2022 Australian Trials Previews: Missing Stars And Their Impact on Relays

2022 AUSTRALIAN SWIMMING CHAMPIONSHIPS

  • Wednesday, May 18 – Sunday, May 22, 2022
  • SA Aquatic and Leisure Centre, Oaklands Park, South Australia
  • LCM (50m)
  • Meet Central
  • Entry List

At the 2022 Australian Championships next week, which serves as a qualification meet for the 2022 FINA World Championships, many of the country’s biggest stars are either not swimming or not going to worlds this summer. Those stars include Kyle Chalmers, Ariarne Titmus, Cate and Bronte Campbell, and Emma McKeon.

All of these swimmers are key components of Australia’s relays, which medaled in six out of the seven contested relays at the Tokyo Olympic games last summer, and won two gold medals (women’s 4×100 free and medley relay). With their biggest stars gone, how will team Australia fare in relays at worlds, and will anyone new be able to step up?

In this article, we take a look at the all of the Australian relays and how they will change based on who is available. 

NOTE: Although Australia medaled in the 4×100 mixed freestyle relay at worlds in 2019, it has not been contested since then, meaning that the nature of the event is relatively unpredictable and we decided not to include it.

Women’s 4×100 Free Relay

We covered this relay in particular in our women’s 100 free preview article and our article following the women’s 100 free at U.S. trials, but long story short: the Aussies have enough depth in the 100 free to be the favorites to win this relay at worlds even with the loss of three of their Tokyo finals swimmers (Emma McKeon, Cate Campbell, and Bronte Campbell).  

Women’s 4×200 Free Relay

Last year, Australia won the bronze medal in this relay. They entered as the world record holders and heavy favorites to win gold but were hurt by poor lineup decisions, as well Ariarne Titmus and Emma McKeon being off their best times. Those same two swimmers will not be swimming at Worlds this summer, meaning that the lineup for this relay will see big changes.

Titmus is the best 200 freestyler in the world. Even being “off” her best, she still swam the fastest leg leading off Australia’s relay last year (1:54.51). However, her best flat start time is a 1:53.09, which is 0.67 faster than the fastest rolling start split in Tokyo. Her and Katie Ledecky are probably the only swimmers who can drop a 1:53 split during the race, meaning that losing her will be a huge blow for the Aussies. McKeon split 1:55.31 on the Tokyo relay, the second-fastest, but went 1:54.74 at trials last year. Although her focus has shifted to the sprint races, she is still a formidable 200 freestyler and her absence will be felt.

Without Titmus and McKeon, the fastest 200 freestylers entered on the psych sheet are Mollie O’Callaghan (1:55.11), Madi Wilson (1:55.68), Leah Neale (1:56.08), and Brianna Throssell (1:56.76). In addition, Kiah Melverton (1:56.89) and Tasmin Cook (1:56.95) are also entered with sub-1:57 times.

O’Callaghan, who broke the world junior record in the prelims of the Tokyo relay, was left off the finals relay, which caused major controversy as she swam faster than three out of the four women on that finals relay. As the fastest seed in this event other than Titmus (who isn’t going to Worlds), the eighteen-year-old will have to play a newfound role as the leader of a group of veterans. In March at the NSW State Open Champs, she swam a time of 1:56.29, which currently stands as the second-fastest time in the country this season behind Titmus. Wilson and Melverton went 1:56.89 and 1:56.90 respectively at that same meet to rank themselves in the #3 and #4 spot.

And while it’s no guarantee that everyone will be able to get faster at trials, the Aussies are already right up there with their rivals currently even without their biggest stars. They are currently the only country with multiple sub-1:57 women even before their trials meet. Here’s how they compare with their biggest competitors so far:

Australia USA Canada China*
Season-Best Trials Top 4 Trials Top 4 Season-Best
Mollie O’Callaghan- 1:56.29 Katie Ledecky- 1:54.66** Summer McIntosh- 1:55.39 Tang Muhan- 1:54.26
Madi Wilson– 1:56.89 Claire Weinstein- 1:57.08 Penny Oleksiak- 1:57.01 Yang Junxuan- 1:54.48
Kiah Melverton– 1:56.90 Leah Smith- 1:57.44 Taylor Ruck- 1:57.60 Lao Lihui- 1:57.27
Brianna Throssell– 1:57.38 Hali Flickinger- 1:57.53 Kayla Sanchez- 1:57.61 Qiu Yuhan- 1:57.39
Aggregate time- 7:47.46 Aggregate Time- 7:46.71 Aggregate Time- 7:47.61 Aggregate Time- 7:43.40

