Australian swimmers back as world beaters
Published 25 August 2014 (AEDT)
SWIMMING: High praise today from AOC President, John Coates, for the Australian Swimming Team after their outstanding performances against the powerful Americans at the Pan Pacific Championships on the Gold Coast.
Australia won 25 medals – 10 Gold, 7 Silver, 8 Bronze - in Olympic events, behind the USA with 38 medals (13G 12S 13B).
“These outstanding results demonstrate what can be achieved when you get the culture right in these Teams,” Coates said. “The Team leadership program has been outstanding and I compliment the swimmers, coaches and Swimming Australia management for what has been achieved.”
This was the big test for the Australian Swim Team in 2014 against an American squad boasting greats like Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin and world record breaking Katie Ledecky.
There were many outstanding swimmers for Australia with Cate and Bronte Campbell, Cameron McEvoy, Emily Seebohm, Belinda Hocking, Thomas Fraser-Holmes to name a few.
The Pan Pacific Championships came off the back of topping the medal tally in the pool at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The women’s 4x100m freestyle world record and Emma McKeon transitioning to a senior star were real highlights in Scotland.
While the Pan Pacs were being raced at the refurbished Gold Coast Aquatic Centre the European Championships were being held in Berlin. These performances were being watched with great interest as Europe is a real emerging force in swimming.
Now that the major international meets for 2014 have concluded, and with less than two years until the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, it is an interesting to analyse where swimmers are currently ranked in 2014. The results are exciting from an Australian perspective.
The latest world rankings in Olympic events have Australian swimmers in a position comparable to 18 medals – 8 gold, 4 silver and 6 bronze.
Cate Campbell is ranked fastest in the world for the 50m and 100m freestyle as is Australia in the 4x100m freestyle and medley relays. James Magnussen and Cameron McEvoy are still 1-2 in the 100m freestyle on times and Thomas Fraser-Holmes has had a great 2014 and leads the 200m freestyle. Emily Seebohm and Belinda Hocking are the fastest in the 100m and 200m backstroke respectively.
The Australian results are definitely improving which all bodes well for the 2016 Australian Olympic Team. These virtual 18 medals on current rankings compares with 10 medals (1G 6S 3B) at the London Olympics and 12 medals (3G 9S) at the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona.
On current rankings the USA who have been the benchmark for world swimming have 17 medals (6G 5S 6G) meaning Australia could claim to be back on top like they were after the 2001 World Championships when Ian Thorpe was unstoppable.
Australian swimmers, coaches and management can at the very least take confidence that the mountains of hard work in the pool and the changes in culture are working.
As with any virtual rankings there will be variances that don’t allow for the work load of swimmers doing multiple events at a meet and don’t cater for athletes who have been injured like Christian Sprenger, James Magnussen and Misty Franklin (USA) or those at the start of a comeback like Phelps.
An example of the depth in European swimming comes from the 4x100m freestyle relay where Australia and the Americans would be targeting gold at Rio 2016. The Australians winning time over USA at the Pan Pacs on Saturday night would have only placed fourth at the European Championships behind France, Russia and Italy.
There are still concerning signs in a few events for the Australian Team that will ultimately impact relay performances as well. Australia has traditionally been very strong in women’s 100m breaststroke and men’s 100m butterfly but have lost considerable ground in world rankings here.
The Australian men’s 4x200m relay is also only ranked sixth in the world on 2014 results.
Excitingly for Australia young distance swimmers like Mack Horton, Jordan Harrison and Jess Ashwood continue to creep up the rankings.
Most swimmers will now have a well deserved break to get their bodies healthy and fresh ahead of the next big block of training on the Road to Rio 2016.