Australia’s Dolphins All Smiles With Return To Competition After Five Months In Limbo

HAPPY CAMPER: Multi-talented freestyle/butterflyer Emma McKeon's early speed impressed coach Jacco Verhaeren.

A select group of Australia’s elite swimmers took their first plunge back into competition today with a virtual swim meet which co-incided with what would have been the opening of the postponed Tokyo Olympics.

And apart from some encouraging performances over some odd distances and the disappointment that the 2020 Games have been postponed, it was the positivity and smiles on their faces that made it all worthwhile.

From the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre, to the Melbourne Sports And Aquatic Centre to the SA Aquatic and Leisure Centre, Sleeman Aquatic Centre and the University of the Sunshine Coast the Dolphins made a virtual splash with the times collated from all the venues into one result.

Jacco 4

EYES WIDE OPEN: Australia’s outgoing National Head Coach Jacco Verhaeren with Swimming Australia’s Performance Solutions Manager Jess Corones. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

With National Head Coach Jacco Verhaeren overseeing the events on the Gold Coast,  it was Rio Olympian Emma McKeon’s speed over 75 and 150 metres that was quite impressive but it was the camaraderie that was back and stood out.

“The most important thing was that everyone enjoyed engaging here at the Aquatic Centre on the Gold Coast,” said Jacco Verhaeren, despite the inclement weather.

“The main objective was to bring people together and getting them back to some sense of racing and it was very much achieved; we were all very happy with it.

“It was such a joy to see the happy faces on the athletes faces, buying into the racing and it was the same thing with the coaches and actually being able to be together after five months of either training on your own or in some cases with no pool at all.”

Emma McKeon cap and goggles

BEST IS YET TO COME: Versatile freestyler Emma McKeon impressive in the Swimming Australia Virtual Meet on the Gold Coast. Photo Courtesy: Anthony Burns APP

Most impressive in the pool was the four-time Rio medallist McKeon who caught the Head Coach’s eye with her speed over 75m (37.70) and 150m freestyle (1:21.40), albeit being short course and the times being hand held, saying McKeon was “definitely on the right trajectory and with the right mind set as well…”

And he admitted he believes her best performances are yet to come.



“I do think the best is yet to come for Emma; she is one of these athletes that every year she gets better and better and I think this year and next year will be no exception,” said Verhaeren.

“She keeps chipping away every time she races and she is definitely growing with what she does which is very good to see.

“Emma is one of these people who can cover everything from 50 to 200 freestyle (and the 100m butterfly) at a very high level and that is pretty rare.

“She is such an important member of the Australian swimming team who has represented in every relay and plays a key role there as well.

“Emma is under great guidance from a great coach in Michael Bohl who knows how to plan towards major events.”


STROKED TO BE BACK: Two-time Olympian David McKeon is back in work with sights set on Tokyo after shoulder surgery.Photo Courtesy: lan MacNicol

Verhaeren also reported positive steps (and strokes) forward for McKeon’s two-time Olympian brother David McKeon who is back in training after a long recovery and rehab following shoulder surgery, lining up alongside a strong group of middle distance freestylers over 300m.

“It’s a relief he can train without too many issues; he looked pretty good today, following his shoulder operation and while there is still a long way to go he is working his way back,” said Verhaeren.

“To be truthful the extra year for athletes like David is actually an extra year gained to make it to another Olympics.”

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