Just when you thought big sporting events would take a back seat after the Winter Olympics, today, the Australian Swimming Championships begin on the Gold Coast to determine our swimming team for the Commonwealth Games.
And Channel 7 will tonight begin screening four nights of the electrifying finals action around Australia from 9.00pm EST.
All of the big names of Australian swimming, including Cameron McEvoy, Mack Horton, Cate and Bronte Campbell, Kyle Chalmers, Emma McKeon and James Magnussen will be lining up behind the blocks as well as para stars Ellie Cole and Blake Cochrane.
With the fastest textile time in the world in the men’s 100m freestyle(47.04), Cameron McEvoy will be hoping to get back to his best as he comes up against 2016 Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers, dual world champion James Magnussen, fellow Gold Coaster James Roberts and rising star Jack Cartwright all looking for a top three spot and an A qualifying time for an individual swim in one of the fans’ favourite events at the Commonwealth Games.
The trials could also see the rise of a 17-year-old Elijah Winnington from the Gold Coast who some say is primed to cause a major upset.
His confidence has been backed up by a recent victory over his training partner McEvoy — a win in the 200m freestyle at the New South Wales’ swimming championships last month, in a time of 1m:48.59s.
In the corresponding women’s event, all eyes will be on Cate Campbell who has come back firing after a year away from competition. The current short course world record holder and fastest Australian of all time in the event will need to get the better of younger sister and dual world champion Bronte Campbell, their training partner Shayna Jack, plus the versatile Emma McKeon and world short course champion Brittany Elmslie to retain her sprint title in 2018.
With six medals to her name from the 2017 World Championships Emma McKeon will have once again take on a packed swimming-schedule, and that’s just the way she likes it. She will be taking on the 50, 100 and 200m freestyle plus the 50, 100 and 200m butterfly over the four days.
The titles are not just a super test for our best swimmers but a format change has piled on even more pressure not only on the swimmers but also coaches and administrators.
Not only are the traditional semi-finals removed from the competition timeline, but the event itself is being held just 5 weeks out from the Commonwealth Games, a new model the green and gold are trying out in light of a relatively disappointing Rio Olympics and Budapest World Championships.
It is similar to the timeline used by the currently dominant Americans.
Speaking on-site at the Optus Aquatic Center, Australian head coach Jacco Verhaeren points to how the trials are not only the test event for the actual Commonwealth Games, themselves, as they are being held in the same facility, but the new meet format and timing is a test event for the Australian athletes as a whole.
“The facilities here are excellent and while many of our athletes train outdoors, the opportunity to swim under the Gold Coast sun in the competition venue just weeks before the Games is a major advantage for our team,” Verhaeren said.
“This will be one of the biggest trials yet and I have no doubt competition will be tough, and we will see some outstanding performances this week.”
Verhaeren reiterates that all Australian elite swimmers are slated to swim, with no exceptions. There is, however, one man missing, as Thomas Fraser-Holmes is in the midst of serving his doping ban.
Fraser-Holmes, a dual-Olympian and Commonwealth Games gold medallist was last year outed until April 2018 after missing three drug tests in the space of a year.
In the para events, an in-form Ellie Cole will be hard to beat over the S9 100m backstroke, with the Sunshine Coast based swimmer hoping to impress in front of a home crowd.
Her training partner Blake Cochrane, a dual bronze medallist from the Commonwealth Games, will be looking to test out the competition pool and move up the podium in the men’s SB8 100m Breaststroke.
Daily event highlights:
Tonight:– Emma McKeon & Ariane Titmus (200m freestyle); Emily Seebohm, Madi Wilson, Sian Whittaker and Minna Atherton (100m backstroke); Cam McEvoy, Kyle Chalmers & Mack Horton (200m freestyle)
Thursday:– Cate & Bronte Campbell, Emma McKeon, Brit Elmslie & Shayna Jack (100m freestyle); Kyle Chalmers, Cam McEvoy, James Magnussen & James Roberts (100m freestyle)
Friday:– Emma McKeon and Maddie Groves (100m butterfly); Mitch Larkin and Josh Beaver (200m backstroke); Jess Ashwood and Ariarne Titmus (800m freestyle)
Saturday:– Cate & Bronte Campbell, Brit Elmslie & Shayna Jack (50m freestyle); Kyle Chalmers, Cam McEvoy, James Magnussen & James Roberts (50m freestyle).