*All times come from the Chinese National Games, a most-likely taper meet that happened in September 2021

**Ledecky went 1:55.11 at trials, her season best of 1:54.66 is from the Orlando speedo sectionals in February 2022

Even though the Aussies only have the third-fastest aggregate time out of them, the United States, Canada, and China, their fastest four entry times add up to 7:43.63, which is faster than every country aside from China. If they can get one or two of their swimmers into 1:54 range, they could have a shot at gold in Budapest. 

Women’s 4×100 Medley Relay

In this race, Australia loses the fly and free legs of their gold-medal winning relay from last year: Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell. While they have a list of freestylers to replace Campbell such as Madi Wilson (52.76), Meg Harris (52.92), Mollie O’Callaghan (53.08), and Shayna Jack (53.13), the butterfly leg is going to be a bit of a problem for the Aussies.

McKeon, the Olympic bronze medalist in the 100 fly, has a best time of 55.72 and split 55.91 on the medley relay in Tokyo. However, there is currently nobody in the country on her level in butterfly. The top seed in the 100 fly at trials, Brianna Throssell, has an entry time of 57.11, which is almost two seconds slower than McKeon. She swam the prelims leg of the fly in Tokyo, splitting 57.11. Considering that the gold medal in Tokyo was decided by 0.13 seconds, this is a massive blow for the Aussies and hurts their chances of defending their Olympic title.

Behind Throssell, the next two fastest women are Alexandria Perkins (58.61) and Abbey Webb (59.09). Neither of them are faster than the FINA ‘A’ cut in the 100 fly, meaning that Australia could have to use Throssell on both the prelims and finals of the medley relay at worlds. 

There is a possibility that Australia uses one of their sprint freestylers on the fly leg, considering that many sprint freestylers are good at butterfly as well. However, nobody in the Wilson-Harris-O’Callaghan-Jack quartet has swum the 100 fly in the last three years or broken a minute in the event yet.

On the other two legs, world record holder backstroker Kaylee McKeown and 1:05-caliber breaststroker Chelsea Hodges will be available for Worlds and will be the core assets of this watered-down medley relay.

Here’s how Australia compares with their biggest rivals in the medley relay so far this season:

Australia USA Canada
Season Bests Top Swimmer At Trials Top Swimmer At Trials
Back Kaylee McKeown– 58.31 Regan Smith- 57.76 Kylie Masse- 58.41
Breast Chelsea Hodges– 1:07.29 Lily King- 1:05.67 Sophie Angus- 1:07.60
Fly Brianna Throssell– 57.11 Torri Huske- 56.28 Maggie MacNeil- 57.13
Free Shayna Jack– 53.13 Claire Curzan- 53.58 Kayla Sanchez- 53.68
Aggregate Time 3:55.84 3:53.29 3:56.82

While the Aussies are currently two seconds behind America, these times are misleading because McKeown and Hodges can easily go significantly faster than their season-best. In addition, they will also most definitely have a 52-point freestyle leg. However, with USA and Canada having elite 55-point caliber 100 flyers in Torri Huske and Maggie MacNeil, Throssell will have to step up big time in order for her country to keep up with their rivals.

Men’s 4×100 Free Relay

All Australian men’s relays will feel the loss of Kyle Chalmers’ presence. In the 4×100 free relay, his absence will hurt the most. In Tokyo, the Olympic silver medalist swam the fastest leg in this relay, anchoring in a blistering 46.44 to help the Aussies win the bronze medal. In addition, Alexander Graham, who split 48.16 on the Tokyo finals relay, and Tokyo prelims swimmer Cameron McEvoy are also not entered on the psych sheets.

The four fastest 100 freestylers entered on the psych sheet include Matt Temple (48.07), Zac Incerti (48.51), Flynn Southam (48.60), and Louis Townsend (48.93). In addition, veteran Clyde Lewis is entered with a sub-49 time (48.96). 

