With the Pan Pacs and the Para Pan Pacs swum and won it’s now time for Australia’s “Next GENERATION” swimmers to step up to the plate in this week’s Junior Pan Pacs in Suva, Fiji.
The 30-strong team of 15 girls and 15 boys arrived into the Fijian capital yesterday for the four-day Junior Pan Pacs meet starting Thursday August 23 against the cream of Under 14 to Under 18 swimmers from the USA, Canada and Japan as well as teams from the Pacific Rim.
The Australian team was named after some record-breaking performances at this year’s Georgina Hope Foundation Australian Age Championships.
The Junior Pan Pacs has been a successful breeding ground for future senior international teams and the percentages of the cut through has seen a high transition from junior to senior and Olympic teams.
In fact, it has become the perfect platform for athletes to develop with the likes of teenage stars Ariarne Titmus, Jack Cartwright, Kaylee McKeown, Matt Wilson, Laura Taylor, Bradley Woodward and Elijah Winnington have been amongst the Australians who have graduated to bigger and better things over the past two years.
Overall, 15 members of the 2018 Pan Pacs graduated from the SAL Pathway Program.
Titmus, Cartwright, Wilson and McKeown were all on the 2017 World Championship team to Budapest and the 2018 Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacs teams as were Taylor, Woodward and Winnington – the majority on the podium – some winning gold.
Seven members of the Junior Pan Pacs team, Lewis Blackburn (Ravenswood, NSW), Ashton Brinkworth (UWA West Coast, WA), Joseph Jackson (Brisbane Grammar, QLD), Stuart Swinburn (University of NSW, NSW) Chelsea Hodges (Southport Olympic, QLD), Michaela Ryan (St. Peters Western, QLD) and Abbey Webb (Ginninderra, NSW) will also be part of the swimming team for the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina in October – with former Junior world record holder, Kaylee McKeown, fourth in last year’s World Championships, the eighth.
While eight members of the 2017 Junior World Championship team have also successfully transitioned on to this year’s Junior Pan Pacs team.
“We are very pleased with the cut through from the junior ranks to the senior and hopefully we will see some of these kids on future Australian senior teams – and while we may not expect to see them on the 2020 Olympic team they will certainly be in line for 2024 in Paris,” said Team Leader and High Performance Pathway Manager, Jamie Salter.
“The Pathway Program we have established is certainly being well trodden and we are really looking forward to this meet with a very exciting group.
“Swimming Australia brought them together for a camp at the AIS in Canberra in July and that was really an introductory session for when we came into the pre-event staging camp in Brisbane at Yeronga Park over the past three days,” said Salter.
“We came in late last week and left for Suva yesterday and to see the team, particularly those athletes without their home coaches gel with the coaching groups they were assigned in Canberra was perfect.”
The Head Coach of the team is Olympic silver medallist and Olympic gold medal coach Glenn Beringen while 2004 Athens Olympic triple gold medallist Jodie Henry is the team’s Athlete Mentor.
“It’s an exciting time for our youthful team; for most this is the first time they have competed on the international stage and our focus is preparing them for what to expect,” said Beringen.
“Our camps also provided the team time to explore any new strategies that will help performance when it matters as we approach the end of the season’s benchmark competition.”
Amongst the coaches are 1988 Seoul Olympian Janelle Pallister (nee Elford), who’s daughter Lani is on the team and Nunawading Head Coach, Scott Talbot, son of Australia’s greatest ever Head Coach Don Talbot and the late Jan Cameron – 1964 Olympian and esteemed coach in Australia and New Zealand.
Talbot has freestyle-butterfly girl Kayla Costa and brilliant all-rounder Brendon Smith who will have one of the busiest programs of the team – entered in the 200, 400 and 800m freestyle; the 200m butterfly and the 200 and 400IMs, which he won at the Australian Age.
Maroochydore State High student, Pallister said she had been inspired by the performances of the senior Pan Pacs team in Tokyo, especially the relays and she also brings her considerable talents to the emerging women’s team.
“The girls were amazing and so inspiring, watching Maddie Groves swimming stroke-for-stroke with Katie Ledecky makes you think what you would do if you were placed in a similar position,” said Pallister, also a stand-out pool rescue and surf lifesaver with Alexandra Headland.
“You want to make sure you get your finish right and get onto the wall,” said Pallister.
Pallister, who was a member of the Australian team at last year’s Junior World Championships in Indianapolis, will contest the 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1500m freestyle.
She joins a team that is dripping in talent, including Dean Boxall’s St Peters Western pair Michaela Ryan and Jenna Forrester – who won 19 medals between them at the Australian Age Championships.
Ryan won individual gold medals in the 100 and 200m butterfly, 100 and 200m freestyle, 200m backstroke and 200m individual medley with a bronze in 50m freestyle as well as three golds in Australian record times in relay events for Under 16 girls 4x100m medley relay, 4x100m freestyle relay and Under 18 girls 4x200m freestyle relay.
While Forrester won five individual gold in the 100, 200 and 400m freestyle and the 200 and 400IM as well as in five relays.
Relays are an important part of every Australian Dolphins team moving forward under the National Relay Project – that saw Australia win medals in every Pan Pacs relay – four gold, two silver and one bronze in Tokyo.
Ryan and Forrester were also part of the St Peters Western open girls teams with Titmus and another Junior Pan Pacs graduate, Abbey Harkin who set new Australian records in the 4x200m freestyle and 4x100m freestyle at the Pan Pacs Trials in Adelaide.
The relays will also form an integral part of the Junior Pan Pacs program from the 4x100m freestyle and medley relays through to the 4x200m freestyle and the new Olympic program relay the 4x100m Mixed medley relay.
Forrester won the 14 years 400m freestyle by over six seconds, posting a 4:14.16, just off her personal best of 4:13.97.
Among Ryan’s best swims at the Age saw her post a 1:58.91 to win the girls 16 years 200m freestyle by over 2.5 seconds. Ryan’s best time going into the meet was 2:02.30, then 2:01.50 in the heats.
Pallister actually won her 1:59.37 Australian record in the 15 years 200m freestyle, along with Ryan (1:58.91), Forrester (2:01.32), Ginninderra’s Abbey Webb (2:00.64) and Rackley’s Eliza King (2:02.13) and the Australians have strong depth in the 4x200m freestyle.
The boys too have a good depth of 200m freestylers with Ashton Brinkworth (UWA West Coast) 1:51.11, Jack Edie (Ravenswood) 1:51.27, Thomas Hauck (All saints) 1:51.63, Silas Harris (Northcote) 1:52.15, Brendon Smith (Nunawading) 1:52.35, Se-Bom Lee (Carlile) 1:54.10, and Angus McDonald (Trinity Grammar) 1:54.48.
Hauck was a standout in the 15 years winning gold in the 100 and 200m freestyle and the 200 and 400 IMs.
Swimming Australia would like to acknowledge the support of the Commonwealth Games Association for providing funding to youth athletes through its NextGEN Squad program.