What Kind of Impact Can 14-Year-Old Luka Mijatovic Have On U.S. Olympic Trials

Luka Mijatovic -- Photo Courtesy: Emily Cameron

What Kind of Impact Can 14-Year-Old Luka Mijatovic Have On U.S. Olympic Trials

There are world records as old as Luka Mijatovic. Five individual men’s long course world records still survive from 2009, when full-body polyurethane suits boosted swimmer performance beyond anything seen before, with the return to textile jammers and kneeskins in 2010 putting a kibosh on record-breaking of any kind for a stretch.

Mijatovic was born in 2009, and this summer, he became the first male swimmer born that year to compete at a U.S. senior-level selection meet (while New Jersey-native Audrey Derivaux was the only female born 2009 or later to race in Indianapolis). And within the last six months, Mijatovic has given the list of 13-14 National Age Group records a hearty shake, with the Pleasanton Seahawks swimmer now owning eight top marks for his age group, with the 500, 1000 and 1650 freestyle plus the 400 IM in short course and the 200 through 1500 free in long course.

And it’s not like Mijatovic is taking small bites off records. He is crushing his own marks almost every time he races. In early November, Mijatovic beat his own 1000 free record by almost four seconds, swimming a time of 8:55.41. Two days later, Mijatovic recorded a blazing mark of 4:17.07 in the 500 free to lob more than five seconds off his previous NAG mark of 4:22.50, which in turn was two-and-a-half seconds under the previous NAG mark, and Mijatovic moved to within two seconds of the NAG mark in the 15-16 age group.

Same story in recent days at the California Sectionals, where Mijatovic clocked 14:45.79 in the 1650 free, an amazing 15-second drop from his previous top time. He’s just a freshman in high school, but that time would have placed 11th at last year’s NCAA Championships. Mijatovic also clocked 3:49.32 in the 400 IM for his first NAG mark outside of freestyle, and the record he beat previously belonged to Thomas Heilman, who became a World Championship finalist last year at age 16.


Luka Mijatovic — Photo Courtesy: Emily Cameron

Mijatovic is trending upward and doing so quickly, at an age where male swimmers can continually post big time drops, particularly in distance events. Thus, he has moved onto the radar as a potential threat for next summer’s Olympic Trials in the distance races, even though he will be 15 next summer when the top swimmers in the country gather at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Mijatovic’s best times, all from U.S. Junior Nationals last August and all NAG records, sit at 3:52.01 in the 400 free, 7:59.64 in the 800 free and 15:27.38 in the 1500 free. Those times would have placed 17th, ninth and 18th, respectively, in the heats at U.S. Nationals, but we can expect greater improvement from Mijatovic, who will turn 15 prior to Trials, than almost any of his other rivals in those events.

Making the Olympic team? That might be a little far-fetched, especially with plenty of time still to drop in long course and plenty of strong contenders in present in his main events, particularly defending 800 and 1500 Olympic champion Bobby Finke. Mijatovic will be 15 by the time Olympic Trials rolls around, and no male swimmer has qualified for the Olympic team prior to his high school graduation since 2000.

Prior to the Sydney Games, 15-year-old Michael Phelps made huge improvements to put himself contention for an Olympic spot and then to finish second at Olympic Trials, and while Phelps placed fifth in the 200 butterfly at his first Olympics, 17-year-old Aaron Peirsol earned silver in the 200 backstroke during his rookie campaign. But since then, U.S. men’s Olympic teams have consisted exclusively of high school graduates, collegiate swimmers and professionals, with few 16 and 17-year-olds (let alone 15-year-olds) even in the mix to make finals.

Don’t be surprised if Mijatovic snaps that trend and puts himself into a final or two next year, with the 800 and 1500 free as his best shots. Even with a miniscule shot at reaching Paris, Mijatovic could blossom into a distance dynamo in the years to come.

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