Trials, Tribulations And Testing Times For Tokyo As Aussies Face Their Moments Of Truth In Adelaide

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Australian Olympic Trials

In what has been a lead up like no other Australia’s finest swimmers will line up in Adelaide from June 12-17 (Saturday, Australian time) for the 2021 Australian Olympic Trials at the SA Aquatic And Leisure Centre.

It has been a frantic and frenetic time where Selection Criteria has changed with the inclusion of contingencies and recent lockdowns forcing WA and Victorian Olympic hopefuls into Queensland.

It will be a testing Trials in more ways than one – for swimmers, coaches and event staff as they work round the clock to give the class of 2020-21 a crack at their Olympic dreams.

The Australian Olympic Team will be announced at the conclusion of the six-day meet, after which all training groups will either return to Queensland or be re-located to Queensland before coming together in a pre-Games training camp in Cairns before heading to Tokyo for a Games like no other.

There is likely a changing of the guard on the cards in Adelaide, with some of swimming’s biggest names under siege from a host of new faces.The Trials will be televised LIVE on Amazon Prime, with Jon Harker heading a commentary team that includes Grant Hackett, Giaan Rooney, Nicole Livingtone and Annabelle Williams. 

Here is a look at five key men’s events starting with the 400m freestyle on Day One with all eyes on defending Olympic champion Mack Horton.

400m freestyle

WORLD RECORD: Paul Biedermann (GER) 3:40.07

AUSTRALIAN RECORD: Ian Thorpe 3:40.08 (2002)

Olympic QT: 3:46.34

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PURPLE PATCH: Young gun Elijah Winnington on the move as he chases Olympic debut in Tokyo. Photo Courtesy: Nina Beilby (Swimming NSW).

Preview: Olympic champion in 2016 and 2019 World Championship silver medallist, also four-time National champion Mack Horton (Melbourne Vicentre, VIC) remains the main man in the 400m freestyle. But the 24 year-old knows he will have to be on his game to meet the challenges that are sure to be coming thick and fast. Young gun Elijah Winnington ended 2020 on a high, swimming a new personal best of 3:43.90 – giving him the 6th fastest time by an Australian (bettered only by Ian Thorpe, Horton, Grant Hackett, David McKeon, and Kieren Perkins) who backed up in March to win the NSW Championship in 3:44.83 (#6 in the world for 2021). Rio Olympian Jack McLoughlin won gold in the 400 and bronze in both the 800 and 1500m freestyle at the 2018 Pan Pacs and finished 2020 with a second placed finish to Winnington in a cracking 400m shoot out at the QLD Championships – clocking 3:44.24 – only just outside his personal best swum at the 2018 Pan Pacs in Tokyo. Among others in the mix will be 2019 World Juniors medallist Tommy Neill (Rackley Centenary, Coach Damien Jones) who could surprise. Has emerged over the last two years as one of the real heir apparents in Australia’s distance ranks, producing his best swims at the World Junior Championships in ’19 where he clocked his best times on his biggest stage so far, winning medals across 200 (relay), 400, 800 and 1500m freestyle –dipping under 15 minutes for the first time, before leading off the bronze medal winning 4x200m freestyle in a pb of 1:47.58. Set a world Junior Record over 800m freestyle short course in Brisbane last year before earning one of four Rackley Swimming’s innovative City Venue Athlete Scholarships. Neill’s team mate Samuel Short, certainly swam into calculations with an outstanding Nation al Age meet – winning the 200,400, 800 and 1500m freestyle – the 400m in 3:47.52.

 

DAY 2 – Sunday, June 13

100m Backstroke

WORLD RECORD: Ryan Murphy (USA) 51.85 (2016)

AUSTRALIAN RECORD: Mitch Larkin 52.11 (2015)

Olympic QT: 53.40

Bombo Quarry Landscape

RIPPING: Mitch Larkin has his sights set on a third Olympic team. Photo Courtesy: Nina Beilby (Swimming NSW).

