U.S. eager to make amends

Swimmers target medal-count supremacy after sub-par world junior c'ships in 2013

They are traditionally the world's top swimming nation. With that comes an expectation to top the medal table at every meet - even a junior-level competition.

So because the United States team came up short at the 2013 Fina World Junior Swimming Championships, they are now eager to prove that the result was a mere blip in their dominance.

Ahead of this year's meet, which will take place at the OCBC Aquatic Centre from today till Sunday, US men's coach Tim O'Brien is confident his country can reclaim top spot.

He told The Straits Times: "It is definitely on our minds. Our expectations are high. Any time Team USA is coming to a meet, we want to win the medal count.

"We're committed to having the best meet we could have, but we'll take it day by day, and squeeze everything from it that we can."

Having led the table at the 2008 and 2011 World Juniors, the US finished the 2013 edition in third, behind Australia and Russia.

Australia won 10 golds, with Russia and the US taking nine, while the Russians had eight silvers to the Americans' seven.

Nevertheless, O'Brien's optimism stems from a promising crop of swimmers, such as Maxime Rooney, who set a world junior record in the 200m freestyle at this month's US nationals, Michael Andrew, holder of 10 national age-group records, and butterfly specialist Cassidy Bayer.

He said: "I don't think USA junior swimming has ever been stronger. It's in a great place, it's highly competitive to get on the team, and we left a lot of great kids at home who would have a chance of winning a medal here."

Andrew added: "My goal is to get as many gold medals as possible. In the 100m breaststroke I'm 0.03sec off Anton Chupkov's junior world record, so that's definitely a goal as well."

Leapfrogging both Australia and Russia will prove a challenge.

Australia are led by Kyle Chalmers, who is part of the 4x100 medley relay team which finished second at the world championships in Kazan, and he is the top seed in the 50 and 100 free.

Russia have also brought a strong team, including Arina Openysheva, top seed in the 100 and 200 free, as well as double world junior record holder Chupkov (100 and 200 breast).

It is this high level which Singapore Swimming Association president Lee Kok Choy believes will benefit all young swimmers in Singapore, including the Republic's 22-strong squad.

Yesterday, he said: "We believe the influence on the whole junior swimming community in Singapore will be very positive.

"Even those who are not competing in this event can see for themselves the kind of capabilities of swimmers of their own age.

"It can change the whole mindset of what is possible for themselves."

Singapore swimmer Joseph Schooling, who is the event's local ambassador, added: "This is the biggest meet in the world for swimmers 18 and under, and I'm sure a lot of kids in the stands will aspire and dream to be on a stage like this one day."

•Tickets to the world junior championships can be bought at www.sportshubtix.sg.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2015, with the headline 'U.S. eager to make amends'. Print Edition | Subscribe