2016 Victorian Open Championships: Meet Preview

What Swimming Australia has termed its “Summer of Swimming” countdown of competitions leading up to the nation’s Olympic Trials in April will be kicking off its series of events with a high-profile meet in Melbourne. The 2016 Victorian State Championships are slated to take place January 22-24th at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Center, with a tantalizing team of talent set to compete under the big lights.

2016 Victorian Open Championships

A hefty helping of Australia’s elite swimmers are scheduled to be attendance, with the occasion serving as the first in a series of tune-up meets for some, but the first stop on the comeback trail for others.

Notably, former World Champion, sprinter James Magnussen, has confirmed the Victorian Open Championships will indeed be his first meet back since having shoulder surgery last summer.  The Open will mark “Maggie’s” first competitive splash since his nation’s World Championships trials/Australian Nationals held back in April of last year. Entered in three events, “Maggie’s” camp told SwimSwam that the Olympic silver medalist will be in the“very early stages of his return to racing”, but that his return to health has “has gone very well to date.”

Maggie is set to compete in one event on each day, beginning with his signature 100m freestyle race on Friday. Sunday will see the 24-year-old throw down his best in the men’s 50m freestyle, but in between is a rather off-event for the thoroughbred sprinter, that being the 200m freestyle.

Magnussen could have intentions to swim the race outright, or he could “pull a Manaudou” and just utilize the first 2 lengths of the race to get another 100m freestyle swim in, before either letting up for the remainder of the race or simply stopping at that point.  The latter is what Frenchman Florent Manaudou chose to do during his own 200m freestyle race at last year’s Amsterdam Cup.

Also in the mix of the men’s freestyle races will be another comeback kid in the form of Trinity Grammar’s Kenneth To. Although having swum in two World Cup stops last year, To had his share of difficulties in the injury department.  To pulled out of the 2014 Pan Pacific Games in order to have back surgery and just returned to racing last September. Viewing those World Cups at “stepping stones” to his 2016 Olympic push however, To already scored three silvers across the Hong Kong and Singapore stops, signaling his body is indeed coming back to form. To will be taking on a full schedule at this meet, including the 50m/100m freestyle, 200m IM, 100m breaststroke and 100m butterfly races in Melbourne.

Chandler’s David McKeon is another competitor slated to step up onto the blocks in the men’s 50m freestyle, along with the 200m, 400m and 800m events as well.  Although McKeon made his nation’s World Championships team, he failed to make an individual final in Kazan, settling for an overall 10th place in the 400m free and 13th in the 200m freestyle. No doubt the 23-year-old will be looking to gain momentum headed into the Perth Aquatic Super Series for which he was selected to compete next month.

Another male swimmer scheduled to make a comeback of sorts is Melbourne Vicentre Swimming Club’s Mack Horton, the young distance-oriented swimmer who started off strongly in 2015, only to fade a bit come last summer’s World Championships. Last April at the Australian Championships, Horton clocked a then-top time in the world mark of 14:44.09 in the 1500m free to set a new All Comers record, overtaking the previous time held by none other than the legendary Grant Hackett who was on deck watching the young star.  Then, in his 400m freestyle event at the same meet, Horton posted a 3:42.84 to win the event and also take over the world ranking throne at the time. Horton’s performance also beat his lifetime best of 3:44.60 which he posted at this same meet last year.

However, once in competing in Kazan, Horton failed to even make the finals for his two hallmark races, the men’s 400m and 1500m freestyles. The sub-par performance was later found out to be caused by Morton having suffered from a microscopic parasite, Blastocystis hominis. Based on the timing, Horton either contracted the bug at the team’s staging camp in Doha, or upon arrival in Kazan.

Having been on a solid streak of training since the ordeal, Horton will look to stake his claim in the world rankings across multiple events in Melbourne, scheduled to race in  the 100m/200m/400m/800m/1500m freestyles.

Towards the other end of the health spectrum is St. Peters Western’s Mitch Larkin, however, the man who destroyed multiple All-Comers, Australian, Meet and even a World Record throughout his 2015 campaign.  With no signs of stopping his backstroking dominance, Larkin is set to compete in the 50m/100m/200m backstroke events, as well as the 200m IM in Melbourne next week.

In terms of the women, no Campbell sisters nor Emily Seebohm is expected, but a solid talent pool will be present to make their marks early in the Australian racing season.  USC Spartans’ Taylor McKeown, will take on the field across multiple events, including the 50m/100m/200m breaststrokes, the 200m/400m IM events, as well as the 100m butterfly.

McKeown made waves in an unlikely place last summer, as she represented one of a handful of Australian swimmers who raced in Brazil’s Jose Finkel Trophy last August. For her efforts, McKeown swam away with multiple wins and meet records to her name.

Western Australia’s Junior Athlete of the Year Award winner from last year, Brianna Throssell, is also scheduled to swim, taking on a monster 6-event schedule of the 50m/100m/200m butterfly, as well as the 50m/100m/200m freestyle events. Throssell most recently did some major damage at last month’s SunSmart States, where the 19-year-old Perth City swimmer took home 5 individual Open titles. Throssell also made the exclusive list of competitors selected to swim at next month’s Perth Aquatic Super Series.

Kylie Palmer is also listed among the meet’s entrants, set to take on just two events, the 200m and 400m freestyles. Although having competed at more than one World Cup stop last year, the USC Spartans swimmer is still shaking off a doping test ordeal, which saw her dropped from last year’s World Championships roster. Her times haven’t reflected where she was at prior to the suspension – 2:03.30 200 free, 57.35 100 free, 4:21.97 400 Free in Tokyo in October- therefore, Palmer is no doubt looking for redemption on her road to Rio.

Among others, another name to keep an eye on is young Jessica Ashwood, the Australian distance star who broke onto the international scene with a 5th-place finish in the women’s 1500m freestyle in Kazan. Ashwood broke her nation’s record in both the long course and short course versions of her event, and will take on the field in the 100m/200m/400m/800m freestyle races in Melbourne at the Victorian Open.

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About Retta Race

Retta Race

Former Masters swimmer and coach Loretta (Retta) thrives on a non-stop but productive schedule. Nowadays, that includes having just earned her MBA while working full-time in IT while owning French 75 Boutique while also providing swimming insight for BBC.

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