Youth Team Collects Five Medals in Greece
by Alyssa Jacobs, USA Artistic Swimming
The youth national team capped an impressive 2023 Youth World Championships run in Greece on Sunday returning home with five medals across six categories. The team was led once again by head coach Ludivine Perrin-Stsepaniuk who paired with assistant coach Laura Mase to prepare the 2023 squad for success. After just over a month training together in Las Vegas, the team representing eight different clubs from the United States came together and showcased continued USA excellence on the international competition circuit. Team USA ended with the most medals of any nation in the competition.
Team USA proved dominance from the preliminary rounds of competition, even securing two first-place preliminary finishes. In solo, young superstar Kanako Field sat in silver medal position after the preliminary round. In the final round of competition, she wasn’t able to achieve her full declared difficulty score but still kept her medal thanks to her stellar figure execution. Field, just 13-years-old and in her first year in the youth age group, topped over 270 athletes at the competition to earn the best figure score in the world. Her future in the sport is definitely bright as she looks to follow in her older sister’s footsteps for a long career in the national team program. Field paired with Ghizal Akbar for female duet where they utilized Field’s club duet choreography as a base for a secret agents-themed routine. They finished the preliminary round in first place and stayed consistent in their execution for finals. Once figures were factored in, they ended the competition as World bronze medalists. Michael Chan secured two bronze medals in Greece in the male solo and mixed duet categories. In solo, Chan was the only soloist able to stay on the podium from prelims to finals as the rest of the rankings were shaken up dramatically. Undoubtedly, his impressive sixth-place finish in figures helped his score in both categories. Chan and Abigail Gallon were also able to increase their achieved difficulty score from prelims to finals in the mixed duet category.
The team elected to use Ohio State’s bird-themed choreography as the base once again this season while making adjustments for the new scoring system. They fell short of their extremely high declared difficulty, but still managed to swim a jam-packed routine and earn 31.9 points of their declared 36.65. Their efforts earned them a bronze medal behind Spain and Japan. For the free combination category, the team was able to improve their execution to elevate their rankings from fifth to fourth for finals. They finished 15 points outside of podium placement behind Japan, Greece and Spain.
The eight athletes that swan the team routine include Kananko Field, Ghizal Akbar, Samantha Chu, Hannah Ryou, Mona Schwickert, Sophia Shen, Sophia Tsives and Olivia Zhu. The ten athletes the competed in combination include Ghizal Akbar, Michael Chan, Samantha Chu, Abigail Gallon, Wendi Ning, Hannah Ryou, Mona Schwickert, Sophia Shen, Sophia Tsives and Olivia Zhu
Overall, the youth team’s presentation in Greece is a continued step forward for the national team program. After the senior team worked all season to elevate USA’s international position, the youth team followed suit and did their job spectacularly, proving that there is a bright future ahead for the sport in our nation. Next summer it will be the junior team’s turn to keep the momentum going at Junior World Championships. First, the senior team will look to punch a ticket to the Paris 2024 Olympics at the Pan American Games this November.