Skip to content

‘I have a bit to prove’: Southam wants in on teenage wave sweeping swimming

by ZwemZa on August 3rd, 2022

Flynn Southam celebrates Australia’s gold in the men’s 4x100m relay final.Credit:Getty Images

Flynn Southam wants in on the teenage wave that is already washing over world swimming just a year after the world order seemed chiselled in stone at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

The 17-year-old sprint freestyler is making his international debut at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham having already carved a swathe through the junior ranks of the sport, including taking down an age record set by Kyle Chalmers back in 2015.

Normally, it would be prudent to keep the hype to a minimum as young athletes make their way through the sport. But swimming is already in the midst of a teenage dream in which a 15-year-old, 17-year-old and an 18-year-old stormed to multiple crowns at the recent FINA World Championships in Budapest.

Summer McIntosh (15) turned her global success into 400-metre individual medley gold on night one of the meet in Birmingham and Mollie O’Callaghan, the Australian 18-year-old 100m freestyle world champion, almost sprung a huge upset when she was touched out in the 200m by Ariarne Titmus.

And Southam’s friend David Popovici, from Romania, set the pool on fire in Budapest when he took the 100m-200m double. Southam has had to bide his time, but he’s eager to make his presence felt sooner rather than later.

“I have a bit to prove,” Southam said. “Those guys have had Youth Olympics, junior worlds. This is my first international meet, I didn’t get to go to any junior stuff due to COVID. They have some experience on me but give me a couple of years at Paris and I’ll be matching it with those guys.”

Southam doesn’t lack confidence and already has the kind of swagger that will help him fit in perfectly in the sprint set. But his first swim in Birmingham was a nervous relay lead (49.21) that showed his lack of exposure to this level of competition.

“I was just overthinking it. It was just the mental aspect and that showed out in the way I swam, really aggressive, not overly technical,” he said.

It stung, but he managed to channel his frustration in the right way. When he woke up the next day, he blasted a mid-48s relay split to power the Australian 4x100m freestyle quartet into the final as the quickest seed.

“It got me fired up. My mixed relay lead wasn’t the greatest time I’ve ever done. It was my first race here, massive crowd, I’m only 17, so it’s also an experience whether the results are good or bad,” Southam said.

“But I just trusted myself and my ability. Good times. With a disappointing time like that, you can’t get too down about it, which I was a bit. But I woke up determined to get our team the fastest seed into the final. Hopefully we can go on and kick some butt.”

Southam’s fresh arrival on the scene and the glut of talent in Australian swimming has allowed him to enjoy a luxuriously low profile. But that won’t last once he begins to strip time off his personal bests and start to set his sights on Chalmers, the 2016 Olympic champion and Tokyo silver medallist.

For all the depth in the women’s sprinting stocks, the Australian men’s remains thin, with Chalmers out on his own ahead of a group of swimmers who are well off the kind of times that would put them in and around an Olympic final.

Southam has a personal best of 48.60 but already Popovici, at the same age, has a blistering 47.13 on the books. But Olympic medals aren’t handed out between Games’ cycles, so time is on his side as he tries to join the rush for medals in Paris in 2024.

By Phil Lutton | The Sydney Morning Herald

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Note: XHTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: