Gutter Talk: The Importance of Pre-Olympic Year Competition; Big Names Weigh In

Lani Pallister of Australia competes in the 800m Freestyle Women Final during the FINA Swimming Short Course World Championships at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre in Melbourne, Australia, December 14th, 2022. Photo Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto
Australia's Lani Pallister -- Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Gutter Talk: The Importance of Pre-Olympic Year Competition

How important is this summer’s competition to your preparation and goals for the Olympic year?

Hunter Armstrong, USA
WR holder (50 back), gold medalist (2021 Olympics/1, 2022 World Championships/2)


Hunter Armstrong — Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

I think this summer’s going to be a very big confidence booster, make or break, depending on how I do. This is my first year as a pro, so I expect to go substantially faster than I did last year. There’s always going to be pressure, but I have to grow and learn how to deal with that stuff.

Pieter Coetze, South Africa
African record holder (100 back), gold medalist (2022 Commonwealth Games/1, 2022 World Juniors/1)

I actually won’t be competing in World Championships this year. I’ll just be training and doing some racing elsewhere over the course of the year. This year is just all about racing at the right time, getting the work done and just having fun. Next year is a big year, so I’m expecting big things. The training this year, it all builds up to the Olympics. We’ll just grind out this year, make sure I’m 100% ready for the Olympics next year and confident going into Paris.

James Guy, Great Britain
Gold medalist (2021 Olympics/2, 2015-17-19 World Championships/4, 2016-18-20 Europeans/7, 2014-22 Commonwealth Games/2)

I wouldn’t say it’s that important, to be honest with you, only because the Olympic year is a different kind of year. Your diet is better. You’re at the pool more. You’re consistently better. Your muscle mass has gone up. Your body mass has gone down.

The prep for the Olympic year is this year, so you’re trying different things for what you’re going to do next year. I know that Tom Dean (defending 200 freestyle Olympic gold medalist) has just gone to altitude. I’m pretty sure he’s going to do that again next year. This is the year to try it, to test things. You’re trying to work out what’s right and what’s wrong.

You want to swim fast, and you want to do well at the Worlds, but at the end of the day, it’s the Olympics that matter. That’s the one that you want to go there and perform. I feel like you don’t want to get too pumped up for the Worlds this year. Even though the Worlds is really important, the Olympics is way above. You don’t want to peak too early.

Leah Hayes, USA
Bronze medalist (2022 World Championships/1)

I think it is very important. It’s another experience to prepare me for the Olympic Trials and any further events such as the Olympics. Competing on the international stage once more will be good. I’m going to try my best (at U.S. Nationals), and I really hope to make (an) international team, but if that doesn’t work out, I’ll have the summer to change.

Shayna Jack, Australia
Gold medalist (2022 World Championships/1, 2018 Pan Pacs/1, 2018-22 Commonwealth Games/2, 2013-15 World Juniors/3)

The preparation and execution of this year’s competitions are important, but for me, it’s also important to enjoy the journey leading into the Olympic year. Learning from anything that doesn’t go to plan and fine-tuning areas of improvement is the focus.


Josh Liendo — Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Josh Liendo, Canada
2021 Olympian, gold medalist (2022 Commonwealth Games/1), silver medalist (2022 World Championships/1, World Juniors/1), Canadian-record holder

I think this summer is a pretty important step. It’s gonna help me grow as a competitor and give me more experience at the highest level. Obviously, I know the Olympics is the big goal, but I’m also looking at Worlds as the sole focus right now. Then I’ll refocus for the Olympics.

Lani Pallister, Australia
Silver and bronze medalist (2022 World Championships), gold and silver medalist (2022 Short Course World Championships, 2019 World Juniors)

I think this summer and especially the next six months of racing is critical for future performance. Being so fresh into the senior space, any race experience I can get on the international stage will be vital for confidence and comfortability racing the girls I’ve grown up idolizing and wanting to challenge. Putting myself in that realm has been the first step forward for myself as an athlete and realizing the potential I have to be successful.

I just want to continue practicing the processes in a high-pressure environment and really solidify coping mechanisms and strategies to remain focused during racing. I’m excited to continue to push myself and put my body on the line to see what I am capable of as an athlete in the next 12 months and, obviously, hopefully qualify for my first Olympic team next year.

I never want to feel the way I did when I missed the 2021 Olympic team, so everything beginning off the back of missing that team has been in pursuit of qualifying for Paris.

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