2021 AUSTRALIAN SWIMMING CHAMPIONSHIPS
- Wednesday, April 14 – Sunday, April 18, 2021
- Southport, Queensland
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Racing got underway at the 2021 Australian Swimming Championships with the women’s and men’s 200 freestyle, 100 breast, 400 IM, and 50 backstroke. While the event is not Australia’s Olympic selection meet which will be held in June, most of Australia’s top athletes are present and already swimming fast during day 1 prelims, offering a preview of what’s to come.
In the men’s 200 freestyle prelims, 10th seed Zach Incerti powered to a 1:46.89 to hit the fastest morning swim by over a second as Thomas Neill and Elijah Winnington trailed with a 1:48.02 and 1:48.04, respectively. Incerti improved upon his entry time of 1:48.36 by nearly 2 seconds to earn a top seed in tonight’s final.
The 200 freestyle final will surely be a battle until the end as Neil and Winnington try to overtake Incerti along with the other trio of sub-1:49 swimmers in the prelims of Kyle Chalmers (1:48.18), Alex Graham (1:48.24), and Thomas Hauck (1:48.75). One of the big storylines during tonight’s finals and at Trials this June will be how many Australian men can get under 1:46 in the 200 freestyle following the recent Russian swimming trials where 4 men got under the mark.
Emma McKeon opened up the session by posting a 1:55.79 200 freestyle to get within a second of her entry time of 1:54.55. She was, however, fast enough to out-touch Australian record holder in the event Ariarne Titmus who was a 1:56.11 for second place in the prelims.
McKeon was also a little bit slower than her current season-best in the event of 1:55.56 from last month which stands as the 3rd fastest time in the world this season.
Madi Wilson also managed to get under 1:57 in the event with her 1:56.50 prelims swim while Leah Neale (1:57.35) and Mollie O’Callaghan (1:57.65) were 4th and 5th, respectively. Kaylee McKeown rounded out the top 6 with a 1:57.91 to make for 6 swimmers under 1:58 during the prelims. That a significant statistic considering that back in 2016 it only took Leah Neale a 1:58.12 to place 4th at Australian Olympic Trials.
In the women’s 100 breaststroke prelims, Chelsea Hodges improved upon her season-best of 1:06.91 by 1 one-hundredth with a 1:06.90 to claim the top spot in the prelims. Hodges was the only woman in the field to crack 1:07 in the event and managed to establish some distance between herself and co-top seed going into the meet, Jessica Hansen. Hansen was also entered with a 1:06.91 but ultimately fell to 5th in the prelims with a 1:08.47.
In between Hodges and Hansen, Abbey Harkin hit a 1:07.45 for second while Jenna Strauch was a 1:07.64. Tessa Wallace managed to break her 7th seed in the event by hitting a 1:08.41 for a 4th seed into the finals. One notable absence in the event was 2016 Australian Olympian Georgia Bohl who was entered in the event in 6th place with a 1:07.94.
As for the men’s 100 breast, Zac Stubblety-Cook managed to overtake top seed, Matthew Wilson with a 1:00.23. That was the top swim of the morning and Wilson actually fell to 3rd in the event with a 1:00.70 as Jake Packard snuck ahead in a 1:00.44. The three of them are only separated by 0.47 seconds heading into tonight’s final which should make for a solid race. Stubblety-Cook, Wilson, and Packard were all entered with times under a minute and will be looking to crack the 1:00 barrier in the finals.
Jenna Forrester swam a 4:41.66 as the fastest woman in the 400 IM prelims while Meg Bailey closely followed with a 4:41.91. Having represented Australia at the two most recent World Junior Swimming Championships, Forrester will soon be making a bid for her first Olympic performance and has a chance in the finals of the 400 IM to get under the FINA A standard of 4:38.53. She and Bailey are well ahead of the field so far as Tara Kinder was the third-fastest prelim swimmer in the event with a 4:48.12.
In the men’s 400 IM prelims, Brendon Smith was a few seconds slower than his entry time of 4:14.91 but posted the top time in the field nonetheless with a 4:17.69. Smith was 6 seconds ahead of second-place Thomas Hauck‘s 4:23.89 and Elliot Rogerson‘s 4:26.13. Hauck will have a busy finals session, having qualified as 6th seed in the 200 free as well as 2nd here in the 400 IM.
In the only non-Olympic events of day 1, Kaylee McKeown and Mitch Larkin established the quickest swims in the respective women’s and men’s 50 backstroke prelims. Both of them were rather close to the national record in the event as McKeown’s 27.52 was within 0.30 of Emily Seebohm‘s 27.37 NR and Larkin got within 0.20 of his 24.54 NR with a 24.67.