Good Golly Miss Mollie As Australia’s Dolphins Shake Up Bond Relay Blitz

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SHAKEN AND STIRRED: The girls at Bond mixed it up in an impressive morning of relays with teen sensation Mollie O'Callaghan (second from the right in the back row) really making a splash. Photo: Hanson Media.

Good Golly Miss Mollie As Australia’s Dolphins Shake Up Bond Relay Blitz 

 Mollie O’Callaghan, the 16-year-old Queensland schoolgirl who is swimming faster than Cate Campbell and Emma McKeon at the same age, has again caught the eye as Australia’s top swimmers went through their paces in a virtual Relay Blitz Meet at Bond University on the Gold Coast yesterday (Friday Australian time).

Swimming World gained exclusive access to the helter-skelter three-hour short course Relay Blitz meet which has kick-started what promises to be an exciting summer of virtual swimming Down Under – that has never been seen before.

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RELAY BONDING: Mollie O’Callaghan (Lane 3) and Ariarne Titmus (Lane 2) stirred up the Relay Blitz meet at Bond University. Photo Courtesy: Hanson Media.

Under the direction of interim National Head Coach Rohan Taylor and Swimming Australia’s Performance Solutions Manager Jess Corones the Dolphins National Squad members were joined by members of the World Championship Junior Team and the National Flippers development squad at the newly-opened Bond University 25m pool, complete with state-of-the-art scoreboard.

Corones had a team of 12 sports science staff working on site with cameras and computers, collecting invaluable data to plot Australia’s Olympic relay challenge, continuing to breakdown the crucial relay changeovers and starting techniques – seeking to shave those fractions of a second that so often make the difference in an Olympic final.

Other Relay Blitz meets are being held at Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre, HBF Stadium in Perth and Marion Pool in Adelaide, SA, with times collated at the conclusion of the events over the weekend.

Swimmers were drafted into official teams complete with entertaining names, t-shirts and named caps, contesting 11 relays, with a mix of Olympic events and other hybrid races.

It is a forerunner to the virtual Hancock Prospecting Inter-State Short Course Grand Prix Meet – replacing the Australian Short Course Championships on November 27,28 and 29 – with $132,000 prizemoney for swimmers and coaches.

And the Dean Boxall-coached O’Callaghan (St Peters Western) and swimming for the all-star Brisbane Bisons, wasted no time in getting down to business.

O’Callaghan clocked a lead off relay split of 52.99 to sneak under her own 16 years National Age Group 100m freestyle record of 52.10, set at the Queensland Short Course Championships just last month.

That time was faster than Campbell’s own 16 years record of 53.27 set in 2008 when she made her Olympic debut in Beijing and faster than McKeon’s Queensland All-Comers time of 53.37, set in 2010 when she dominated the Commonwealth Games pool in Glasgow.

Maddie Groves

EYES WIDE SHUT: Olympic silver medallist Maddie Groves after her ‘flying leg at the Bond Relay Blitz. Photo Courtesy: Hanson Media.

And not to be satisfied with her first official sub-53secs swim, she did it again – this time with a flying start, splitting 52.87 to anchor the all-star Bisons 4x100m medley relay team that included three Olympic medallists in Mitch Larkin (52.15 backstroke), Jake Packard (59.33 breaststroke) and Maddie Groves (58.96 butterfly).

Other stand-out swims came from O’Callaghan’s St Peters Western training-partner Ariarne Titmus, the world long course (400m) and short course champion (200 and 400m)– who led off the Bison 4x200m freestyle team in a smoking 1:53.76. USC Spartans backstroking ace, Kaylee McKeown, coached by Chris Mooney anchored the relay in an impressive 1:54.26.

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ROCKET MAN: Gold Coast Rockets coach Coach Michael Bohl with Olympians (L-R) Tom Fraser-Holmes, Alex Graham and David Morgan, delivering a relay post mortem for the Relay take off. Photo Courtesy: Hanson Media. 

The boys also stood tall with Elijah Winnington, now also with Boxall, leading off the Bison men’s 4x200m freestyle in 1:43.53, with Larkin chipping in with a solid 1:43.90 (flying start) and Bond’s World Championship winning relay maestro Alex Graham, trained by Richard Scarce at Bond, splitting 1:43.16 (flying start) for the Gold Coast Rockets.

Meanwhile, TSS Aquatic’s sprinter Grayson Bell, coached by Chris Nesbit, anchored the Rockets home in the 4x100m freestyle in 46.94.

