New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS) scholarship holder, Olivia Wunsch, dominated the 2023 World Junior Swimming Championships staged in Netanya, Israel and, in the process, she established herself as the rising star of Australian swimming.
The 17-year-old left the coastal city with a haul of five gold medals and a bronze. Her performance not only served as a statement about her potential, but it helped navigate Australia’s Junior Dolphins to finish in second place on the medal tally.
Wunsch, who competes for the Carlile Swimming Club at Ryde, returns to Australia with:
- The 50m Women’s Freestyle gold medal
- The 100m Women’s Freestyle gold medal
- The 4 x 100m Women’s Freestyle relay team gold medal
- The 4 x 100m Women’s Medley relay team gold medal
- The 4 x 100m Mixed relay team gold medal
- The 50m Butterfly Women’s bronze medal
The stories behind the teenager’s achievements include:
- Her time in the 100m freestyle final – 53.71 – was not only the second fastest time posted in the blue ribbon event at junior worlds, but it would have been good enough to secure seventh place at the recent open world championships in Fukuoka, Japan
- That performance also represented Wunsch’s ‘maiden voyage’ under 54 seconds
- She won the 100m final just 25 minutes after helping Australia to its victory in the 4 x 100m Mixed relay team victory, breaking the nation’s drought against the USA in relay races
- Wunsch’s 50m Freestyle victory in 24.59 tied the meet record set by Japan’s Rikako Ikee in 2017
- Her effort in anchoring the 4 x 100m Medley team evoked memories of Cate Campbell, Emma McKeon and Mollie O’Callaghan, as Wunsch, who entered the pool hundredths of seconds behind American Erika Pelaez, unleashed a 52.61 split during her commanding gold-medal swim
- The 4 x 100m Mixed Freestyle relay team smashed the world junior record in 3:24.29
Other NSWIS scholarship athletes who excelled at the championships include Jaimie de Lutiis (gold 4 x 100m Freestyle relay), Bella Grant (silver 200m Butterfly; bronze in the 200m Backstroke) and Marcus da Silva (silver Men’s 4 x 100m Freestyle relay; bronze 4 x 200m Men’s Freestyle relay)
Australia finished the meet in second place to the USA with a haul of nine gold, seven silver, and eight bronze (24) to the US’s 15 gold, 11 silver and seven bronze (33). Canada finished the meet in third place with 13 medals.
Daniel Lane, NSWIS
Photo, Swimming Australia