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Fina World Junior Swimming Championships off to blazing start

Lithuania’s world beater Ruta Meilutyte, Australia’s Mack Horton sink records

Gulf News

Dubai: The 4th Fina World Junior Swimming Championships got under way in style with two championship records being re-written on the opening morning itself.

Australia’s Mack Horton stamped his class in the 400m freestyle with a new record of 3:50.25, bettering the previous mark of 3:50.97 set by Japan’s Fumiya Hidaka in 2011.

Great Britain’s James Guy, who was placed fifth at last month’s 15th Fina World Championships in Barcelona, qualified in second with a time of 3:51.05 while Andrea D’Arrigo of Italy followed with the third best time of 3:51.05.

The second championships record predictably went to Lithuania’s Olympic and World Champion Ruta Meilutyte as she bettered the 50m breaststroke mark of 31.25 seconds set in 2008 by Canada’s Amanda Reason. Fresh from her exploits at last month’s World Championships in Barcelona, the 16-year-old Lithuanian was timed at 31.10 seconds, making her the firm favourite for the gold medal in the finals.

Olivia Anderson of the US qualified in second with a time of 31.49 seconds, while Arianna Castiglioni came in third best in a time of 31.54 seconds. The semi-finals were to be held later on Monday night followed by the finals on Tuesday evening.

Ebrahim Abdul Malek, Secretary General, General Authority of Youth and Sports Welfare (GAYSW) was joined by Dr Julio C. Maglione, President, Fina, and Ahmad Al Falasi, President, UAE Swimming Association (UAE SA) at the official opening of the championships.

Other outstanding performances on the opening morning came from Russia’s Vsevolod Zanko in the boys 100m breaststroke. Zanko finished just outside the championships record. He had won this event at the European Junior Championships in Poland in July, and will be looking to add the World Junior title to his collection in the finals scheduled for Tuesday.

The US girls 4 x200m freestyle relay team also performed well, finishing just over a second outside the current championships record. The team of Cierra Runge, Quinn Carrozza, Kathryn McLaughlin and Katherine Drabot recorded a time of 8:01.36, ahead of the Australian quartet who qualified second in 8:06.08.

This is the fourth edition of the Fina World Junior Swimming Championships and it has attracted a record number of 753 swimmers from 91 nations. The competition will witness some of the top juniors in the world — girls aged between 14-17 years and boys aged between 15-18 years — competing to make a statement on the international scene.

The championships will run through to August 31, with heats each day from 10 am to 1 pm, and the semi-finals and finals every evening from 6 pm to 8.30 pm.

Tickets have been priced at Dh20 per day or Dh80 for all six days. Fans are being offered free bus rides to the venue from the Mall of the Emirates and Dubai Mall for the morning and evening sessions.