The start of the week-long Queensland State Swimming Championships this weekend has attracted a “who’s who” of the Australia’s Dolphins swim team – including Rio Olympic golden boys Kyle Chalmers (Marion, SA) and Mack Horton (Melbourne Vicentre, VIC).
Throw in Chandler’s Campbell sisters Cate and Bronte, James Magnussen (Ravenswood, NSW), Cam McEvoy (Bond, QLD), Emily Seebohm (Brisbane Grammar, QLD), Emma McKeon (Griffith University, QLD) and Mitch Larkin (St Peters Western, QLD) and the Brisbane Aquatic Centre at Chandler will be dripping with talent.
The only major medallist missing will be Rio silver medallist in the 200m butterfly Maddie Groves, who had surgery two weeks ago for endometriosis.
It is the first of three major State Championship meets in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney that Australia’s elite coaches will utilise in the lead up to the four-day Hancock Prospecting Australian Swimming Championships that double as the Commonwealth Games trials from February 28 to March 3 at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre – home of the 2018 Commonwealth Games swimming events from April 4-9.
Chalmers, Horton and McEvoy have all entered the 100, 200 and 400m freestyle events with fellow Olympians David McKeon (Griffith University, QLD) and Jack McLaughlin (Chandler, QLD) joining in the 200 and 400m freestyle while Horton and McLaughlin will also test each other over the 1500m.
The arrival Magnussen will see the “big three” sprint boys Chalmers, McEvoy and Magnussen up against each other for the first time since the Rio Trials in 2016 in Adelaide and throw in Olympic relay gun James Roberts (Somerset, QLD) and rising star from this year’s Budapest World Championships, Jack Cartwright (St Peters Western, QLD) and Monday night will be the first of the real showdowns of the season as they all hunt places on the Games team.
The women’s events will see the Campbell siblings front and centre over the 50, 100 and 200m freestyle with prolific World Championship medallist McKeon chiming in for the 100 and 200 as well as her specialist 100 and 200m butterfly.
Like the men, the women’s 100m freestyle, also on Monday night will feature the two Campbells, McKeon, Seebohm, Shayna Jack and two-time Olympic relay gold medallist and World Short Course Champion Brittany Elmslie.
Emerging stars like Cartwright (St Peters Western), Jack (Chandler, QLD), Ariarne Titmus, and Clyde Lewis (St Peters Western, QLD), Kaylee McKeown (USC Spartans), Sian Whittaker (Melbourne Vicentre, VIC) and Elijah Winnington (Bond University) will also be on show.
McKeown was recently named the Queensland Junior Sports Star of the Year Award after her fourth-place finish in the 200m backstroke at this year’s World Championships in Budapest.
She will be joined at the Championships by Olympic relay medal-winning trio, sister Taylor, Leah Neale and Jake Packard as well as the Spartans Paralympic stars led by Ellie Cole, Blake Cochrane, Daniel Fox, Braeden Jason and Jacob Templeton as well as Yeronga Park’s Paralympic Program Swimmer of the Year Rowan Crothers.
Whittaker’s dual gold medals at this year’s World University Games will once again ensure that the women’s backstroke events with three-time world champion Seebohm and rising stars McKeown and former World Junior champion Minna Atherton will be amongst the most keenly contested on Monday and Tuesday nights.
Olympic Program Swimmer of the Year Seebohm and Winnington will be amongst the busiest swimmers at the meet – with Seebohm entered in seven events - 100 and 200m backstroke, 50 and 100m freestyle, 200 and 400m individual medley and the 100m butterfly and Winnington in eight events –a mix of open and age events over 100, 200 and 400m freestyle, medley and butterfly events.
Meanwhile Griffith University head coach Michael Bohl gave his star-studded group of Olympians a recovery session in the surf at Southport yesterday morning in a break from the heavy training load that every squad is undergoing at this stage of the season.
It will be Bohl’s first Queensland State Championships since re-locating his squad from St Peters Western to the new facility at Griffith University with David and Emma McKeon, Grant Irvine and his daughter Georgia spearheading the squad.
Bohl took his squad into the waves at Main Beach, Southport after making a promise to visiting US 10km world champion and Rio Olympian Jordan Wilimovsky the squad would go to the surf before his three-month sojourn from California comes to an end after he contests the Victorian Open Water Championships this weekend.
“I promised Jordan we would have a surf session so yesterday morning was recovery and we put them all in the surf and it was pretty solid too,” said Bohl.
“Jordan has been good for the group, particularly someone like David McKeon –and I think he has enjoyed it.”
Bohl said he was not expecting “any world records” as his athletes are all in a tough phase of training where he has worked them hard.
“It’s the start of the campaign and it’s a matter of racing hard tired – we’ll be looking to swim as close as we can to in-season best times and particularly for someone like Emma who will be having her first long course hit out.
“The major focus for Emma for the Games remains the 100m butterfly and the 200m freestyle, followed by the 100m freestyle and the 200m butterfly.
“She is certainly preparing for the 200m butterfly and that still remains to be seen –the 100m butterfly is still the focus and the 200m freestyle is equal and she would really like to break into an individual berth in the 100m freestyle at the Games.”
While many of the elite groups will contest two of the three State Championships in the led up to the Games Trials, Bohl’s Griffith group will race the Victorian Championships at MSAC (January 12,13 and 14) before a week-long training camp at Wollongong University in the lead up to the NSW State Championships at the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre on January 19-21.