Temple and Incerti both swam on the Tokyo relay, with Temple leading off with his trials entry time and Incerti splitting 47.64. Southam is a fast-rising 16-year-old who clocked his entry time at the 2022 Australian Age Championships, breaking Chalmers’ age group record in the process. He didn’t swim at Olympic trials last summer to focus on his mental health and if he continues to improve into Budapest, he could be a 47-point split as well. Townsend and Lewis both swam at Olympic trials last year but failed to make the team. This year, with a watered-down field, they might be able to have a shot.

Here’s how the Aussies compare to their rivals in this relay:

Australia USA Canada Italy Great Britain 
Season Bests Top 4 Trials Top 4 Trials Top 4 Trials Top 4 Trials
Flynn Southam– 48.60 Caeleb Dressel- 47.79  Josh Liendo- 48.35  Alessandro Miressi- 47.88  Lewis Burras- 47.88 
Zac Incerti– 49.52 Brooks Curry- 48.04  Ruslan Gaziev- 48.41  Lorenzo Zazzeri- 48.45  Tom Dean- 48.06 
Matt Temple– 49.59 Ryan Held- 48.18  Yuri Kisil- 48.80  Manuel Frigo 48.50  Jacob Whittle- 48.24 
Louis Townsend– 49.91 Drew Kibler/Hunter Armstrong- 48.25  Javier Acevedo- 49.12  Leonardo Deplano- 48.68  Matt Richards- 49.20 
Aggregate time- 3:17.62 Aggregate time- 3:12.26 Aggregate time- 3:14.68 Aggregate time- 3:13.43 Aggregate time- 3:13.38

With Chalmers and Graham gone, the chances of the Aussies medaling look bleak. Thier in-season times added up are nearly four seconds slower than the next slowest country listed. In addition, the best times of Temple, Incerti, Southam, and Townsend add up to 3:14.11, which is still slower than what USA, Italy, and Great Britain were at their trials.

Men’s 4×200 Free Relay

This relay also won bronze in Tokyo, but just like the 4×100 free relay, they will lose Kyle Chalmers and Alexander Graham, who were both members of the finals relay in Tokyo. Graham went a 1:46.00 at the Olympics, the second-slowest out of all the leadoff legs. Chalmers split 1:45.35 to follow, which was the second-fastest leg for Australia and the ninth-fastest out of all the flying splits.

Needless to say, this relay looks to be in much better shape than the 4×100 free relay. They have a multitude of 1:45 and 1:46 swimmers and their fastest four on the psych sheets are Elijah Winnington (1:45.55), Thomas Neill (1:45.70), Zac Incerti (1:46.18), and Mack Horton (1:46.33). In addition, they also have 16-year-old Flynn Southam (1:46.77), who is approaching 200 free legend Ian Thorpe’s age group record. Clyde Lewis, who is not entered in 200 free individually but led off Australia’s 2019 World Championship-winning relay in a 1:45.58, could also be placed on a prelims relay if he qualifies in another event at trials.

Incerti split 1:45.35 in Tokyo, while Neill anchored in a very fast split of 1:44.74, being one of the four sub-1:45 splits in the field. Winnington qualified to swim the 200 free individually last summer but was off his best times during the Olympics. Considering that it was his first major senior international meet, increased competition experience will help him with going fast when it matters the most. Horton, a veteran, was also left off the finals relay in Tokyo and swam a 1:47.51 in prelims, the slowest out of his countrymen. This year, he looks to bounce back after having a rough Olympics and Olympics trials last year. However, he has yet to break 1:50 this season.

Here’s how the Aussies compare to their rivals in this relay:

Australia USA Great Britain
Season Bests Trials Top 4 Trials Top 4
Flynn Southam– 1:46.77 Kieran Smith- 1:45.25 Duncan Scott- 1:45.54
Elijah Winnington– 1:47.19 Drew Kibler- 1:45.32 Tom Dean- 1:45.73
Thomas Neill– 1:47.28 Carson Foster- 1:45.66 James Guy- 1:46.44
Zach Incerti- 1:48.18 Trenton Julian- 1:46.69 Joe Litchfield- 1:47.66
Aggregate Time- 7:09.42 Aggregate Time- 7:02.92 Aggregate Time- 7:05.37

Although Australia’s in-season bests are significantly slower than USA and Great Britain’s trials times, the entry times of Winnington/Neill/Incerti/Horton add up to 7:03.76, and the entry times of Winnington/Neill/Incerti/Southam add up to 7:04.24. With the defending Olympic silver medalists of Russia being banned from Worlds, the Aussies still have a chance of meddling with room for error.

