European athletes dominated at the 2022 Fina World Junior Championships, winning 33 of the 40 titles at the event in Lima, Peru.
100m freestyle world record holder David Popovici was the main draw ahead of the event – and he delivered a series of stunning performances to secure four medals – three gold.
However, he was far from the only rising star to emerge victorious during six days of stunning swimming action in the Peruvian capital, which built on the LEN European Junior Championships in Romania in July.
Nikolett Pádár of Hungary was the most successful female athlete in Lima with five gold medals, while Poland’s Ksawery Masiuk was the male athlete who gained the most honours, claiming four golds and two bronze medals.
Here LEN takes a look at some of the standout performers at the 2022 Fina World Juniors, many of whom will be targeting places at the Fina World short course Championships in Melbourne, Australia, in December.
DAVID POPOVICI – 17 – ROMANIA – 4 MEDALS (3x GOLD, 1x SILVER)
Has there ever been a breakthrough year quite like that delivered by the Romanian freestyle specialist?
David Popovic, by his own admission, stated that six months ago he was “not very famous” but now he needs a combination of a mask, a baseball cap and sunglasses to avoid the public glare in his homeland.
He claimed two outstanding senior world titles – in the 100m and 200m freestyle at the Budapest Worlds in June before adding four golds to his collection at the European Juniors.
Last month Popovici broke the 100m freestyle world record – which had stood for 13 years – with a breath-taking 46.86 and then added the 200m crown to his collection.
He rounded off a busy few months by completing his set of 100 / 200m honours at the World Juniors which included championship records in both events.
The 17-year-old also took gold as part of the men’s 4x100m freestyle and silver in the mixed 4x100m freestyle relay finals.
NIKOLETT PÁDÁR – 16 – HUNGARY – 5 MEDALS (5x GOLD)
The 16-year-old made her senior World Championship debut in June, placing 18th in the 200m freestyle, but underlined her ‘rising star’ status with six European Junior medals – including four golds – the following month.
After a busy schedule at the European senior championships in Rome, which included taking bronze as part of the women’s 4x200m freestyle line-up, she travelled to Peru seeking individual success.
She achieved that with impressive victories in the 100m and 200m freestyle events and took further golds in the women’s 4x200m free and mixed 4x100m free relay finals.
There was also a silver in the women’s 4x100m medley relay and an individual 400m bronze.
DIOGO RIBERIO – 17 – PORTUGAL – 3 MEDALS (3x GOLD)
The Portuguese sprinter claimed his first notable international medal at the 2021 European Juniors with 100m butterfly silver before taking 50m fly gold at the Mediterranean Games in July of this year.
Riberio truly announced his arrival though at the European senior championships last month with a brilliant 50m fly bronze.
He was unsurprisingly being backed for multiple honours heading to the World Juniors but even he was surprised by his achievements in Peru where he secured golds in the 50m freestyle as well as the 50m and 100m butterfly events.
His time of 22.96 in the 50m fly final was a new world junior and national record.
MERVE TUNCEL – 17 – TURKEY – 4 MEDALS (3x GOLD, 1x SILVER)
The middle-distance freestyler warmed up for her Tokyo 2020 Olympic debut at the postponed Games with European Junior gold medals in the 400, 800 and 1500m events at Rome 2021.
She defended all three of those titles at the Otopeni 2022 event before returning to the scene of her first successes and claiming her maiden major senior medal with 800m bronze in Rome.
In Lima the 17-year-old secured her first World Junior medals, with her traditional 400, 800 and 1500m treble and a 4x200m freestyle bronze.
KSAWERY MASIUK – 17 – POLAND – 6 MEDALS (4x GOLD, 2x BRONZE)
Five medals, including 100m and 200m backstroke golds, signalled Masiuk’s arrival during a highly impressive European Juniors at Rome 2021.
Senior World bronze in June of this year proved the Polish swimmer was still on an impressive upward trajectory.
After completing the 50, 100 and 200m individual treble at the 2022 European juniors the backstroke specialist secured his first World junior honours at Lima 2022.
Four golds – 50 / 100m backstroke as well as the men’s 4x100m medley and mixed 4x100m medley – were outstanding and added to with 200m backstroke and 4x200m free bronze.
DÓRA MOLNÁR – 16 – HUNGARY – 5 MEDALS (4x GOLD, 1x SILVER)
The Hungarian backstroker is undoubtedly ‘one-to-watch’ heading towards the 2024 Paris Olympics, with the 16-year-old claiming two senior bronze medals at the Europeans last month.
Earlier in the year she gave a glimpse of what was to come with a seventh-place finish at the senior World championships. She was just 15 at the time and followed that with a stunning haul of six medals, including four golds, at the European Junior Championships in Romania.
Molnár’s successes included a 100m and 200m backstroke double.
A maiden senior individual success at Rome 2022 came over the longer distance. She would take World junior silver in the 200m at Lima 2022, but was victorious in the 100m event.
Her other medals came through freestyle relays, proving her impressive versatility.
KAROLINA PIECHOWICZ – 17 – POLAND – 4 MEDALS (3x GOLD, 1x BRONZE)
After successive European junior bronze medals – in the 100m and then 50m breaststroke events – the Polish teenager demonstrated big improvements at the World Juniors.
Her Estonian rival Eneli Jefimova may have been missing from the event after illness earlier in the year, but Piechowicz impressed with individual 50m and 100m titles.
* Japan topped the medal table with 19 medals, including seven gold medals.
** Italy claimed the most medals with 20, two of which were gold.
*** USA and Australia chose to skip the event due to its proximity to other competitions their athletes have raced in recently.