Mitch Larkin will put all his golden eggs into one Tokyo basket – but we still don’t know which one – 200IM or 200m backstroke?

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ARCHWAY TO GOLD: Australian Dolphin Mitch Larkin shows the style that has made him one of the world's best backstrokers.Photo Courtesy Delly Carr (Swimming Australia)

It’s been a long hot summer in Australia and despite a cooling downpour on the Gold Coast this morning things are certainly hotting up again in pools right round the country in the countdown to Tokyo.

The Dolphins, with their Olympic Trials set back to June, have begun a series of National Event Camps around the country, this week.

The Gold Coast Aquatic Centre is home to the butterfly and backstroke Camp under experienced four-time Olympic coach Michael Bohl who opened the doors of the Commonwealth Games Pool for a sneak look at the Olympic preparations of some of the country’s top chances, including dual Olympian Mitch Larkin.

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ON THE FLY: Mitch Larkin shows his butterfly technique. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia)

And one of the burning questions  still to be answered is what events will former two-time world champion and Olympic silver medallist chose as he prepares for the Trials – his specialist 200m backstroke where he won silver in Rio or the resurrected 200 individual medley (the event he won at the Commonwealth Games and took silver at the Pan Pacs) – scheduled for the same day on the Tokyo program?

A tough double – one that not even the great Ryan Lochte could pull off – and one that Larkin won’t contemplate – he’s putting all his eggs in one basket.

For Larkin, preparing his sights on a third Olympics, the jury is still out, on which side of the coin he’ll choose.

“I haven’t made a decision, honestly, but I sat down with (my coach) Dean Boxall in November and we said we need to do some breaststroke work early in the season, do some filming, do some technical aspects, which will allow me to set up the potential to swim the medley and everything has come to plan really nicely,” said Larkin, also sidestepping the raindrops, but looking in superb shape.

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TWEAKING TIME: Mitch Larkin has spent time tweaking his breaststroke. Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant.

“I’ve done a little bit of medley work pre-season which is fun, it’s sort of back to my ground roots, and plenty of 4x400IM sets which are nice and gruelling and that certainly builds the aerobic fitness and that was the plan.

“I’ll probably race a couple of meets at NSW States (March 13-15) and Sydney Open (May 15-17) as well and swim the medley and the backstroke and probably make a decision shortly after.

“It’s a very difficult double. Ryan (Lochte) is probably the only person who’s attempted it in recent years and I think unfortunately it cost himself an individual gold medal in those events.

“Dean and I we’ve always been of the opinion that one better swim is better than two average swims. So for me there’s no question of doing both so I’m definitely going to put all my eggs in one basket.

“It definitely is a tough double, it burns the legs, the medley’s very skillful, it’s almost sprinting four 50s because you’re changing strokes and the 200m back is leg dominant as well, there’s obviously the underwater work.

(From top) Daiya Seto of Japan, Jeremy Desplanches of Switzerland and Mitchell Larkin of Australia compete in the men's 200m Individual Medley (IM) Semifinal during the Swimming events at the Gwangju 2019 FINA World Championships, Gwangju, South Korea, 24 July 2019.

FRESH LEGS: A must for IM success. Photo Courtesy: Patrick B. Kraemer

“The medley is such a tough event you need to have fresh legs, you need to be able to dump all that glucose quite heavily and as a result my speed was just compressed that small amount and I  wasn’t able to just go when the guys went

“But I think I’ve got enough experience that I’m not worried at all, I’ve swum plenty of good medleys in my time and plenty of good backstroke and it’s just about tweaking that and I think the plan was to make mistakes last year and learn from them and make sure there’s no errors this year so we’re not guessing between the Trials and hopefully the Olympics.”

Larkin said he had learnt a lot of lessons in his celebrated career – particularly from 2015 when he was crowned dual World Champion in the 100 and 20m backstroke in Kazan, winning the Swimming World Male Swimmer of the Year.

“It was a fantastic year and I’m so grateful for it but I sort of said straight away it was probably the best thing and the worst thing at the time going into the Olympics as the favourite, all eyes are on you. It is quite daunting so this time around it’s completely different,” said Larkin.

“I’m a lot more freer and obviously know people are going to watch our trials quite closely and look at the result from there and whilst I’m not favourite certainly people will have an eye on me still.

“It’s exciting and gives me a lot of confidence. I’ve done some fantastic work in the pool this year and looking forward to what happens and maybe the year’s that follow.”

And his thoughts on Olympic gold?

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OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALLISTS: Mitch Larkin inspired by Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett, pictured here with Athens head coach Leigh Nugent. Photo Courtesy: Swimming Australia.

“It means everything, for me, I grew up watching the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the likes of Grant Hackett and Ian Thorpe and the list goes on, there’s so many, you see them on the podium and as a young aspiring swimmer, that’s all you want and I guess that’s where the dream begins,” said Larkin.

“It’s been a long time coming and I probably went into Rio knowing this was my best opportunity to come away with Olympic gold medal and I got silver.

“I’ve grown and changed since then. If you had of told me in 2016 you would retire without an Olympic gold I would have been pretty upset but now that thought doesn’t upset me as much knowing I’ve given everything I can in the sport and I’ve taken a lot more away than just individual medals, which I’m pretty proud of.

“When you look at an Olympic final you’ve got eight guys and they’ve all trained basically as hard, they’re all skillful, they’re all technical, they’re all gifted, they’re all the same it’s just about who can handle the challenges of an Olympics, the beds are different, you’re not used to the food, it can be a little bit challenging so for me we’re changing small things in my technique.

“I slightly enter back of hand on my left hand, which I have done for years, I don’t finish my right hand just as smoothly as I do on my left so we’re talking fractions of a second, fractions of a point of a second, and that’s the difference.

“There’s small tweaks to my breakout, that we’re repeating in training 1,000 times a week just so that come race day it is smooth.

“It’s exciting once you do reach that pinnacle of sport and you’re physically fit, you’re not getting big shifts or big improvements aerobically or speed wise, it’s those small one percenters that makes the difference.”

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WORKING ON THE ONE PERCENTERS: Mitch Larkin knows the one percentages are the difference between gold, silver and bronze. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

And win lose or draw in Tokyo…Mitch Larkin, who will be 27 come the Olympics, is far from done.

 “I love the sport, my body’s held together, I love swimming, I’ve got a new enthusiasm with Dean,” said larkin.

“It’s scary to think how old I m especially this week (at this Camp) when guys who haven’t even finished school yet and I graduated a few years ago but touch wood I’d love to do another Olympics for sure.”

And it sure seems like he’s right on track for Boxall in his corner for a third Games in Tokyo, whether it’s the 200IM or the 200m backstroke, you know he will be ready.

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4 comments

  1. Bridget Lin

    Joshua Zhang we’ll see what he decides in a few months 👀

  2. Caitlin Greenwood

    Jordyn Hoekstra is it too much to make a joke / dig rn?!

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