Preview: Former two-time world champion and dual Olympian Mitch Larkin (St Peters Western, QLD) has owned this event since 2014 and it’s going to take something special from one of his younger rivals to unseat the boss of backstroke in Australia. We haven’t seen a dynasty like this since Victorian ace Matt Welsh who dominated backstroke swimming for a decade between 1997, when he won his first National title) until 2007 when he won his last (9x100s and 23 National titles in all) highlighted by Olympic silver and bronze in 2000 in Sydney. Larkin can be proud of his figures too…18 National titles in all and no signs of stopping. His key opponents will be his 2018 Commonwealth Games team mate from the NSW Central Coast Bradley Woodward (Mingara, NSW; Adam Kable), William Yang (Loreto Normanhurst; Coach Bobby Hurley); Tristan Hollard (Southport, QLD Coach Glenn Baker) and former Toowoomba emerging Age Group champion Isaac Cooper (Rackley; Coach Damien Jones) who won the Sydney Open. Isaac Cooper, Bradley Woodward, Bobby Hurley, Tristan Hollard, Glenn Baker, 

DAY 3 – Monday, June 14

 800m freestyle

 WORLD RECORD: Lin Zhang (CHN) 7:32.12

AUSTRALIAN RECORD: Grant Hackett (Miami) 7:38.65

QT: 7:48.12

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JACK ATTACK: Chandler’s Jack McLoughlin pumped for a tilt at the return of the 800m freestyle to the Olympic program.Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Preview: Time for the big boys to aim up in their new Olympic event with Commonwealth Games 1500 gold medallist Jack McLoughlin (Chandler, Coach Vince Raleigh) leading the way. He is the fastest in the field with his 7:42.64 after his fourth place finish in the 2019 World Championships. McLoughlin had won gold in the 400 and bronze in both the 800 and 1500m freestyle at the 2018 Pan Pacs and you get the feeling he’s going to take a power of beating in this. Rackley’s young gun and four-time World Junior medallist and new National champion, Tommy Neill is also suited to this 800m distance, especially after his World Junior record last year and the man he stole the record off Elijah Winnington (St Peters Western, QLD Coach Dean Boxall) who has started out 2021 in the fast lane and he means business. Neill’s Rackley team mate Sam Short also erased Kieren Perkins name from the Age Group record books in the 800m freestyle with his 7:52.18. Neil, Short and Winnington are all inside the Top 20 for 800m freestyle for 2021. Olympic 400m champion Mack Horton (Melbourne Vicentre coach Craig Jackson) is the second fastest of Australia’s current crop with his 7:44.02 from the 2015 World Championships in Kazan where he won bronze. Horton will be looking forward to his taper and fast times. All of a sudden the men’s 800 metres freestyle has that golden glow about it after finally being re-called to the Olympic program for Tokyo 2020. It can only enhance Australia’s medal chances.

Did you know? Francis “Frank” Gailey had been Australia’s “lost Olympian” for over 100 years after being mistakenly listed in official records as an American. Brisbane-born Gailey competed at the St Louis Games of 1904, sailing to the US and winning silver medals over 220, 440 and 880 yards freestyle and bronze in the mile – the one and only time the 880 yards (800m) had been contested at an Olympics. The medal haul is the greatest individual tally at a single Games by any Australian male. The mix up occurred when Gailey joined the San Francisco Olympic Club on his arrival into the US and was wrongly registered for the Games as an American – something he never challenged. Gailey came home to Australia after the Games but in 1906 returned to the US as an immigrant, where he would marry and become a US citizen, living out his life in California, where he died in 1972, at the age of 90.

