By Emily Sampl
BOULDER, Colorado, March 31. THE 2014 Australian Swimming Championships, which will serve as Australia’s trials meet for the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacific Championships this summer, got underway today at the Sleeman Swimming Centre in Brisbane. With this summer’s major international teams being selected, a number of the top Aussies will be competing. Here are a few of the top swimmers to watch for at the meet, which runs through April 6.
Sprint specialists and sisters Cate and Bronte Campbell figure to take the top two spots in the women’s 50 and 100 free, where they’re seeded 1-2 in both and have dominated in recent months. Cate leads this year’s world rankings in the 50 with a 24.21 from the BHP Billiton Aquatic Super Series in late January, while Bronte went a 24.82 at the same meet. Cate also leads the 100 free world rankings with a 53.08, while Bronte is fourth at 53.98.
On the men’s side, James Magnussen has put up the best times in the world this year in both sprint freestyle events, with a 21.88 in the 50 and 47.59 in the 100. No one else has even broken 48 in the 100 in 2014. Cameron McEvoy and James Roberts should challenge for spots in the 100 free, as the two are seeded second and third in the event, with McEvoy posting the next best time in the world this year at 48.19.
In the mid-distance freestyle events, Olympic veteran Bronte Barratt will look to overtake a host of up-and-comers hot on her heels, including Emma McKeon, Brittany Elmslie and Madeline Groves, who are all under age 20 and looking to become mainstays on Australia’s international teams. McKeon actually has the fastest time by an Australian this year, as her 1:56.64 from the BHP Billiton Aquatic Super Series is almost a second better than Barratt’s 1:57.50 from the same meet. Jessica Ashwood and Kylie Palmer should also challenge in both the 200 and 400 free – Palmer holds the Australian record in both events, while Ashwood enters as the second seed in the 400 at 4:05.01.
In the men’s 200 free, McEvoy enters the meet with the best time by an Aussie this year at 1:46.66, fairly far ahead of David McKeon (1:48.21). Thomas Fraser-Holmes is the top seed in the event though at 1:45.79, and he may need that time to make the team individually. McKeon, however, qualified first in this morning’s 400 free by almost six seconds at 3:44.95 and doesn’t look to have many challengers in that event. Fraser-Holmes also enters the meet as the top seed in the 400 IM by almost eight seconds with a 4:10.14.
In the backstroke events, look out for 2012 Olympic silver medalist Emily Seebohm, as well as Ashley Delaney. Seebohm’s best time is a 58.23, but she hasn’t cracked 1:00 yet this year. Seebohm is stronger at the 100 and should face stiff competition from Belinda Hocking, who’s also seeded first in the 200 back ahead of Meagen Nay. Delaney will be a definite factor in the men’s 100 back, but the 200 is a little more open with four swimmers entered under 1:58, led by Matson Lawson and Mitchell Larkin at 1:56.59 and 1:56.79, respectively.
Christian Sprenger comes in as a big favorite in the men’s breaststroke events, as he’s seeded first by a second in the 50 breast, three seconds in the 100 breast and has already qualified first in the 200 breast by almost three seconds at 2:11.09. On the women’s side, the 200 should feature an epic battle between Taylor McKeown and Sally Hunter, who have identical seed times of 2:23.94. Hunter has an excellent shot to win the 100 breast as well, as she’s entered less than three-tenths behind Leiston Pickett’s 1:07.19.
The women’s 100 fly, which got underway this morning with prelims, could be one of the closer events on the women’s side with a handful of swimmers fighting for the top spot – Ellen Gandy, Alicia Coutts, Emma McKeon, Madeline Groves, Brittany Elmslie and Emily Seebohm. The top eight swimmers this morning were all under a minute, with Gandy, Coutts and McKeon all under 59. Coutts, Seebohm and McKeown will also do battle in the 200 IM, as the three swimmers enter with the three best times.
After seeing the times posted at several championship meets in the US over the past few weeks, it will be interesting to see what the Australians put up this week in one of the first major meets of the long course season.