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Mitch Larkin joins Dean Boxall after poor showing with Simon Cusack

by ZwemZa on September 10th, 2017
Mitch Larkin (zimbio)

Mitch Larkin (zimbio)

Olympic silver medallist and former world champion Mitch Larkin has moved on to his third swimming coach in the space of a year after admitting he was unable to adjust to the ­extreme change in the training program he initially embraced under renowned sprint coach Simon Cusack.

Larkin decided after last year’s Rio Olympics to end his nine-year partnership with coach Michael Bohl at the St Peters Western club in Brisbane and trialled with several coaches before joining Cusack, who has guided Cate and Bronte Campbell to world titles and Olympic gold medals.

They had only seven months together before the Budapest world championships in July, where Larkin was due to defend his two world titles. But the champion backstroker performed ­poorly by his standards, finishing sixth in the 100m and missing the 200m final, and he then reconsidered his decision to join Cusack’s more sprint-oriented program.

Larkin said he met twice with ­national head coach Jacco Verhaeren after the championships to discuss his situation before ultimately deciding to return to St ­Peters under Bohl’s former assistant, Dean Boxall.

Bohl announced last month he was leaving St Peters to establish a new high performance program at Griffith University on the Gold Coast, and Boxall is expected to be promoted to head coach after placing three teenagers on the ­national team this year.

Larkin, who joined Boxall ­almost three weeks ago, said Cusack had warned him it would take one to two years for him to adjust to a very different training program but he was concerned that the high-intensity approach did not suit him.

“One of the major questions for me was whether Simon was the best fit for me,’’ Larkin said. “I have huge respect for him but Jacco said to me that if you have 1 per cent of doubt in your mind it’s too much, and I did have those doubts.’’

Larkin said he realised he had gained much of his confidence as a racer from the hard endurance work he had done under Bohl and was psychologically unsuited to Cusack’s high-quality, low-volume approach.

“After meeting with Jacco it was pretty clear to me that (Cusack’s program) wasn’t quite what I was looking for; it was a step too far in the opposite direction. I don’t regret doing it because I learned a lot. I found out what worked for me and what didn’t work for me.

“I grew up doing a lot of hard work with Bohly, a lot of grinding through high volume, and I just missed that element of working hard in a big group of swimmers who were all pushing hard twice a day. I usually know going into a race that I have done absolutely everything I can to prepare and that I am probably the fittest athlete behind the blocks but I couldn’t say that in Budapest.

“Mentally I was trying to buy in (to the new approach) but I couldn’t get over the hurdle of not having done the work I had done previously.’’

Larkin said he had also lost his way during the longer three-week taper that Cusack used for the world titles. “The more I rested, the more I lost my feel for the water, and from there I was in such a foreign place.’’

He has returned to a much more familiar environment with Boxall at St Peters. The training is closer to what he did under Bohl but he is still receiving the stimulation of training with a new coach, which is what he was after when he decided to leave Bohl last year.

Boxall, 37, is the hot new thing in Australia’s elite coaching ranks. The national junior coach of the year last year, he converted that success to the senior ranks this year by guiding teenagers Ariarne Titmus, Jack Cartwright and Clyde Lewis on to the national team.

Nicole Jeffery


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