Gold Coaster Cam McEvoy has proven he is back to his best on the opening night of the Australian Swimming Championships at the Brisbane Aquatic Centre.
The sport’s biggest names Cate and Bronte Campbell, Mack Horton and Mitch Larkin also lived up to expectations and delivered with some of the fastest times in the world.
The world’s fastest swimmer, Cam McEvoy, looked super impressive to win the 50m freestyle, defending world champion Bronte Campbell powered over the top of sister Cate and Emma McKeon to win the 100m freestyle; Olympic champion Mack Horton finished too strong to take out the 400m; and Larkin hung on grimly to win his fourth Australian 200m backstroke title.
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But the breakthrough performances of Queensland teenagers Ariarne Titmus (St Peters Western) and Shayna Jack (Commercial) will provide two fresh faces on the Dolphins team for this year’s FINA World Championships in Hungary.
Titmus, just 16, clocked a 14 second personal best time to win the 800m freestyle and Jack – the latest prodigy out of the Simon Cusack sprint freestyle school, clocked two personal best times in one day to finish fourth in the 100m freestyle with a 53.40 – the sixth fastest time by an Australian
Titmus, who moved to Brisbane from Tasmania with her family to further her swimming career two years ago, improved her time of 8:37.50 to clock 8:23.08 (59.83; 2:02.23; 4:08.95) – the fifth fastest time ever by an Australian – swimming past a who’s who of Olympians, Olympic champions and world champions, including Sheridan Burge-Lopez, Michelle Ford, Blair Evans, Tracey Wickham and Janelle Elford.
Spurred on by vocal St Peters Western coach Dean Boxall, who did his best “Laurie Lawrence impersonation” urging his young charge on – Titmus took off from the opening lap against Australian record holder and dual Olympian Jess Ashwood but was never headed.
She showed the true grit of a distance swimmer to hang on and defeat Australia’s fastest ever 800m freestyler, with Ashwood clocking 8:25.61 with World Short Course bronze medallist Kiah Melverton (TSS Aquatic) third in 8:34.76.
Both Titmus and Ashwood swam under the World Championship qualifying time of 8:26.96.
“That was a 14 second PB! I don’t really know how I did that. I haven’t swum an 800 long course since August last year so I knew I probably had a big drop in me but definitely didn’t think that was possible,” Titmus said.
“I didn’t really know the qualifying time to make it on the team in the 800 but then I was like, oh I think that’s under so I was pretty happy.
“The 400 which is on the last day, I thought that would be my best shot at making the team. But to come out and do that in the 800, I’m pretty surprised.”
She was quick to praise coach Boxall.
“I heard him yelling out sometimes, but I knew he would be going ballistic and then at the end I saw him and it was really nice,” Titmus said.
“I’ve been with Dean for about a year and everything has been going really well.”
In the men’s 50m freestyle final, McEvoy clocked the second fastest time of his career, stopping the clock in a sizzling 21.55 to defend his title and the first step towards a successful defence of his triple crown (50, 100, 200m freestyle) he won at last year’s Australian Championships.
He defeated fellow Olympic relay bronze medallist James Roberts (Somerset) 21.91 with Will Stockwell (Commercial) taking is first National podium in 22.33 with McEvoy and Roberts both under the qualifying time.
Their clash with Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers in the 100m here on Wednesday will be another major highlight after Chalmers clocked a comfortable 48.22secs anchor leg for the Marion Swim Club’s winning 4x 100m freestyle relay team.
Although McEvoy and Chalmers will contest the 200m freestyle heats on Day Two.
It was Bronte Campbell, who has finally found some solutions to what has been a frustrating two years of shoulder pain, who powered home to win her first National 100m freestyle title ahead of Emma McKeon (St Peters Western) 53.12 and sister Cate (Commercial) 53.30, who had swum a cracking 52.78 in the morning.
Bronte will get the chance to defend the world crown she won in Kazan in 2015 while McKeon gets her first chance to swim the 100m at a World Championship meet.