Men’s 4×100 Medley Relay

Australia finished fifth in this relay with a time of 3:29.60, although they were 0.43 seconds away from medaling largely due to Kyle Chalmers’ 46.96 freestyle leg. Matt Temple, the only other Aussie available who split 47 on a relay last summer, will most likely be used on the butterfly leg of the medley relay. This means that either Flynn Southam or Zac Incerti would be used to make up for the loss of Chalmers, although they will likely be significantly slower than him. 

Mitch Larkin (52.76), Zac Stubblety-Cook (59.69), and Matt Temple (50.45) are the top seeds in the 100 back, breast, and fly respectively and will likely be the ones swimming on the relay this summer if they qualify. Larkin just went through a coaching change, leaving former coach Dean Boxall to train at the Chandler Swimming Club. He’s swam at a few meets since then, and holds a season-best of 53.80 in the 100 back.

Even with Olympic silver medalists Great Britain missing Adam Peaty and fourth-place Russia being banned, the fact that the Aussies will be at least half a second slower than their fifth-place finish thing means their chances of medaling in Budapest will be very unlikely.

Mixed Medley Relay

Out of the four members of their bronze-medal winning mixed medley relay last year (Kaylee McKeown, Zac Stubblety-Cook, Matt Temple, Emma McKeon), McKeon is the only swimmer who will not be present. However, her 51.73 anchor leg was the fastest out of all seven female freestylers in that race, and helped her beat fourth-place Italy by just 0.35 seconds last summer. 

The Aussies will likely go with their Tokyo lineup plus the fastest women’s 100 freestyler. That freestyler could be either Harris, Wilson, O’Callaghan, or Jack, and it really comes down to who performs the best and trials and worlds. None of them will likely be as fast as McKeon, but if one of them can split 52-mid, they will still be in medal contention considering that the Italian women are weak after Federica Pelligrini’s retirement and world record holders Great Britain will be without Adam Peaty-the most important member of their relay last summer.

Here’s how the Aussies compare to their rivals in this relay using the fastest-possible lineup combination:

Australia USA China
Season Bests Trials Top Swimmers Season Bests
Back Kaylee McKeown– 58.31 Regan Smith- 57.76 Xu Jiayu- 53.36
Breast Zac Stubblety-Cook– 59.74 Nic Fink- 58.37 Yan Zibei- 58.87
Fly  Matt Temple– 51.83 Caeleb Dressel- 50.01 Zhang Yufei- 56.24
Free Shayna Jack– 53.13 Torri Huske- 53.35 Yang Junxuan- 53.42
Aggregate Time 3:43.01 3:39.49 3:41.03

Once again, with Australia’s relay being capable of going significantly faster than their season best, they look like a medal favorite once more.

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commonwombat
6 months ago

W4X100: Unless AUS Trials are unusually slow, they are likely to go in favourites. Minus the 3 fastest ever 100free splitters in history, they ARE clearly vulnerable but still look the strongest line-up at this point

W4X200: Another relay weakened by absence of biggest hitters for Worlds, albeit not with the starting position of dominance seen in the shorter free relay. Realistically looks a 3-way lottery between the Tokyo podium (CHN/USA/AUS) with CAN as ‘catchers’ if there’s a misfire from anyone. They do probably have as strong a hand as the other contenders but I have this one down as medal rather than gold, the latter would be a pleasant surprise.

W4XMED: A weakened back half will most likely sick… Read more »

Robbos
Reply to  commonwombat
6 months ago

Fairly good summation imo. I will wait until the after trials before I say no Aussie women will go under 52.11 in the free leg, but definitely no-one in the Butterfly leg can match the Olympic swim.

commonwombat
Reply to  Robbos
6 months ago

Agree the free anchor situation could conceivably be “covered”; I was framing my read from the position of AUS being either the strongest or 2nd strongest on legs 3&4 to one of being “back in the pack” on fly and merely “on par” on anchor.

