Australia’s Elite Swimmers Will Return To Competition With Virtual Racing Format

THEY'RE OFF AND RACING: Competition will return to the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre (pictured) along with Melbourne, Adelaide and the Sunshine Coast. Photo: Gold Coast Aquatic Centre.

Five months after the COVID-19 pandemic shut out, Australia’s competition starved swimmers will finally see a return to racing in a series of virtual competitions around the country tomorrow (Friday, July 24).

Three venues on the Gold Coast, Melbourne, Adelaide and the Sunshine Coast will fire the gun to coincide with what would have been the opening day’s competition at the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

But swimmers will not be competing in the traditional distances (50,100, 200, 400, 800 and 1500m) – replacing the Olympic program with “off events” including races over 25, 75, 150 and 300m for all strokes and also a 200m individual medley – combining short course with long course.

The Gold Coast Aquatic will play host to the majority of swimmers from South East Queensland, joined by the Melbourne Sports And Aquatic Centre, the SA Aquatic And Leisure Centre and the University of Sunshine Coast.

Jacco and freestyler copy

BACK ON DECK: Jacco Verhaeren is excited to see racing return to Australia with virtual meets. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Australian National Head Coach, Jacco Verhaeren who will relinquish his role when he returns to the Netherlands at the start of October said it was time the athletes had an opportunity to race again and for Swimming Australia to trial its virtual systems to prepare for the unknown in the future.

Verhaeren and his team led by Swimming Australia’s Performance Solutions Manager Jess Corones and incoming National Head Coach and Victorian State Coach Rohan Taylor have worked to pull the virtual meet planning schedule together, with his High Performance coaches, admitting it was still work in progress.

“We will have our first ‘Vrtual Meet’ here on the Gold Coast on Friday which will be a good start, something for the athletes to look forward to on the opening day of when the Olympics would have been on in Tokyo,” said Verhaeren.

“It’s nice to recognise that moment and give them a hit out with some alternative events.

“At the same time in MSAC Melbourne, Victorian athletes will race over the same events so we can have a Virtual Competition there.

“It is also important for Swimming Australia to trial some virtual systems we are working on which may very well be required in the future as well.

“If a meet for whatever reason can’t happen or people can’t travel inter-state that we at least have a solution for people to race and enjoy the competition pretty much from their home pool.”

Verhaeren said that the Gold Coast meet had attracted swimmers from throughout Queensland, including Michael Bohl’s Griffith University group, Chris Nesbit’s TSS Aquatic Team, a small group from Dean Boxall’s St Peters Western club, Vince Raleigh’s group from Chandler and David Lush’s team from his new Moreton Bay club.

Craig Jackson’s MSAC group with Olympic champion Mack Horton will be joined by Wayne Lawes Nunawading club after her has taken over from Scott Talbot who leaves next month to take up a role in Great Britain while Peter Bishop’s Marion team will be on show in Adelaide.

Head Coach Chris Mooney from the USC Spartans will also stage a series of races, with his group that incudes Kaylee McKeown, Leah Neale, Mikkayla Sheridan and Jake Packard.

“What we are trying to do is to encourage athletes to train with purpose and not just swimming laps up and down and more importantly we don’t have massive expectations on performance,” said Verhaeren.

“Their training has been compromised over the past five months – it’s really more to engage and get the feel of racing again….and of course, particularly in Melbourne we have to abide by the restrictions which are obviously in place.

“It’s an attempt to get the people going and to excite them in the first step towards competition again.

“We’ll see if they enjoy it as we trial our virtual systems and align the results and in another a month we will have another one.

“Moving forward, if National or State meets are cancelled then we will have virtual online solutions and we combine all the results.

“And to be truthful I’m sure there will be more excitement just to see each other again and it’s not so much about the results – although I’m sure they will give it a crack but that’s why we chose ‘off events’ to give them that feeling of racing again.

“There will be other options as well as the virtual options, we can’t rule out any scenario, and while we are preparing for all meets to go ahead, they may go ahead in a different format.

It’s important for these guys to get a good Olympic preparation to change their training up with some racing.”

Among those Olympians in the water will be Mack Horton, Mitch Larkin, Emma McKeon, Leiston Pickett and Madi Wilson amongst others.



  1. avatar

    “Three venues on the Gold Coast, Melbourne, Adelaide and the Sunshine Coast”

    Quite the achievement to have 3 venues in 4 locations.

    The choice of swimming off-events makes this virtual meet quite a bit less interesting.

  2. avatar

    Why not include other squads also( in their own pools). Up and comers ? Junior team members ? Seems like everything is aimed at the high performance squads only. There are great swimmers at other clubs too.

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