Mollie O’Callaghan And Aussie Wonder Women On Track For Paris; Kyle Chalmers Still Holds Freestyle Touch

O WHAT A FEELING: Mollie O'Callaghan on top of the world in Budapest. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia)

Mollie O’Callaghan And Aussie Wonder Women On Track For Paris; Kyle Chalmers Still Holds Freestyle Touch

Australia’s four individual Olympic event gold medals at this year’s FINA World Championships in Budapest are the most the Dolphins have won since the 2015 titles in Kazan, where they collected six.

The class of ‘15 went on to win two gold medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics 12 months later – but not in any of the six events they won 12 months earlier. Then came one gold to Emily Seebohm (200m backstroke) in the Budapest Worlds of 2017 and another individual gold to Ariarne Titmus (400m freestyle) in Gwangju in 2019 as the relays started a golden resurgence.

In Australia’s successful 2020-21 Tokyo campaign the Australian team won seven individual gold medals including the 200m backstroke but to Kaylee McKeown (with Seebohm taking bronze) who also added the 100m backstroke and Titmus backing up to beat Katie Ledecky agin in the race of the Games in the 400m freestyle as well as the 200m ) and two memorable relay triumphs in the 4x100m freestyle and medley events.


CAPS OFF TO ZAC: Zac Stubblety-Cook adds the world championship to his Olympic gold. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Bring on Budapest 2022 and the Aussies certainly had their highs – with those four individual gold medals to Elijah Winnington in the men’s 400m freestyle; Olympic champion Zac Stubblety-Cook in the 200m breaststroke; the 100m freestyle to rising rookie Mollie O’Callaghan who at 18 became the youngest winner of the blue ribband event in 30 years and McKeown with her maiden world crown, adding the 200m backstroke to her Tokyo triumph.

There were three silver medals to Australia’s swimmer of the meet O’Callaghan in the 200m freestyle, her St Peters Western stable mate Kiah Melverton in the 800m freestyle in her best ever international swim, McKeown in her first international 200IM final and emerging breaststroke talent Jenna Strauch in the 200m breaststroke

While Lani Pallister chimed in with a well-deserved bronze in 1500m as did Meg Harris in the 50m freestyle.

Medals in five of the six freestyle events – and a close-up fourth to Pallister and seventh to Melverton in the other, the 400m freestyle – and all without Cate and Bronte Campbell, Emma McKeon, Ariarne Titmus and in the end the loss of both Shayna Jack with a broken hand and on the eve of the 800m freestyle final, Pallister – stopped in her tracks in career best form by Covid – after qualifying second to Ledecky – were unexpected tests of Australia’s amazing freestyle depth.

Australia’s medal haul across the freestyle events especially could well have reached an unprecedented new high with a full compliment as a squad of wonder women build their speed and power towards Paris 2024.

Mollie O'Callaghan Budapest

O WHAT A GIRL: Mollie O’Callaghan gives her team the thumbs up after winning gold in the 100m freestyle. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Australia’s flagship women’s 4x100m freestyle again stood tall to fly a relay flag (O’Callaghan 52.70; Madi Wilson 52.60; Harris 53.00 and Jack 52.65) that continues to build a dynasty re-writing  the annals of the sport – Australia winning three of the last four premier relays at the World Championships and four of the last five in the prestigious Olympic arena.

A new-look men’s team led by Tokyo Olympians Winnington, who was also eighth in the 200m freestyle and Stubblety-Cook who also added a seventh place as he strives to add the 100m to his 200m – produced two gold medal swims for the ages.

Winnington’s time of 3:41.22 – arguably the swim of the meet for the Australian men in the 400m freestyle – the eighth fastest time in history – making him the fifth fastest swimmer in ever behind Paul Biedermann (GER), Ian Thorpe (AUS), Sun Yang (CHN) and Ous Mellouli (TUN).

A well deserved comeback after the disappointment of his Tokyo campaign and a fillip that will whet his appetite for Paris – but individually along with an unstoppable force that is Stubblety-Cook who has an Olympic defence squarely in his sights – it was the relays that shook the stopwatches.

On the surface there were no finalists in the 50, 100, 800 or 1500m freestyle – admittedly Kylie Chalmers was unavailable for his signature 100m freestyle and there were a host of new faces across the board like Thomas Nowakowski and Grayson Bell (50m freestyle), William Yang (100m freestyle) and Sam Short (800m and 1500m freestyle) who will all be better for the experience from their first international – but Yang and Short were two rookies who certainly stood tall in Australia’s relay assault, leaving Budapest with World Championship silverweare.

While there were respective fifth placings to Tokyo Olympic medallists Matt Temple in the 100m butterfly and Brendon Smith in the 400IM – there were also no finalists either in the 100 and 200m backstroke, the 200m butterfly or the 200IM.

Australia's 4x200m freestyle silver Budapest 2022

THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT: Elijah Winnington, Zac Incerti and Sam Short all over Mack Horton after snatching silver in the 4x200m freestyle from lane eight. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia)

But when it came to the relays the Aussie men dug deep, with Chalmers, disappointing in his butterfly debut, remaining in superb sub-47 freestyle touch with his 46.60 to anchor Australia to silver in the 4x100m freestyle and his 46.98 in Australia’s world record breaking 4x100m freestyle relay which saw further encouraging signs for Jack Cartwright (48.12 lead off) with O’Callaghan anchoring in 52.03 and the ever-present Wilson chiming in with her 52.25.

Yang (48.41), Temple (48.17) and Cartwright (47.62) with Chalmers 46.60 delivered in that encouraging 4x100m freestyle and with the likes of teenager Flynn Southam chopping at the bit for his Commonwealth Games debut in Birmingham the signs are good that Paris just might see the  boys continue to put the pressure on the USA.

And after scraping into lane eight in the men’s 4x200m the “outside smokers” of Winnington (1:45.83), Zac Incerti (1:45,51) who had been sick during the meet, an up-lifting leg from the boy Short (1:46.44) and a master stroke final leg from Olympic champion Mack Horton (1:45.72) added to the encouraging signs and albeit some saving grace for head coach Rohan Taylor on the road to Paris.

Another hit out for the new faces un particular at the up-coming Commonwealth Games will give them another opportunity to race internationally again long course and in a Games atmosphere that always brings out the best in Australian Swim Teams.

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Turkey Vulture
1 month ago

Ian Hanson is on the payroll of the Australian athletes he writes about.

Approve my comment you cowards.

Clark David
1 month ago
Reply to  Turkey Vulture

They couldn’t afford him.

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