The pool deck at Bond also welcomed Swimming Australia hierarchy, SAL Board vice chair and director Tracy Stockwell (Caulkins) and High Performance Strategist Alex Baumann – both Olympic gold medallists wuth the US and Canada respectively in LA in 1984 as well as Australia’s three-time Athens Olympic golden girl Jodie Henry, who has recently been added to SAL’s Athlete and Well Being Team – between them a total of eight Olympic gold medals.

They were joined by a “who’s who” of Gold Coast Olympic sport – including Henry’s fellow 2004 Olympic gold medallist Brent Livermore (hockey) and 2008 Beijing Olympic gold medallists Duncan Free (rowing) and Ken Wallace (kayak) for a total of 11 gold medals – an impressive line up who were all no doubt impressed with what they saw.

Baumann, along with Taylor and following the departure of Head Coach Jacco Verhaeren have been charged with plotting Australia’s Tokyo preparations – thrown into disarray with COVID-19 and everything that has gone with it – but thankful that the South East Queensland “sporting hub” is a COVID-free environment.

Baumann, the 1984 Olympic 200 and 400 IM gold medallist and one of the most respected High Performance brains in Australian sport, knows what is needed.

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EASY BEING GREEN: Australia’s 2019 Gwangju World Championship medallists Minna Atherton (left), Kaylee McKeown and Ariarne Titmus all smiles at the Bond Relay Blitz. Photo Courtesy: Hanson Media.

“Our number one priority now is competition readiness and providing our swimmers with the competition they need going into Tokyo,” said Baumann, as he eyed the cream of his crop in full race mode on a typical bright Queensland spring morning.

“It’s not only competition but the simulation of some kind of pressure type environment as well. That’s what we need.

“This (Virtual Relay Meet) is certainly a start. Looking at the domestic season, looking at actually how we can provide that (competition) and then next year we’ll have to look at some other opportunities as well.

“At the end of the day we are trying to provide the best competition for the athletes moving forward.

“Part of it is the athletes seeing each other and that engagement as well – that is so important and I’m sure you can see that here today.

“It’s all about practicing the skills that we need. There are seven relays on offer at the Olympics, that’s quite substantial.

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FLYING START: Swimming Australia’s Relay Blitz in full swing and off tho a flying start at Bond University. Photo Courtesy:Hanson Media.

“Australia has a real focus on relays, not only from a medal point of view but also it’s a team aspect.

“You can have four, six, seven athletes, depending on whether they swim in the morning on in the evening and I think it really builds a team as well.

“We have certainly concentrated on that…we continually need to practice that.

“It’s a matter of ensuring that we continue to look at our technical skills of our swimmers and also try to do that under pressure – that’s the key – you can do it in work out all day but if you don’t have that pressure simulation it’s very difficult to replicate it at the Games.”

And one thing is certain – strategists, coaches and swimmers are all on the same page.

Taylor was delighted with what he saw unfold as over 100 swimmers rattled off an impressive morning’s swims.

“You get quality racing in a relay format and we don’t do that enough. That is really important so we (are already planning) another relay competition in the future…. we can fit it in to help enhance their preparation,” said Taylor.

“The whole goal is engagement and getting everyone together and with the different teams format it has added fun around it.

“But what you did see is that when they got down to racing it’s about racing and there were some quick swims.

“Because we are capturing the data for the relay changeovers it really focused them on racing so they are doing the changeovers in a way we can expose any areas of concern.

“Normally we do the changeovers under training environment conditions, so having a bit of fun and really good engagement you can see it’s working.

“The athletes are already giving feedback to the coaches so we can do it better next time when we might get together before hand and we can train – there’s no doubting they really like it so that’s exciting in itself.

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BOYS AT BOND: (Left to right) The Gold Coast Rockets, (from L-R): Flynn Southam, Zach Maher, Bailey Coleman, Connor Simms, David Morgan, Alex Graham and Grayson Bell. Photo Courtesy: Hanson Media.

“Two-time Olympian Tom Fraser Holmes said it was great to have the younger guys mixing it with the older swimmers.

“We have the next generation led by the likes of Tom Neill and the Mollie O’Callaghan with that 100m freestyle…52.99 – that was definitely impressive.

“With Ariarne going 1:53 and Elijah going 1:43.they were pretty solid swims and remembering they are all in heavy training.

“The feedback has been amazing and with the younger and older groups it is really important to get that exposure.

“They need competition now. They have been training for so long so any chance to compete outside the training environment is really met with a lot of engagement.

“That’s what we want and we need to do more of it…”

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BLITZING: Swimming Australia unleashed a successful Relay Blitz at Bond University. Photo Courtesy: Hanson Media.

 

 

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