Australia's young guns stole the show on day one of the 2018 Pan Pacs in Tokyo with Alex Graham, Jack Cartwright and Clyde Lewis all clocking personal best times in the 200m freestyle heats – and upsetting Olympic champions Kyle Chalmers and Mack Horton.
Bond University’s Graham (1:46.35) was third fastest overall for tonight's final, where he will be joined by fellow Queensland young gun Clyde Lewis (1:46.54) – one of Dean Boxall’s stars from St Peters Western.
Cartwright, another from the Boxall troop, also looked impressive as fourth fastest for the 200m final (1:46.38)but he has withdrawn after posting a time for the 4x200m freestyle relay. He also has the 100m freestyle heats tomorrow morning.
Commonwealth Games silver medallist Horton (1:46.66) and 18-year-old Elijah Winnington (1:47.47) will contest the B final.
Each Charter Nation can only field two swimmers in an A final and two in a B final meaning the likes of Commonwealth Games champion Chalmers – who will also race his pet 100m freestyle heats in the morning, can be replaced by another Australian – on this occasion Winnington who gets another chance to race tonight.
Putting it all in perspective, just 0.31 separated Australia’s fastest five, which augurs well for the 4x200m freestyle relay towards Tokyo 2020.
Alex Graham – 1:46.35
Jack Cartwright – 1:46.38
Clyde Lewis – 1:46.54
Kyle Chalmers – 1:46.62
Mack Horton – 1:46.66
Graham was relieved but excited by his swim, admitting that “all the boys knew it would be on” as they chased times for their inclusion in the relay.
“I got a photo and a message from my coach Richard Scare from home on the Gold Coast this morning and he simply said…to ‘unleash the beast’ and that’s what I tried to do…it was always going to be on….we’ll see what happens tonight,” said Graham.
Scarce had been with Graham and his younger charge Winnington through the Cairns and Nakaoka camps, returning to the Gold Coast on Monday.
Chalmers hoped to make amends in Friday's 100m freestyle.
"I gave it everything I had. That's the fastest I have ever been in the morning," he said.
"For me, I am actually really happy with that but in the back of your mind you are a bit disappointed because you want to be in that A final.
"To not have that opportunity does suck... but I'm still learning and I have the 100m tomorrow, so I still have time to redeem myself."
Horton - 11th fastest on Thursday - was frustrated but believed it augured well for Australia's 4x200m freestyle team at the Pan Pacs after their young guns stepped up.
"The relay will be strong ... I may not get a relay swim," Horton said.
In other events, Jessica Hansen (1:06.63) was fourth fastest with a personal best time for the women's 100m breaststroke final behind top qualifier and Olympic champion Lilly King of the US, who Hansen trained with earlier this year and spoke with after the race, while Jake Packard (sixth fastest on 59.81) and Matthew Wilson (seventh 59.90) made the men's medal race while Brisbane youngster Zac Stubblety-Cook will race the B final after his personal best of 1:00.32.
Australia's Mikkayla Sheridan (1:58.65) and Brianna Throssell (1:59.11) made the 200m freestyle final, but US superstar great Katie Ledecky looked ominous setting a new Pan Pacs record (1:55.16) to qualify fastest.
Meanwhile former Coffs Harbour rookie, Madeleine Gough, who trains under Chris Nesbitt at TSS Aquatic on the Gold Coast – clocked a five second pb in her Timed Final of the 800m freestyle, clocking 8:27.28.
Tonight’s action will also feature star Ariarne Titmus (in her Timed Final of the 800m freestyle) and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Jack McLoughlin (1500m freestyle) and Australia's 4x100m mixed medley relay.