World Junior Championships: Maximus Williamson, Olivia Wunsch Conclude Meet With Two More Gold Medals Each

Maximus Williamson -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

World Junior Championships: Maximus Williamson, Olivia Wunsch Conclude Meet With Two More Gold Medals Each

Eleven finals were on the docket for the final evening of the World Junior Championships in Netanya, Israel, and Maximus Williamson of the United States and Olivia Wunsch of Australia each went out with a bang. Williamson, already with gold medals in the 200 IM and three relays, added his fifth and sixth gold medals in the men’s 100 freestyle and men’s 400 medley relay while Wunsch got the job done in meet-record-tying fashion in the 50 free before anchoring the Australian women’s medley relay to gold.

Additionally, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Lana Pudar and Ukraine’s Oleksandr Zheltiakov each won their second individual gold medals of the meet, and those results combined with additional silver medals earned them swimmer of the meet honors. The United States, with 33 total medals including 15 gold, was named team of the meet.

Men’s 100 Freestyle

A potential showdown between 17-year-old American Maximus Williamson and 18-year-old Aussie Flynn Southam did not materialize after Southam, who swam as fast as 47.77 earlier this year, did not qualify for the final. Instead, the Williamson show in Netanya continued. Already, he had split sub-48 on a pair of title-winning relays and earned gold in the 200 IM with a dominant freestyle leg, recording the fastest time by an American teenager not named Michael Phelps.

In the final of the blue-ribband event, Williamson had the lead over Brazil’s Pedro Sansone by a tenth at the halfway point, and he pulled away from there. Williamson was the only man to break 49, touching in 48.45. That was just off the 48.38 he swam leading off the American mixed 400 free relay but under the previous 17-18 U.S. National Age Group record of 48.47 set by Jonny Kulow at U.S. Nationals earlier this summer.

Also finishing well was Italy’s Lorenzo Bellarati, who claimed silver in 49.05, with Australia’s Edward Sommerville earning bronze in 49.16.


Women’s 200 Breaststroke

For the second time this week, Alexanne Lepage earned breaststroke gold for Canada. After going 1:06.58 for 100-meter gold, Lepage trailed Estonia’s Eneli Jefimova after one length before Japan’s Mina Nakazawa took over at the next two intermediate splits. But Lepage stayed close before finishing in 36.88 to secure gold, clocking 2:24.70, with Nakazawa earning silver in 2:25.57 and Jefimova, the winner of the 50 breast and silver medalist in the 100 breast, securing bronze in 2:26.29.


Men’s 200 Backstroke

Ukraine’s Oleksandr Zheltiakov touched less than three tenths clear of the field after his first golden swim of the week in the 100 back. Not the case over four laps as Zheltiakov split under 30 on every 50-meter split on the way to a 2.80-second win. Zheltiakov swam a time of 1:56.13, which would have been good enough for sixth at the senior-level World Championships earlier this summer.

Silver here went to Daniel Diehl of the United States, his second individual silver of the meet after finishing behind Williamson in the 200 IM. Diehl was also key to three winning American relays. Italy’s Christian Bacico was the only other man to break 2:00, earning bronze in 1:59.33.


Women’s 100 Butterfly

Representing Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lana Pudar put on a show in the 100 butterfly final, blasting clear of the field on the first length and not giving anything back coming home. Pudar, fourth in the 200 fly at the senior-level World Championships this year, was already golden in that event in Netanya, and she also won silver in the 50 fly, finishing only six hundredths behind American Leah Shackley. Here, Pudar swam a time of 57.77, making her the only sub-58 performer in the field.

Shackley earned her second individual honor of the week, swimming a time of 58.29 that was just off her best of 58.29. Japan’s Mizuki Hirai wast just behind with a 58.35 for bronze. American Bailey Hartman, the fastest finisher in the field, touched nine hundredths back for fourth (58.44).


Men’s 1500 Freestyle

Turkey’s Kunzey Tuncelli hit the distance double with his sub-15:00 performance in the 1500 free. Tuncelli, owner of a best time of 14:54.16, led throughout in the fastest heat of the mile, but he had to face off with a sizzling afternoon performance from South Korea’s Kim Junwoo, who cut almost 30 seconds from his time to touch in 15:01.94 prior to the finals session.

Tuncelli started off behind the pace of Kim, but he began hitting quicker splits than Kim around one-third of the way into the race, and by the 900-meter mark, Tuncelli had passed Kim’s pace. In the end, Tuncelli finished in 14:59.80, with Kim’s time two seconds behind in 15:01.94. Bronze went to China’s Zhang Zhanshuo, also the silver medlaist in the 400 IM and bronze medalist in the 800 free, with Zhang clocking 15:11.94.


Women’s 50 Freestyle

A remarkable stretch of sprinting from Australia’s Olivia Wunsch has vaulted her into the conversation with the many other top sprinters in her country. Anchoring the women’s 400 free relay, Wunsch split 52.61 for a split that only eight swimmers (four of them fellow Australians) recorded at the senior-level World Championships. Now, Wunsch added gold in the 50 free to her earlier 100 free gold and 50 fly bronze. Wunsch touched in 24.59, equaling the meet record of 24.59 that Japan’s Rikako Ikee swam in 2017.

Amwrican Annam Olasewere was the only other swimmer to swim inside 24, going 24.95 for silver, and Australia’s Hannah Casey made it a 1-3 finish for the green-and-gold with her time of 25.07.


Men’s 200 Butterfly

Bulgaria’s Petar Mitsin looked like he was in position for his second individual gold of the week as he led through the first 150 meters, but he faded badly on the final length as China’s Wang Xizhe, who was sixth after one length, then fifth and then fourth, blasted a 28.94 split coming home to overtake a fading Mitsin. Wang finished in 1:56.22 while Mitsin, who was the gold medalist in the 400 free and silver medalist in the 800 free, came in second at 1:56.73 while Italy’s Alessandro Ragaini (1:57.79) and Andrea Camozzi (1:58.44) placed third and fourth, respectively.


Men’s 50 Breaststroke

Indonesia earned a rare gold medal in the men’s 50 breast as Felix Viktor Iberle scorched a time of 27.39 to beat out Denmark’s Jonas Gaur, who came in at 27.55. Swimming success has been sparse for Indonesia throughout the years, with the country having never won a women’s or men’s medal at either the Olympics or World Championships, and Iberle’s 50 breaststroke swim was the country’s only race at this meet. The USA’s Watson Nguyen took bronze in 27.55.


Women’s 200 Freestyle

In the final individual event of the meet, American Leah Hayes looked to be in position for her third individual gold of the week after previously topping all finishers in both individual medley events, both in meet-record time. But on the final 50, Hayes fell off the pace with a 31.22 split, and American teammate Addison Sauickie and Canada’s Julie Brousseau both closing the gap. In a photo finish, the top three finishers all came in within a tenth.

In the end, Sauickie got the better of Brousseau by a mere one hundredth, 1:58.09 to 1:58.10. Sauickie had previously crushed her best time in the morning prelims, going from a pre-meet best of 1:58.66 to 1:57.98, and now she has a gold medal to go along with that split. Hayes, meanwhile, took bronze in 1:58.19, her fourth medal of the meet overall after her IM golds and an 800 free relay title (which Sauickie was also part of).


Men’s 400 Medley Relay

The American men were without peer in the medley relay. Daniel Diehl, fresh off his 200 back silver, touched just behind Italy’s Christian Bacico (who won bronze in the aforementioned 200 back), but Joshua Chen took over the race with a 1:00.25 on breaststroke. Jacob Wimberly went 53.79 on butterfly before Maximus Williamson concluded his meet with a bang. He anchored in 47.57, improving upon his already-stunning 47.8 splits from earlier in the meet, to secure the win. Williamson ended with six gold medals plus one silver.

The Americans clocked 3:35.98, two seconds of the 3:38.00 put forth by Italy’s Bacico, Christian MantegazzaDaniele Momoni and Davide Passafaro. China’s Jiang ChenglinZhang ZhanshuoWang Xizhe and Ji Yicun took bronze in 3:39.81. Fresh off his 200 fly gold medal, Wang split  52.05 on the fly leg, just ahead of 400 IM winner Tomoyuki Matsushita of Japan (52.58) for the fastest split. Also for China, Zhang concluded his meet with a fifth medal, adding to silvers in the 400 IM and 800 free relay and bronzes in the 800 and 1500 free.


Women’s 400 Medley Relay

The United States seemingly touched first in the women’s 400 medley relay for the country’s sixth relay win of the meet, but an early takeoff from butterfly swimmer Leah Shackley doomed the American chances at a medal. Thus, it was Australia earning relay win No. 3, with Olivia Wunsch securing gold medal No. 5 and medal No. 6 of the meet as she anchored in 52.73, the fastest split (of the six legally-finishing teams) by more than two seconds.

Aussie backstroker Jaclyn Barclay led off in 1:00.17 before the team fell back after legs by Hayley MacKinder (1:08.63) and Isabella Boyd (59.33). But Wunsch pinballed ahead of Japan and Italy for gold. Meanwhile, Canada grabbed silver in 4:01.96 behind Delia LloydAlexanne LepageElla Jansen and Sienna Angove touching in 4:01.96. Italy’s Giaa GorlierFrancesca ZuccaPaola Borrelli and Sara Curtis edged out Japan with a swift finish to earn bronze (4:03.34).


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