SwimmingJosh Liendo Continuing to Establish World-Class Sprinting Credentials

Josh Liendo Continuing to Establish World-Class Sprinting Credentials

Josh Liendo Continuing to Establish World-Class Sprinting Credentials

Prior to last year, no teenager had won a World Championships medal in the men’s 100 freestyle in 40 years. Yes, a whopping four decades, a streak stretching back to the fourth-ever Worlds in 1982 when East Germany’s Jörg Woithe claimed gold and Sweden’s Per Johansson won bronze. During that same stretch, the only teenage Olympic medalist was Kyle Chalmers, the Aussie who was 18 when he captured gold in a significant upset at the 2016 Olympics.

But the Budapest meet saw David Popovici, 17, secure gold in a tighter-than-expected finish before he went on to break the world record less than two months later. And not far behind Popovici was Canada’s Josh Liendo, whose bronze was the first medal in the event for his country since Brent Hayden’s 2011 bronze and the first individual honor for any Canadian men since 2015 (Ryan Cochrane). Two months shy of his 20th birthday, Liendo went on to secure bronze in the 100 butterfly and silver in the mixed 400 free relay, and he added four more medals, including 100 fly gold and 50 free bronze, at the Commonwealth Games in August.

Now, Liendo is coming off a strong first collegiate season at the University of Florida, which concluded with an NCAA title in the 100-yard free, runnerup finishes in the 50 free and 100 fly and key legs on three victorious relays for the Gators, all of which swam the fastest time in history. In the 100 free, his time of 40.28 made him the second-fastest man in history behind former Florida star Caeleb Dressel. Days later, a huge performance from Liendo at the Canadian Trials included a 50.36 national record in the 100-meter fly, making him history’s fifth-fastest man behind the esteemed quartet of Dressel, Kristof MilakMichael Phelps and Milorad Cavic.

The Canadian’s emergence over the past year has flown somewhat under the radar because of the presence of absolute stars in his main events, particularly Dressel, Popovici and Milak, and even on the college stage, Liendo constantly came up against Jordan Crooks, who swims for SEC rival Tennessee and became the second man ever (after Dressel) to go sub-18 in the 50 free. But current trends show that Liendo could be a significant international player for years to come.

Those individual international medals won as a teenager? Even Dressel never did that. Dressel’s first major meet was the 2016 Olympics, where he won two relay golds but finished sixth in his only individual event, the 100 free. It was that meet where he broke breaking 48 for the first time in the event’s prelims.

Now, Liendo and Dressel are teammates, both training under coach Anthony Nesty at the University of Florida. This weekend’s Atlanta Classic will mark the first time the two race as teammates and indeed the first time they have raced since Liendo became a can’t-miss name globally. They will race all three of their shared signature events: the 100 fly, 100 free and 50 free. Liendo could provide a key measuring stick for Dressel at this point in his comeback to racing, but for right now, don’t be surprised if it’s Dressel chasing Liendo, whose international run is only beginning.

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