Australian Men’s Swimming: Superstar Old Dogs vs Uncrowned Young Guns

Guest editorial by Tom O'Keeffe

SHANGHAI, China, July 18. IAN Thorpe, Geoff Huegill, Grant Hackett, Michael Klim, Ashley Callus, just to name a few. These are key members of "the glory days" for Australian men's swimming. It is a sad state of affairs that four of these swimmers are attempting a comeback, and being tipped to be members of our 2012 Olympic Swimming team, is our situation really that dire?

After a lean couple of years on the world stage, and numerous calls for our men to step up to take on the world like their female colleagues, we take a look at the ‘young guns' taking aim at a spot on the Australian team for the London Olympics.

James Magnussen, 20
Let's give him the benefit of the doubt about his comments regarding the Olympic Trials being held in Adelaide, we all make mistakes!

Let's focus on his swimming, tall, lean and made of muscle, having only recently started taking his training seriously, he has dropped his 100m freestyle time considerably to clock a sizzling 48.29 at the 2011 Australian Championships, in a hot field where he had to fight to the finish, handling pressure – tick.

Freakishly, for some fun, he recently tackled the 200m Freestyle National Short Course title, and came away with a 1:44.02 and the gold medal, all this after entering a time of 1:52.06!

If he can make his mark at the world titles, who knows what he can pull out at London.

Ryan Napoleon, 20
This is the captain of the young brigade team. Clocking a 3:45.16 for the 400m freestyle, he announced himself as a true contender come 2012. Training with Tae Hwan Park under Michael Bohl, Napoleon is thriving and will take the fight to the rest of the world.

Noted predominantly for his 400m swims, he also contests the 800m and 1500m and is the fastest along with Rob Hurley of our current crop of 1500 swimmers, recording a 15:01.99 in 2009. Can he reclaim this form to revive our 1500m reputation?

Mitch Larkin, 18
A lanky 18 year old training under Michael Bohl has experienced a rapid rise in 2011. After a bout of glandular fever in 2010 Mitch is back and swimming faster than ever. In his possession, a sub-2 minute 200 backstroke and sub-2 minute 200 Medley, having produced outstanding performances at the 2011 Long Course Australian Championships. Some promising swims and recently undergoing high altitude training in the United States, he is shaping up as one to watch heading towards London should his rate of improvement continue.

Jayden Hadler, 17
Having been identified for a number of years now, Jayden is living up to the praise bestowed on him. Touching the wall in a 1:56.28 to win the 200m Butterfly at the Australian Long Course Championships, Jayden continues to improve and it is the unknown as to how far he will go, that excites the swimming fraternity. At just 17, he has much to improve and gain between now and London, and will be an exciting prospect to challenge the man himself, Michael Phelps, in his pet event. Teaming up with Nick D'Arcy, Phelps should prepare for an Aussie Ambush.

David McKeon, 18
The surprise packet. This 18 year old came from the clouds to qualify fastest into the 400m final at the Long Course championships, clocking a 3:50.79, collecting a 4 second personal best while he was at it. In the final he went 3:50.79 to finish 6th.

Two-three months later, David was at it again during the Short Course Championships, with an entry time of 3:48.78 he clocked an absolute sizzling 3:43.95 in the final.

Now, this is the most exciting part, David had only begun swimming a couple of years ago. The reason being, he wanted to beat a schoolmate at the local school carnival. Standing in his corner, was his dad, former Olympic swimmer and now coach Ron McKeon. This was only two years ago! From then, David has elevated himself to world-class status and shows no signs of slowing down.

This is the ‘dark horse' for the London games and the world should be aware of this talent.

Thomas Fraser-Holmes, 19
The proud Novocastrain, from Newcastle in NSW, was the lead swimmer in the 4 x 200m freestyle relay at the Commonwealth Games which went on to claim gold. Also claimed the bronze medal in the individual 200m freestyle.

Fraser-Holmes realized his talent at Hunter under Shane Arnold, before moving to the AIS in Canberra, where he learnt what it took to become the best. Now training on the Gold Coast under Grant Hackett's former coach, Dennis Cotterill, Fraser-Holmes has put himself in a position to explode heading into London.

Fraser-Holmes' former Hunter teammate, Jarrod Killey, 20 years old, is another one to watch. Now based at the AIS, Jarrod has recently realized the potential that he possesses and is now determined to make his own mark in swimming. Jarrod booked himself a spot in the 4x200m Freestyle relay to be contested at Shanghai, and is set to knuckle down into some hard training approaching London.

Apologies to those not mentioned in this article, there are a host of young men talented enough to take on the world from Australia, if not now, in 2012.

Watch out for these athletes in the next 12 months, they will be the ones jostling the likes of Thorpe, Huegill and Klim for a spot on the Olympic team, and, I'm here to say it, I know my money is on the youth to pull through!

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