surely offer some spectacular performances.

Although there will be veterans in Katie Ledecky, Chase Kalisz, Caeleb Dressel and Kyle Chalmers, among others, there will also be a new generation of athletes competing. In this list, we highlight those who have yet to win an individual medal at a major international long-course competition, but might be on the verge of a breakthrough.

Carson Foster


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Carson Foster has been on fire for the past 11 months and is positioned to have a breakout World Championships. At the International Tea Trials in April, Foster qualified for World Championships in the 200 and 400 IMs, and he comes into the meet seeded seventh and fifth, respectively. After missing the team in the 400 IM at the U.S. Olympic Trials in June of 2021, just more than a month later, Foster swam a 4:08.46, good for the No. 1 time in the world, and an effort that would have won the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Foster swims collegiately for the University of Texas and at the 2022 NCAA Championships, he finished third in the 400 IM, and was part of the relay team that won the 800 freestyle relay.

Hunter Armstrong

After a dominant performance at the International Team Trials, Hunter Armstrong, the new world-record holder in the 50 backstroke, is looking to make his individual mark on the world stage. Armstrong qualified to swim the 50 and 100 backstrokes in Budapest, where he’s the obvious top seed in the 50 back and seeded second in the 100 back. Armstrong continues to show that the long-course pool is where he excels. Although Armstrong’s main discipline is the backstroke, he also finished fourth in the 100 freestyle at Trials, giving himself a spot on the 4oo freestyle relay. His fourth-place finish in the 100 free is an improvement of 15 places from last year’s Olympic Trials. Armstrong competed collegiately at The Ohio State University, but recently announced he has turned professional and will follow his coach Matt Bowe to train at at Cal-Berkeley.

Matthew Sates

On the international side for the men, Matthew Sates from South Africa is a name to look out for. The 2022 NCAA champion in the 500 yard freestyle, Sates entered an impressive nine events at the South African Championships in April. After being prematurely compared to Michael Phelps going into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Saates had a lackluster summer, finishing 14th in the 200 IM and 32nd in the 100 butterfly. Sates will have a full lineup in Budapest, swimming the 200 and 400 freestyles,the  200 and 400 IMs and the 100 breaststroke. Sates swam collegiately at the University of Georgia during the 2021-2022 season, and on top of his national title in the 500 free, he was the NCAA runnerup in the 200 free. Following the conclusion of NCAAs, Sates announced he will be departing Georgia to go back home to train in South Africa.

Claire Curzan


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

One of the biggest young stars in the swimming world, 17-year-old Claire Curzan has made a name for herself in the swimming community since she was 12, when she broke Reagan Smith’s National Age Group record in the 11-12 100 butterfly. After the World Champ Trials in April, Curzan looks to be at the top of her game going into the World Championships. At those Trials, Curzan qualified to swim four individual events: the 50 and 100 fly, 100 free and the 100 back. At the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Curzan won a silver medal as part of the American 400 medley relay. Additionally, she swam the 100 fly and finished 1oth in the semifinals. Curzan represents the TAC Titans out of North Carolina, and is committed to swim at Stanford in October of 2022. 

Mollie O’Callaghan

Another teenage phenomenon on the verge of a breakout meet at the 2022 World Championships is 18-year-old Mollie O’Callaghan from Australia. At the 2020 Olympic Games, O’Callaghan took home three medals in relays as a prelims swimmer, but going into Worlds this year, O’Callaghan has the chance to make her individual mark on the world stage. Although O’Callaghan qualified for multiple individual events, she will forgo her backstroke events and individually focus on the 100 and 200 freestyles. O’Callaghan, who is already the world junior record holder in the 200 free, will also be part of all three women’s relays for Australia, with the possibility of adding mixed relays to her schedule. O’Callaghan swims for prominent Australia coach Dean Boxall who helped coach Ariarne Titmus to two gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics.

Erika Fairweather

To close out our list, we take a look at prominent New Zealand teenager, Erika Fairweather. At just 18, Fairweather has made a name for herself in the middle distance freestyle events and at the New Zealand World Championship Trials in April, she set a national age group record in the 200 free, clocking a 1:57.90. At the 2020 Olympic Games, she broke former New Zealand Olympian Lauren Boyle’s record in the 400 free with a time of 4:02.28. On top of swimming the 200 free at the World Championships, Fairweather will also add the 400 free to her schedule, where she comes in seeded sixth, right ahead of American Leah Smith.

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1 year ago

Is it only because Lukas Märtens does not come from an English speaking country, he is not mentioned? some balance in your coverage would be nice 🙂

JJ Curtis
JJ Curtis
1 year ago

Men are discussed and listed first? Women athlete second. Super biased ?

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