The Day Mitch Larkin and Dean Boxall Sealed An Olympic Deal Over A Few Beers At Brisbane’s Regatta Hotel

SA AQ AND LEISURE CENTRE
LANES OF GREEN AND GOLD: The SA Aquatic and Leisure Centre with legends adorning the walls, awaits the 2021 Olympic Swimming Trials. Photo Courtesy Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

The Day Mitch Larkin and Dean Boxall Sealed An Olympic Deal Over A Few Beers At Brisbane’s Regatta Hotel

A chat over a few beers at an iconic hotel over looking the Brisbane River could well see a gold medal toast for Australia’s Mitch Larkin at this year’s Tokyo Olympics.

Two-time Olympian and dual world champion Larkin made a call to newly appointed St Peters Western coach Dean Boxall post the 2017 World Championships as he explored a fresh start in his bid for a third Olympics in 2020.

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IN THE SPOTLIGHT Paralympic golden girl Lakeisha Patterson and dual Olympian Mitch Larkin with a focus on Tokyo. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (*Swimming Australia).

On the eve of the 2021 Tokyo Trials Larkin fronted the media at the SA Aquatic and Leisure Centre earlier today to reveal he would target the 200m individual medley as well as the 100m backstroke in a decision that has been on everyone’s radar since he kick-started his career with Boxall.

“Changing coaches isn’t easy – a coach plays such an important role in a swimmer’s life – you see them more than your parents – choosing the right coach is about the connection and building a relationship with the coach,” revealed Larkin.

“ Looking back now it was a couple of years ago and I met Dean at the Regatta Hotel in Brisbane and we had a couple of beers and we talked about where we wanted to go in swimming and vice versa as well.

“I wanted to know where he wanted to go in swimming and he told me he wanted to be one of the best coaches in Australia if not the world and I told him I wanted to go to the next Olympics.

“Our relationship kicked off pretty well and as a result the 2018 Commonwealth Games was a pretty successful meet for me (five gold medals including the 50,100 and 200m backstroke and 200IM) which was a sign of ‘I’m back’ and hopefully this week we will travel down a similar path and then onto Tokyo.”

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TICKING THE BOXES: Mitch Larkin’s coaching choice with Dean Boxall was all about connection and building a relationship. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

And the 200m IM verses the 200m backstroke has been one of the big talking points on pool deck.

“I’ve been looking at it for a number of months now and I have never swum the medley at an Olympic Games which gives me a lot of excitement,” said Larkin.

“It’s like coming back to my roots when I made my first (Australian) Junior team in the 400IM and also the depth (in both events) in terms of who’s going to win it and what times would win the 200m backstroke verses what time it’s going to take to be competitive in the 200 medley and I think that was the deciding factor. it wasn’t an easy decision.”

Larkin’s decision opens the door for backstroke specialists – Australian champion Tristan Hollard (Southport Olympic, QLD; Coach Glenn Baker) and Bradley Woodward (Mingara, NSW; Coach Adam Kable) to have a major crack in the 200m backstroke – and knowing Larkin will also contest the event at these Trials.

All three will be in action on Sunday (Day 2) in the 100m backstroke, with the 200M and the 200m backstroke both on next Wednesday (Day 5).

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PRIMED: Southport Olympic’s Tristan Hollard armed and dangerous for a back-attack. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Larkin, Hollard and Woodward have all swum under the Olympic qualifying time of 1:57.26 already – Larkin’s 1:54.38 heat outing at the Australian Championships and Hollard’s impressive winning final time of 1:56.40 to take out his first National title in Larkin’s absence (after he was disqualified for moving at the start) while Woodward’s winning time of 1:57.14 at this year’s NSW Senior State puts him right in the mix. Others to watch include: rising stars Joshua Edwards-Smith (UWA West Coast; Coach Mick Palfrey) Ty Hartwell (Chandler; Coach Vince Raleigh) and Thomas Hauck (All Saints; Ken Sabotic).

2021 Olympic Trials 

Day One Events:

Men’s 400m Freestyle: Olympic champion in 2016 and 2019 World Championship silver medallist, also four-time National champion Mack Horton (Melbourne Vicentre, VIC) remains the main man in the 400m freestyle. But the 24 year-old knows he will have to be on his game to meet the challenges that are sure to be coming thick and fast. Young gun Elijah Winnington ended 2020 on a high, swimming a new personal best of 3:43.90 – giving him the 6th fastest time by an Australian (bettered only by Ian Thorpe, Horton, Grant Hackett, David McKeon, and Kieren Perkins) who backed up in March to win the NSW Championship in 3:44.83 (#6 in the world as of May 31). Rio Olympian Jack McLoughlin won gold in the 400 and bronze in both the 800 and 1500m freestyle at the 2018 Pan Pacs and finished 2020 with a second placed finish to Winnington in a cracking 400m shoot out at the QLD Championships – clocking 3:44.24 – only just outside his personal best swum at the 2018 Pan Pacs in Tokyo. Ian Thorpe, Mack Horton, Grant Hackett, David McKeon, Kieren Perkins, Jack McLoughlin, Jake Packard, Zac Stubblety-Cook, Matthew Wilson, 

