Australian Swimming brings Olympic Trials and Tribulations

Emily McKeown after breaking the world record
Emily McKeown after breaking the world record. Credit: Australian Olympic Team/twitter

Australian Swimming Olympic Trials have been stacked with exciting news. There have been boilovers, records, good news stories, heartbreak, and so much more.

Kaylee McKeown breaks World Record

Kaylee McKeown was already one of the favourites for the women’s 100m backstroke heading into the meet. That favouritism is now outright after she swam home in a new world record of 57.45.

Overcome with emotion, after the tragic loss of her father to terminal cancer last year, McKeown swam with her emotions and embraced her mother Sharon after the win.

If that wasn’t enough to tug at the heartstrings of all who were watching, the swimmer who came in second in the race also qualified for Tokyo 2020.

Emily Seebohm, after finishing second, in the women’s 100m backstroke, will be heading to her fourth Olympics. Seebohm has battled personal issues and confidence issues and attributed her return to form to her coach Michael Bohl.

It is expected that there will be further scrutiny on Seebohm’s comments, following the sudden withdrawal and public statement by Maddie Groves, who cited ‘perverts’ and ‘body issues’ when she abruptly withdrew from trials last week.

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Ariarne Titmus comes oh-so-close

Ariarne Titmus fired a warning shot to the whole world, in the women’s 400m freestyle, finishing with a time of 3:56.90. Her time is the second-fastest of all time, and just 0.44 behind Katie Ledecky’s record at Rio 2016.

In the five years since Rio 2016, nobody has come close to breaking Ledecky’s record. While she hasn’t raced in a little while, Ledecky has US Olympic trials next week, which will be an indicator of the form she carries into Tokyo 2020.

Regardless, it is likely that Titmus will not be flying under the radar any longer, with her new Commonwealth and Australian record marking her as Ledecky’s most significant challenger.

Horton won’t defend his gold medal

For all the furore and publicity that came from Mack Horton’s 400m gold medal at Rio 2016, it will not be repeated. Horton made waves when he refused to stand on the podium with Chinese swimmer Sun Yang in 2019, for alleged doping violations. Yang continues to face an appeals process over later alleged indiscretions.

Yang is unlikely to be at the Olympics, but Horton certainly won’t be racing the 400m freestyle, as he finished third at the qualifiers, behind Elijah Winnington and Jack McLoughlin.

Winnington’s winning time of 3:42.65 is the fastest time in the world this year, and the first five swimmers all finished under the qualifying standard. Horton’s best time since the 2019 World Championships was not enough, and Horton finished sixth in the 200m to put himself in the frame for selection in the relay.

Other trials news

Kyle Chalmers won the 200m freestyle with a personal best of 1:45.48, in a tight finish that shows Australia holds a strong change in the 4x200m relay.

Elijah Winnington finished second to seal a second individual swim in the 200m freestyle and will be a strong chance in the race as well.

Emma McKeon smashed her own 100m butterfly Australian record, and qualified for Tokyo 2020. McKeon holds four medals from Rio 2016 and may compete in as many as eight at Tokyo 2020. McKeon’s 55.93 was just over a second outside 55.48.

Brianna Throssell finished second, inside the Olympic qualifying time, but outside the Australian standard (0.01 seconds outside). She may end up competing anyway in the 100m and is the favourite for the 200m butterfly later in the week.

No male competitors in the 100m breaststroke reached the Australian qualifying time. Zac Stubblety-Cook won the race but finished outside the qualifying time. He’ll likely be on the plane to Tokyo 2020 as a relay competitor, and also likely the 200m breaststroke later in the week.

Brendon Smith, aged just 20, broke the Australian record of the 400m individual medley to ensure he is on the plane to Tokyo 2020. His swim (4:10.04) broke an eight-year-old Australian record and was more than five seconds inside the Olympics qualifying time.

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About Daniel Coppel 155 Articles
Daniel is a lawyer by trade. He covers netball and Olympics/Paralympics for The Inner Sanctum from Sydney. He has a particular focus on empowerment of sporting leaders off-field, and highlighting off-field contributions of athletes. He also appears on podcasts for a variety of sports.

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