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Chalmers, Titmus the highlights as Dolphins prepare for huge campaign

by ZwemZa on April 13th, 2019

Meteoric rise: Australia’s 100m freestyle gold medallist Kyle Chalmers. Photo: Getty Images

The Australian Swimming Championships have wrapped up, producing some early-season surprises and reason for optimism as the Dolphins prepare for a crucial campaign heading towards the Tokyo Olympic Games. Head coach Jacco Verhaeren knows better than to put the cart before the horse given the prelude to Rio compared to the returns from those Games, but he would have been largely impressed with what he saw. Here’s five talking points from the wash-up in Adelaide.

King Kyle

Olympic 100m freestyle champion Kyle Chalmers was in ominous form at the Championships, which wasn’t a selection meet and thus most of the elite athletes were still in varying stages of training. Even so, he rattled off the fastest 100m freestyle of his life, beating the mark that won him gold in Brazil, and added the 200m title to his keeping as well. He wants both of those at this year’s FINA World Championships in July and again in Japan 12 months later.

He’s becoming a more versatile swimmer as well, blasting off in the first 50m of his 100m and showing his improved speed by pinching the 50m freestyle for good measure. He’s travelling better than ever.

Pulling his weight

Matt Wilson was one of the pleasant surprises of the meet, with the breaststroker overcoming some setbacks and injury to claim the 100m-200m double, the latter coming in Commonwealth record time. While his rise is good news on an individual basis, it’s positive news for the ranks of the men’s medley relay, who have elite-level freestylers (Chalmers) and backstrokers (Larkin) but have struggled in the breastroke leg, especially when Team GB’s world record-holder Adam Peaty gets in the water.

Australia’s big hope in freestyle Ariarne Titmus. Picture: Tara Croser

The rise continues

The only question now about Ariarne Titmus is how fast she’s capable of going over 200m and 400m, which are the two races she will be targeting for the Tokyo Games. The former is a competitive event and she rolled out a Commonwealth record in Adelaide to take the national title. But it’s a rapid rise to 400m, an event owned by American gun Katie Ledecky. Titmus broke the four-minute mark for the second time in her career and she’s now on course for a mouth-watering clash with Ledecky at this year’s World Championships and then Tokyo a year later. She’s a very special talent.

Relay revelations

Relays have been a huge target for Swimming Australia and they see medals in Tokyo being up for grabs. The women’s 4x100m freestyle team, which won gold in London and Rio and own the world record, look as strong as ever with Cate Campbell continuing her form, Bronte Campbell’s returning from rehab and impressive performances from Shayna Jack. Last year’s Pan Pacs showed that the women’s 4x200m relay team are world class, as are the medley relay, which were far too good for the Americans and continue to build depth. The men’s 4x200m relay team, with Chalmers the anchor-man, also look strong. The Worlds will tell us more ahead of the Games.

Sprint splutters

While the form of Chalmers was something to behold, the lack of firepower in the men’s 100m freestyle continues to be a worry for Dolphins coaching staff. Chalmers swam in the 47s but the chasing pack was sluggish, with Cam McEvoy, once the Rio gold medal favourite, finishing with a 49.07s and Clyde Lewis likewise. James Magnussen wasn’t swimming and has yet to decide his future, nor was Jack Cartwright, who looks the best of the youth brigade. The days when Australia had four men swimming 48s seems to be gone for the moment. It doesn’t bode well for their relay hopes.

Phil Lutton | The Sydney Morning Herald

 

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