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ON THE CREST OF A WAVE: Nunawading 400IMer Brendon Smith has relished his Gold Coast training move after Melbourne lockdown. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Men’s 400IM: Serious Olympic hopeful Brendon Smith (Nunawading, VIC; Coach: Wayne Lawes) kick -started his Tokyo Olympic bid in earnest on the Gold Coast in April in a time just outside the QT in a wide open event for Australia – but an event he knows he can own after already swimming under that QT his 4:14.91 at the 2019 Australian Championships when second to Mitch Larkin.

Joining Smith in the 400IM charge towards the Olympic Trials in June will be WA’s Kieren Pollard (North Coast; Coach Adrian Davini) Smith’s Nunwading team mate Elliot Rogerson (Coach Wayne Lawes), Carlile (NSW’s) emerging star Se-Bom Lee and prolific All-Saints Gold Coast Age Group winner and record holder Thomas Hauck who took down Larkin’s 200IM Qld 17 years All-Comers record with his time of 2:01.40 as well as Ty Hartwell’s 17 years Qld All-Comers record for 200m backstroke with his 1:59.68b at the 2020 Qld State Championships in December. Nunawading’s Elliot Rogerson (4:21.09) and Hauck (4:21.17) were second and third respectively to Smith on the Gold Coast.

Men’s 100m breaststroke: Australia has three boys who have swum under 60s seconds in this event, 2019 winner Matthew Wilson (SOPAC, NSW; Coach Adam Kable), Olympian and three-time winner Jake Packard (USC Spartans; Coach Chris Mooney) and Zac Stubblety-Cook (Chandler, QLD; Coach Vince Raleigh). And only two, Wilson (59.17 in 2019) and Packard (59.20 in 2018) have swum under the QT of 59.21. Stubblety-Cook has posted a pb in 2021 of 59.72 – the fastest time of the three for this season. It’s time for a drop here – the world led by the extraordinary Adam Peaty has moved way ahead and we need to stay in touch.

Women’s 100m butterfly: Commonwealth Games gold medallist and World Championship silver (2017) and bronze medallist 2019), Emma McKeon has owned this event in Australia since 2015. She has won the last six Australian Championships, only bettered by Susie O’Neill’s remarkable 10. She holds the Commonwealth and Australian records at 56.18 (2017 Worlds) and the Australian All-comers record at 56.36 (NSW States 2020). No one has been in coo-wee of her this season with McKeon pumping out a 56.44 (Aust Champs), 56.65 (NSW Champs), 56.69 (QLD Champs Dec 2020) and a 56.81 (Syd Open). Of the other contenders, none have broken 57 secs with Brianna Throssell – Rio Olympic 200m butterfly finalist who was a close up fifth in the world championship final in 2019, the closest in 57.02.

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ON THE CHARGE: WA 400IM specialist Blair Evans chasing the top berth for Tokyo. Photo Courtesy:Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Women’s 400IM: London and Rio 400IMer and three-time National champion, Blair Evans (UWA West Coast; Coach Will Scott) is making a late charge for her third Olympics but will have newly crowned Australian champion Jenna Forrester (St Peters Western) 4:39.46 the top qualifier here ready to rip and former US-based College swimmers, Commonwealth Games rep from 2018 Meg Bailey (4:39.59 – 2nd Aust Champs). Evans best came at the Olympic Trials in Adelaide in 2016 with her 4:35.26 and even a sub-4:38.53 looks to be a tall order. Bailey, from Merewether in Newcastle, swam for Ohio State, now a PE Teacher, was forced out of Sydney and back to Newcastle where she swam in the Merewether ocean baths during last year’s pandemic lockdown, deciding to delay retirement for one last shot at Olympic qualification in the 200m butterfly and 400IM.

TRIALS FAST FACTS

Venue:

SA Aquatic & Leisure Centre Start List can be found here.

Timings: Heats will begin at 10:00am local time, with finals kicking off at 7:00pm local time. Click here for the coaches’ timeline which details the events and what time they take place.

Trials Preview: Courtesy of the Australian Swimming Coaches & Teachers Association, click here for a preview of all events.

Nomination Criteria:  Nomination criteria for the Olympic Program. Nomination criteria for the Paralympic Program.

Results: Click here to access Swimming Australia’s live results.