“It was nice to put a fast time on the board again, I’m really, really happy with that,” Bronte said.
“I’m in a really good headspace and if I can keep managing the shoulder the way it’s been managed. It’s positive the way I’ve been managing it.
“If my body would keep working I could keep doing this forever, I love doing it! As long as I am injury free I can keep swimming to 2020 and it’s looking like it’s manageable at the moment so it’s definitely something that’s on my radar again.”
With Cate unavailable it puts her training partner Shayna Jack onto her first Australian team in the glamour 4x100m freestyle relay after her second personal best in one day, a 53.40 to finish fourth.
Jack has now swum past the likes of 2004 Olympic champion Jodie Henry, Brittany Elmslie, Alicia Coutts, Emily Seebohm and Alice Mills and you could not wipe the smile off her face.
“This has definitely been the best day of my swimming life, I can’t believe it and to make the relay team with all these girls, is a dream,” Jack said.
Backstroker Madi Wilson, a relay heat swimmer in Rio, was a solid fifth in 54.33.
Horton (Melbourne Vicentre) 3:44.18 (54.28; 1:51.45) admitted he was relieved to “get that one in the bag” after winning the 400m freestyle in 3:44.18 from Rio teammates David McKeon (St Peters Western) 3:46.90 and Jack McLoughlin (Chandler) 3:46.96 – all three under the World Championship standard.
In the men’s 200m backstroke Olympic silver medallist Mitch Larkin continued his domination, adding his ninth Australian backstroke title since 2014, clocking 1:56.66 ahead of Rio team mate Josh Beaver (Nunawading) 1:56.95 with Clyde Lewis (St Peters Western) third in 1:58.83.
Both Larkin and Beaver ticked the selection box, going under the qualifying time of 1:57.12 after Larkin opened up a commanding lead through the 100m (56.61) turn it was Beaver who popped the question down the final lap, coming home in 29.77 to Larkin’s 30.07.
Both boys have new coaches, with Larkin switching from Michael Bohl to Simon Cusack and Beaver now under new Nunawading head coach, Scott Talbot – son of legendary coach Don Talbot and current Paralympic coach Jan Cameron.
It will certainly give the Dolphins a strong two-pronged attack heading towards Hungary in July for the FINA World Championships.
In the men’s 100m butterfly final, Olympian David Morgan (TSS Aquatic) defended his crown, winning in 51.81 from his Rio team mate Grant Irvine (St Peters Western) 52.08 and Brayden McCarthy (Bond Swimming) 52.43.
Morgan was just 0.30 outside the World’s qualifying time
The women’s 50m breaststroke went to Jenna Strauch (32.11), from, Chelsea Hodges (Southport Olympic) 32.51.
In the Multi-Class events 15-year-old Rio Paralympic gold medallist Tiffany Thomas-Kane (Ravenswood) continued her domination, taking out the 100m breaststroke Multi-Class final in 1:347.92 from Madeleine Scott (Nunawading) 1:18.87 with Rio Olympian Paige Leonhardt (East Brisbane) third in 1:21.07.
The men’s event saw another of our Rio heroes Ahmed Kelly defend his Multi Class 100m breaststroke championship, clocking 1:52.02 in the 100m breaststroke with his good friend Grant “Scooter” Patterson (Central Cairns) taking silver in 2:18.09 and Rio silver medallist Blake Cochrane (USC Spartans) third in 1:18.26.
In the women’s Multi-Class 100m freestyle it was the battle of the Rio golden girls with 400m freestyle winner Lakeisha Patterson (Lawnton) taking the gold (1:05.67) from 50m freestyle winner Rachael Watson (Chandler) 1:28.69 with triple gold medallist Maddison Elliot (NU Swim) third in 1:06.29.
The men’s event went to Rio 200m freestyle bronze medallist Daniel Fox (USC Spartans) 54.03 from Jack Ireland (UQ Swim Club) 54.54 with Joshua Alford (Tuggernong Vikings) 55.33 third.
Heats will commence at 11:00AM on Monday.