USA Swimming Brass Confident in American Team’s Capabilities Against Australia, Rest of the World

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

USA Swimming Brass Confident in American Team’s Capabilities Against Australia, Rest of the World

For the first time in more than two decades, Australia was the clear top team at the 2023 World Championships. Australia won 13 gold medals, including topping four of the eight relays, while the United States had only four golds before capturing three more on the final day of the meet. The Americans did not win a relay until the meet-concluding men’s and women’s 400 medley relays.

World Aquatics gave the team-of-the-meet award to the U.S. because of a higher overall medal count and number of finalists, but Australia had every reason to claim victory, the first time in that position since the previous Worlds held in Fukuoka in 2001. Kaylee McKeown won three individual gold medals while Mollie O’Callaghan had two and Ariarne Titmus won a race-of-the-century-type victory in the 400 free. All three finished the year as world-record holders.

This week at Australia’s Olympic Trials, more of the same, with the Dolphins’ dominance most showcased as Titmus and O’Callaghan both smashed the world record in the 200 freestyle, swimming more than a second quicker than any other active swimmer in an emphatic statement of the country’s dominance in the women’s freestyle events.

Now, the Americans are chasing those times, seeking to post the sort of times at this week’s Olympic Trials in Indianapolis that can set themselves up for an Olympic performance up to their own high standards.

In a pre-meet press conference Friday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium, USA Swimming National Team Managing Director Lindsay Mintenko and the two head coaches set to guide the Stars and Stripes in Paris, Todd DeSorbo and Anthony Nesty, expressed plenty of optimism about what the Americans are capable of, despite the results from last year.

Mintenko, a two-time Olympian during her own swimming career, repeated the oft-parroted line that the crucible of the U.S. Olympic Trials, the deepest of any national selection meet, uniquely prepares American swimmers to perform at the Olympics.

“The Australians obviously are swimming well. They have for many, many years, but we’re going to, too,” Mintenko said. “We have the advantage of having the last trials of all the countries. Like Anthony said, this is a pretty difficult meet. You have to be on your game to even make the team, the U.S. Olympic team. I fully anticipate our athletes will be on their game starting tomorrow, and that momentum will lead into our camps and into Paris. We’re really looking forward to what’s to come in the next few weeks.”

DeSorbo viewed the selection meet through a different lens, focusing on his approach with the swimmers from the University of Virginia he is guiding toward spots on the Olympic team. Above all else, Trials is an individual experience for each swimmer, with no use obsessing over what the times mean and how they stack up globally until athletes have successfully secured their spots in Paris.

“Every swimmer in the United States has been working toward this for an entire year,” DeSorbo said. “Regardless of who’s swimming fast outside of the U.S., it doesn’t really matter, right? Everybody right now is focused on themselves and doing the best they can and getting through the gauntlet of the U.S. trials, and that’s what’s going to set us up to do really well in Paris. I’m not, and I’m guessing Anthony’s not too worried about what’s going on in the rest of the world right now. We’re just focused on what’s happening here.”

Nesty concluded with a reminder of the time that has passed since Fukuoka and that which has changed in a year. U.S. coaches and swimmers often plan their year-to-year plans to peak with the Olympic year, using the intermediate seasons as preparation for the ultimate test. For evidence of that, think back to less-than-stellar American performances at the 2015 and 2019 World Championships, both of which were followed by excellent Olympics.

“I think every year is different,” Nesty said. “Last year is last year. It’s a new season. Obviously, we have to get through the next nine days to select a fantastic team, and then it’s game on. I’m pretty confident, like Todd said. Everybody’s been gearing up for this summer. The meet starts tomorrow, and I’m pretty confident we’re going to have a great team, great staff heading into Paris to do the best we can and win as many medals as we can.”

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