Swimming’s teenage dream team have wasted no time clocking on in the race for places on next year’s Commonwealth Games team with eye-catching performances on the opening night of the Queensland State Championships at the Sleeman Sports Centre.
Seventeen-year-olds Elijah Winnington (Bond University) and Ariarne Titmus (St Peters Western) and 16-year-old Kaylee McKeown (USC Spartans) were the stand-out performers on the first night of the week-long championships.
Australia’s swimmers will put everything on the line over four day Games Trials at the Hancock Prospecting Australian Championships between February 28 and March 3 when the team will be decided for next year’s Games on the Gold Coast.
Titmus and Winnington each won their respective open men’s and women’s 200m freestyle finals – leaving some of the sports biggest names in their wake in the first serious meet of the season – Titmus in an Australian 17-years record and the fourth fastest time by an Australian.
McKeown, fourth in the 200m backstroke at this year’s World Championships, clocked the fastest time of the night in the 15-16 years 400m individual medley.
Titmus, the find of this year’s Australian Championships, with her victories in the 400 and 800m freestyle, posted a stunning personal time of 1:56.34 to move into contention for an individual berth in the 200m freestyle.
The former Tasmanian, who came to coach Dean Boxall at St Peters Western two years ago, clocked the fourth fastest time by an Australian – edging in front of Stephanie Rice’s 1:56.60 lead off swim in the gold meal winning Beijing Olympic 4x200m freestyle.
The three ahead of her are Olympic and World Championship bronze medallist Emma McKeon (second tonight in 1:57.77) who holds the Australian record of 1:54.83 and Rice’s relay team mates from 2008, Bronte Barratt (1:55.25) and Kylie Palmer (1:55.73).
And for the moment Titmus is also targeting a place on the Australian relay team, saying: “That is a really big PB so it is exciting. It is good to be fast over 200m for the relay because it is really great to be part of a relay for Australia –t hat is why I’m targeting it. I didn’t expect to swim that fast, twice in one day but it is so important to swim fast heats.”
Winnington is emerging from the shadow of his look-alike training partner and one of Australia’s premier freestylers, Cam McEvoy, who was fourth in tonight’s 200m men’s final
Winnington clocked 1.47.96, to down 19-year-old Jack Cartwright (St Peters Western) 1.48.70, Korean Hoojoon Lee (1:48.49) with McEvoy (1.48.99) fourth.
Winnington is targeting a place on a men’s Games team already bulging in freestyle talent saying: “It is not the time that gets you on a team it is your place, so that gives me a lot of confidence.
“I guess now I will be in the back of a lot of those guys’ minds, I hope they know I am coming.’’
And on training partner McEvoy, Winnington said: “At training we are very similar to what it was like here, we are very close.
“Most of the time he would touch me out, obviously it is Cameron McEvoy, but we do have that friendly rivalry and it is good to get that win on the board.
“I may have something over him for a few weeks.’’
McKeown stopped the clock at 4:40.29 – to win the 15-16 years 400 IM event ahead of her USC Spartans training partners Mikkayla Sheridan (4.42.98) and Olympian sister Taylor McKeown (4:46.05).
In other action tonight former world backstroke champion Mitch Larkin (St Peters Western) took out the 400m individual medley in 4:20.45; Olympian Taylor McKeown (USC Spartans) won the women’s 200m breaststroke in 2:23.50 and in the men it was Zac Stubblety-Cook (West Brisbane Aquatic in 2:12.29) with Sehyeon An (Korea) 58.79 edging out Emma McKeon (Griffith University) 58.94 and Emily Seebohm (Brisbane Grammar) 59.66 in the women’s 100m butterfly and in the men it was Yuki Kobori (Japan) 53.47 ahead of Bowen Gough (Nunawading) 53.96 and Theo Benehoutsos (Melbourne Vicentre) 54.09.