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Sky’s the limit for Ariarne Titmus after moving within striking distance of Ledecky

by ZwemZa on April 13th, 2019

Ariarne Titmus equalled her Commonwealth 400m freestyle record on Thursday night. (AAP)

It has certainly been an eventful week in Australian sport. From Israel Folau to Valentine Holmes, Katie Brennan to Winx, there has been no shortage of talking points. Likewise in Adelaide, where the national swimming championships threw up a number of interesting storylines that served as useful pointers ahead of a defining 12 months in the pool.

The championships, which were held at the SA Aquatic & Leisure Centre, have in the past doubled as selection trials for the next big international swimming meet – in this case, July’s world championships in South Korea. This year, however, the team will be selected at a meet in Brisbane in June, in line with Swimming Australia’s new policy of scheduling official trials for major meets closer to the actual event.

As such, competitors went to Adelaide in heavy training for the June meet, with the usual tapering period not being observed. Under these circumstances, it might be logical not to expect too much in terms of times.

But there were some outstanding swims from able-bodied freestylers Ariarne Titmus and Kyle Chalmers and breaststroker Matthew Wilson, and multi-class swimmers Liam Schluter and Timothy Hodge.

Eighteen-year-old Titmus was the outstanding female swimmer of the meet, taking gold in the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyle. In the 200m she swam 1.54:30, breaking her personal best time by 0.3 seconds and setting a new Australian record.

Her 400m swim was even more impressive: her 3.59:66 equalled her Commonwealth record set at the Pan Pacific Championships in August 2018. After 150m she was already 25 in front the rest of the field, and her final split of 29.79 was her third-fastest of the race. Both her 200m and 400m times were the fastest in the world this year.

If Titmus can swim this well when she is in heavy training and un-tapered, how well is she going to swim in Korea in July, and in Tokyo in 2020? She is within striking distance of her main rival, US superstar Katie Ledecky. The women’s 400m freestyle could well be the race of the world championships.

Reigning Olympic 100m freestyle champion Kyle Chalmers had an excellent meet in front of his hometown crowd, winning four titles: the 50m, 100m and 200m freestyle, and the 100m butterfly.

Chalmers is a great racer, and his strength and power in the pool are exhilarating to watch. In winning the 100m freestyle he swam a PB of 47.48, 0.1s faster than his gold-winning time at the Rio Olympics, and the fastest time in the world in the past 18 months.

The surprise of the meet was Sydney’s Matthew Wilson, who took the 100m and 200m breaststroke titles. His 200m race, which he won in a time of 2.07:16, got everyone talking: he broke the Commonwealth record by 0.14s and was on world record pace for most of the distance.

Remarkably, Wilson came into the meet having suffered a hamstring strain the week before. In his words, it resulted in “an accidental taper … I definitely didn’t target this meet for a drop in time like that”.

Wilson had a pretty good 2018, winning minor medals in the 200m breaststroke at the Commonwealth Games and the Pan Pacs, but after his stunning swim in Adelaide, which Ian Thorpe said was the breakout performance of the championships, he is definitely one to watch.

Cate Campbell and Mitch Larkin also enjoyed standout performances, winning two and four titles respectively. Larkin was victorious in the 100m and 200m backstroke, and the 200m and 400m individual medley, while Campbell took gold in the the 50m and 100m freestyle.

Bronte Campbell is returning from a shoulder injury and was third in the 50m and fifth in the 100m.

The Adelaide event was the selection meet for the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships. World records were set by Liam Schluter (S14) in the 200m and 400m freestyle multi-class and Timothy Hodge (S9) in the 50m backstroke multi-class, with Hodge breaking Australian Matt Cowdrey’s 2007 record in the 50m event. Ellie Cole (S9) became the first female para athlete to win the same national title six times when she took gold in the 100m backstroke multi-class.

The biggest names missing from the national championships were Emily Seebohm, who is concentrating on training for the new FINA Champions Swim Series, and Mack Horton, who is resting a shoulder injury. They will both swim at the June selection trials.

Meanwhile, Australia looks to be well placed for success at the worlds in Korea, especially in freestyle. The women are particularly strong and currently lead the world in the sprint and middle distance events. For the men, Chalmers, Larkin and Wilson are likely to be in contention for medals.

Of course, in the past decade or so the world has caught up to and, in many cases, overtaken Australia in swimming. The USA still reigns supreme, but there are brilliant swimmers in Italy, Japan, Britain, China, Sweden and Russia. The medals are likely to be spread out among all these nations and more.


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