The athletes are in town, the competition pool is decked out in full Lima 2022 event look-and-feel, and we’re just one day away until the action kicks off for the FINA World Junior Swimming Championships. The Peruvian capital steps in to host the 8th edition. Recently crowned FINA World Champion and freshly minted 100m freestyle world record holder David Popocivi from Romania commented at the opening press conference: “I may have done everything I wanted to do as a junior swimmer, but let's just see what we can do and maybe we can surprise ourselves this week.”
LIMA (PERU) – The 8th FINA World Junior Swimming Championships are nearly here, and the level of excitement for the first global youth championships since 2019 could have hardly seemed higher than it was during the opening press conference.
FINA Treasurer Dale Neuburger helped welcome more than 500 of the world’s best junior swimmers from over 80 countries competing over the preceding six days in Lima (PER), telling the athletes that they are inspiring their peers to take to the water.
“You will remember these championships for the rest of your lives. I know this is a very exciting event as you move on to the next phase of your aquatics journey,” Neuburger added. “Enjoy this moment. You are the heartbeat of aquatics.”
Ten-time Peruvian national record holder Alexia Sotomayor and recently-minted double FINA World Champion and 100m freestyle world record holder David Popovici from Romania were featured during the opening media event and echoed the FINA Vice-President’s message of hope and inspiration in their own style.
Seventeen-year-old Popovici comes in on a tear, collecting double FINA World Championships in Budapest and European championship titles in Rome in the 100m and 200m freestyle events earlier this summer. And this progression has been ratcheting upwards leading into Lima: in his last two finals in Rome, Popovici first broke the 100m freestyle world record (46.86) before following that up with a 1:42.97 in the 200m freestyle to sit third all-time – and the fastest-ever in a textile suit.
“Breaking a world record is cool, but the potential to swim faster has no limits,” Popovici said. “So why would we put a limit on ourselves when we know that we can achieve a lot?
“The future is imagination, and the past is gone,” added Popovici. “We focus on our potential to swim faster. The future is step by step and built brick by brick.
“Occasionally, we can do something very nice.”
The recently turned sixteen-year-old Sotomayor and multiple-time Peruvian record-holder opens her four-event championships (50m, 100m, 200m backstroke; 200m butterfly) on opening day in the 100m backstroke heats.
“An athlete has a very important responsibility when competing in your hometown, and to race against so many great swimmers is a great opportunity,” Sotomayor commented. “The emotions and the adrenaline that all sports bring is something that Peruvian swimmers embrace.
“As junior swimmers, we are always learning new things and setting new goals for ourselves that will help us in our future.”
Joining Neuburger, Popovici and Sotomayor at the opening press conference were Alia Atkinson from Jamaica (FINA Bureau Member and Chair of the FINA Athletes’ Committee), Augusto Enrique del Aguila Rios (President of the Local Organising Committee), Nikola Ustadvich Velez (President of the Peru Swimming Federation), and Federico Tong (Executive Director of Legado).
The FINA World Junior Swimming Championships run from 30 August to 4 September, with the competition taking place in the state-of-the-art Videna Aquatics Centre that hosted the aquatic events of the Lima 2019 Pan American Games and the FINA Men’s and Women’s Water Polo Intercontinental Cup 2022.
Gregory Eggert contributed to this report.