 DAY 4 – Tuesday, June 15

200m breaststroke

WORLD RECORD: Anton Chupkov (RUS) 2:06.12

AUSTRALIAN RECORD: Matthew Wilson (2:06.67) 2019;

AUSTRALIAN ALL-COMERS REC: Zac Stubblety-Cook (2:07.00) 2021 Sydney Open

QT: 2:08.28

Zac Stubblety-Cook action Photo Delly Carr SOPAC

STROKED: Zac Stubblety-Cook will line up in a two-horse race for 200m breaststroke honours. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Preview: This is very much a two horse race between two of the world’s best 200m breaststrokers in former world record holder Matt Wilson (SOPAC; Coach Adam Kable) and the man who would be king Zac Stubblety-Cook (Chandler; Coach: Vince Raleigh). Wilson set the Gwangju pool alight to equal the world record at 2:06.67 in the World’s semi-final in 2019 before winning silver in a final which saw Stubblety-Cook finish fourth. The pair have been duelling ever since – developing their breaststroking talents en-route to their first Olympics. They shouldn’t have any trouble with the 2:08.28 – and Stubblety-Cook certainly didn’t when he won the Sydney Open in a new pb of 2:07.00 after Wilson’s 2:08.60 in an evening heat swim, which he has treated as a final, choosing not to swim the morning final. Stubblety-Cook had late last year showed his back-end talents to clock 2:07.96 at the Queensland Titles in December. Both boys know that in Tokyo they will have to drop well into the 2:06s – Wilson has been there done that and knows what it takes and Stubblety-Cook is well and truly on the way.

 100m freestyle

WORLD RECORD: Cesar Cielo (BRA) 46.91

AUSTRALIAN RECORD: Cameron McEvoy 47.04 (2016)

Olympic QT: 48.33

Bombo Quarry Landscape

BREAKOUT: Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers has his eyes on a second Olympic crown. Photo Courtesy: Nina Beilby (Swimming NSW).

Preview: It’s not every day you get to talk about the reigning Olympic champion but we sure can here with Kyle Chalmers (Marion SA, coach Peter Bishop) who has done everything in his powers to get his body in shape – and do what no other Australian male has done and defend an Olympic 100m freestyle gold – after undergoing a shoulder operation in Sydney in December that kept him out of the Queensland Championships. He was back swimming in January with a 48.55 (flying start) in the Marion club relay at the SA Champs before winning the NSW State Championship in 48.50 and then an impressive 48.04 to win his third straight Australian title. Chalmers will be in his home pool and with the atmosphere of an Olympic Trials “the big Tuna “is sure to turn on the after burners as he mounts his challenge to defend his Olympic crown. Other leading players from times swum this year are Jack Cartwright (St Peters Western, Coach Dean Boxall), Louis Townsend (Rackley, Coach Damien Jones), Matthew Temple (Nunawading, coach Wayne Lawes), Cameron McEvoy (TSS Aquatic, Coach Chris Nesbit), William Yang (Loretto Normanhurst Coach Bobby Hurley), James Roberts (Somerset; Coach: Ashley Callus), Zac Incerti (UWA West Coast; Coach Mick Palfrey) and Elijah Winnington (St Peters Western. Coach: Dean Boxall). Among those fighting to claw their way into the final will be Clyde Lewis who along with Alexander Graham has switched to Miami Aquatic Centre following the appointment of Richard Scarce who moved from Bond to begin his tenure as the new head coach, under Rackley Swimming. Lewis, who has struggled with a back injury this season, is born to race and won’t die wondering here with an Olympic blazer on the line.   US-based London Olympian Matt Targett (Swimland, VIC) at 34 and on the comeback trail, is also entered here and brings a lifetime of experience and talent. They all that know they all have to get down to 48 flat or better to make the cuts and become competitive individually and in the 4x100m freestyle relay. And then there’s our fastest ever, Australian record holder at 47.04, the four-time winner of this race, two-time Olympian and 2015 World Championship silver medallist Cam McEvoy (TSS Aquatic, Coach Chris Nesbit), who has entered here but hasn’t raced the 100m since his second placed 49.17 to Cartwright at last December’s Queensland Championships – six months ago.

 

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