Don’t get your hopes up, but, you knowâ¦maybe get your hopes up a little bit.
- Australia will send 35 swimmers to Tokyo including Cate Campbell and Emily Seebohm
- Twenty-one swimmers areÂ off to their firstÂ Games
- Kaylee McKeown, Ariarne Titmus, Elijah Winnington and Zac Stubblety-Cook could become household names within weeks
Australian swimming, and more specifically women’s swimming, is in rude health after the Olympic swimming trials were run and won this week in Adelaide.
When elder stateswomanÂ Cate CampbellÂ was asked by a reporter this week if we could “start to get excited now”, she let out a cry of faux exasperation.
“What more do you want?” she asked.
Good question, because in reality there’s not much more they could have done.
Over the course of six days, Australian swimmers set one world record, four Commonwealth records and five Australian records.
The postponement of the Tokyo Olympics was shattering to so many athletes, but it may have had one benefit â it allowed Australia’s up-and-coming swimmers an extra year of training to get much fitter, stronger and faster.
Australia has named a team of 35 swimmers for Tokyo including the veterans of three Olympics, Cate Campbell and Emily Seebohm, and 21 of the new breed off to their firstÂ Games.
Names like Kaylee McKeown, Ariarne Titmus, Elijah Winnington and Zac Stubblety-Cook will make their Olympic debuts and could well become household names within six weeks.
The men were good, but the women excelled.
McKeown broke a world record in the 100m backstroke and a Commonwealth record in the 200m backstroke. It was also the fastest time of the year.
Titmus recorded two of the fastest times in history in the women’s 200m and 400m freestyle.
Only Federica Pellegrini’s super-suit and one 10th of a second separates her and the Italian’s 200m freestyle world record set in 2009 âÂ the longest standing in women’s swimming.
Her main rival, the American superstar Katie Ledecky, may have been spooked, or playing coy, when she recorded far slower times during the US trials this week.
Veteran Emma McKeon is in the form of her life.
She recorded the fastest time of the year and the eighth-fastest of all time during the heats of the 100m freestyle on Wednesday.
No matter that she went slightly slower in the final â she still won and dragged another five women including Campbell under Olympic qualifying time.
Given Swimming Australia bases its qualifying times on the eighth-best places at the last World Championships, Australia can boast six of the very best female sprinters in the world.
Australia won three gold medals, four silver and three medals at the Rio Olympics, in what was considered an underwhelming result.
The women won just one gold medal âÂ in the 4 x 100m freestyle relay.
On this showing they’ll go in as unbackable favourites to defend their title.
They could easily add the 4 x 200m relay.
Titmus is a good chance of winning two individual gold medals and playing a part in the 4 x 200m relay.
She’ll also compete in the 800m after claiming the win and an Australian record on the final night, butÂ Ledecky is the undisputed champion over that distance.
McKeown, after her world record, will be the favourite to win gold in the 100m backstroke with the possibility of more medals in the 200m backstroke and the 200m individual medley.
McKeon has qualified for four individual events and could swim in three relays making for an extraordinarily tough program in Tokyo if she chooses to compete in them all.
She’ll be one of the strong favourites in the 100m and 50m freestyle and 100m butterfly.
Chalmers sets the stage for one of the greatest races in history
WhileÂ the women are leading the way, Australia’s men have put in some strong performances.
Stubblety-Cook set the second-fastest time in history to win the 200m breaststroke final from a bitterly disappointed former world-record holderÂ Matthew Wilson, whose time would have gained him qualification in any other country.
Wilson did get a reprieve â he was named for his first Olympic Games as a relay swimmer under Swimming Australia’s extenuating circumstances policy, because his grandmother died at the beginning of the trials.
FreestylerÂ Elijah WinningtonÂ won 30 junior titles and has continued in the senior ranks.
His time to win the 400m freestyle final was the fastest of the year.
Defending Olympic championÂ Mack Horton came third and missed out on qualification, but will go as part of the 4 x 200m relay team.
Australia has a real medal chance in the relay with Kyle Chalmers qualifying fastest in the 200m, and the impressive Winnington second.
And Chalmers himself is getting back to his best form after shoulder surgery last December.
He swam the sixth-best time of the year to win the 100m freestyle, but his progression this year on his journey back from injury has been impressive.
The men’s 100m final promises to be one of the outstanding races at the Tokyo Olympics and will featureÂ American superstarÂ Caleb Dressel andÂ Briton Duncan Scott.
And then to begin the psychological games, he laid down a challenge.
“Obviously, it’s a bit easier to swim fast at trials and what-not. Gotta do it when the pressure’s on and when it counts the most so it’ll be interesting to see how quick people can go in five weeks’ time,” he said.
Matthew Temple has the second-fastest time of the year in the 100m butterfly and will also compete in the 100m freestyle.
Australia went into the Rio Games with high expectations and came away with its hopes dashed.
With the American trials underway, and other swimmers around the world fine-tuning selections and preparations, it would be foolish to make any rash predictions about how Australia will go in Tokyo.
But on the basis of the elite times set in the Australian trials, the signs are looking very good.
Can we get excited nowÂ please, Cate?