Swimming Australia Aims For Strong First Night at the 2019 FINA World Championships

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Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

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The 2019 FINA World Championships begin Sunday morning in Gwangju, South Korea at 10 a.m. local time with many of the world’s best swimmers in attendance at the eight day long “dress rehearsal” for the 2020 Olympic Games next summer. The meet will begin with the heats of the men’s and women’s 400 free and 4×100 free relays on Sunday as well as the heats of the women’s 200 IM, men’s 50 fly, men’s 100 breast and women’s 100 fly.

Momentum is key in sports and swimming is no different. A poor first day can set the tone for the rest of the meet and the Australians like their chances of having a strong first day in Korea.

There’s been a lot of talk about the impending matchup between Australia’s Ariarne Titmus and USA’s Katie Ledecky in the 400 free on night one. Swimming Australia’s head national team coach Jacco Verhaeren spoke at a press conference on Friday about the importance of getting off to a strong start.

“I’m looking forward to the opening night in general. It’s not just Ariarne, who is obviously very good. There’s also the men’s 400 and 4×100 freestyle relays.”

As to whether Titmus could take down Ledecky, Verhaeren didn’t give an explicit answer.

“We are talking about Katie Ledecky, world record holder, Olympic Champion, World Champion. And she’s a different class,” Verhaeren said. “But I’m sure Ariarne will give everything she has in her to try to give her a good competition.”

The Australians also have medal favorites Jack McLoughlin and Mack Horton in the men’s 400 free, which is the first final of the meet. Horton was added to the team after the Trials in June, despite not making the qualifying standard set for the event. Verhaeren said he expected Horton to rebound strongly in five weeks despite swimming below his best in Brisbane at the Trials. His time was inside the FINA standard but he would need to shed seconds in a hurry to be competitive in a world championships final.

“He may not have been rested enough,” Verhaeren told The Sydney Morning Herald in June. But he insisted that Horton is the reigning Olympic Champion.

McLoughlin looks to be the new face for Australian Swimming in distance swimming moving forward. The 24-year-old Commonwealth Games Champion was ranked in the top eight in the world in the 400, 800 and 1500 freestyles last summer, and is a strong medal contender this week in Gwangju.

“I’m very much looking forward to both of their races and both of them have been showing good progression in training,” Verhaeren said. But he insisted that the first step is performing in the morning and getting themselves in the final. And if they can be among the eight fastest performers in the morning then in the final “anything is possible.” McLoughlin is ranked fourth in the world in the 400 free this year while Horton is ranked seventh.

Swimming Australia has notably made changes in their preparation for the major international meet of the year. Starting in 2018, the Australians moved their qualifying trials five weeks prior to the Commonwealth Games after having dismal performances at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 World Championships. They made the same change prior to the Pan Pacific Championships last summer and saw positive results from it as well. The World Championships are a much larger stage with more pressure, but the Americans have perfected this “double taper” for years.

This week will be Australia’s first “real” test to see if putting their Trials five weeks before Worlds was a smart move. But Verhaeren was optimistic about their chances this week in Gwangju, saying the team has had very little injuries this year and very little health issues.

Also on the first night are the women’s and men’s 4×100 free relays. Australia is the heavy favorite in the women’s relay, but will be missing key leg Shayna Jack, who pulled out of the meet this week due to personal reasons. Verhaeren did not give any extra comment as to why Jack pulled out of the meet, saying it was strictly personal for her.

The Australians will be looking to exorcise their demons from poor championship performances in the past, and the key for them will be getting off to a good start on night one.

1 comment

  1. avatar
    Bob Hopkins

    what tv channel or streaming link can you see the meet on?