Jamesabc
Reply to  Robbos
6 months ago

Yeah it’s the fly leg that will kill the women. Even if Kaylee were to go a 57 mid, Hodges 1:05 mid and the freestyler 51 high, a 57 in the fly still won’t equal a gold.

Smith-King-Huske-Curzan
Reply to  commonwombat
6 months ago

W 4 x 100 FR-R

Too much depth for the Aussie women. MacNeil will not swim the women’s 100 meter butterfly. Curzan and Huske will swim in the heats and semifinals of the women’s 100 meter butterfly prior to the women’s 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay.
Prediction: AUS – CAN – USA

W 4 x 200 FR-R

I don’t see the Chinese women with any absences unless COVID-19 has knocked China out of competition altogether.
Prediction: CHN – AUS – CAN

Sub13
6 months ago

Final will almost certainly be McKeown, Hodges, Throssell and then likely O’Callaghan but could definitely go a couple of ways.

If O’Callaghan is going to swim the final, I assume they will rest her for the prelim. If she isn’t going to swim the final, I assume they would put her on the prelim in back and have another freestyler swim prelims. But yeah they likely will also have Atherton as an option for back so could go with that.

I’m not concerned about any relay choices other than the fact that Throssell is no McKeon. Hodges will probably swim both because her schedule at most will be 2 individual and 1 relay.

Troyy
6 months ago

She’d have to be our best option for the free leg for this to matter rather than just top 2. If she is our best option I think they’ll try hard to not use her in the prelims by using either Wilson or Atherton if she’s on the team.

Last edited 6 months ago by Troyy
Sub13
6 months ago

I think you’ve undersold the men’s medley a little. You didn’t pull out times like you did for all the others.

Temple’s split on the MMR was half a second faster than the Men’s medley. Swap those and Australia would have got bronze.

If Larkin can actually swim a lead off that is indicative of his ability for once, and ZSC and Temple swim close to their best splits, a 47 mid free leg could be enough for silver without Peaty.

Joel
Reply to  Sub13
6 months ago

without Chalmers .
you have a point. Would love to see Temple go extra fast this year at the big meets. 50.1

Sub13
Reply to  Joel
6 months ago

No I meant without GB having Peaty. But I worded it poorly haha.

Awsi Dooger
6 months ago

Titmus’ leadoff leg seemed a lot slower than 1:54.51. I had to double take at that number because she seemed so comparatively sluggish out there, with no one to chase down.

Troyy
Reply to  Awsi Dooger
6 months ago

She had Yang to chase down. Both her front and back half were slower in the relay so she just didn’t have it that day.

Robbos
Reply to  Troyy
6 months ago

Some seem to think Titmus needs a hare to chase, but I agree she just didn’t have it that day.

Troyy
Reply to  Robbos
6 months ago

They seem to forget that she was not far off Ledecky’s 400 free WR at trials last year without a hare.

Yozhik
6 months ago

Don’t these trials serve also as a qualification meet for the CWG? Or Australia has completely different procedure for team selection in this case. I just wondering if we see all these stars mentioned in the article racing this week?

Sub13
Reply to  Yozhik
6 months ago

Emma, Cate and Bronte aren’t swimming at trials. Titmus and Chalmers are swimming at trials but not going to worlds.

Tik Tok
Reply to  Yozhik
6 months ago

Olympics individual medalists get automatic berth in CWG team in their events.

Joel
Reply to  Tik Tok
6 months ago

The actual documentation says they get automatic selection but not necessarily in their event that they medaled in.

Jacob Whittle 46.90 in Paris
6 months ago

Just got to say well done to whoever wrote this article, so much work and research clearly went into it, really useful stuff

STRAIGHTBLACKLINE
6 months ago

It will be clearer after the finals but right now I can see the Australian women winning the 4X100FS and getting medals in the other two relays. As for the men, they have a better than even chance of a medal in the 4X200. They have a record of surprising on the upside in the 4X100FS so a medal, though not likely, is not out of the question.

About Yanyan Li

Yanyan Li

Although Yanyan wasn't the greatest competitive swimmer, she learned more about the sport of swimming through scoring countless dual meets, being a timer, and keeping track of her teammates' best times for three years as a team manager. She eventually ventured into the realm of writing and joined SwimSwam in …

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