2022 COMMONWEALTH GAMES
- Friday, July 29 – Wednesday, August 3, 2022
- Birmingham, England
- Sandwell Aquatic Center
- Start Times
- Prelims: 10:30 am local / 5:30 am ET
- Finals: 7:00 pm local / 2:00 pm ET
- LCM (50m)
- Meet Central
- Event Schedule
- Entries (in seed order) – h/t to Troyy
The men’s backstroke events at the upcoming Commonwealth Games were shaken up by the late scratch of Australian Isaac Cooper, making the 50 and 100-meter events relatively wide open in Birmingham.
Cooper was a finalist last month in the 50 back at the World Championships, and he was also the top-ranked swimmer coming into the Games in the 100 back. In his absence, the door has been opened for the rest of the field to have a clear shot at glory.
In the 200 back, England’s Luke Greenbank is the frontrunner, and the performances of Australia’s Mitch Larkin will be a storyline to watch all meet. Larkin is the defending champion in all three distances, and the two-time defending champ in the 200 back, but will need to show improved form to return to the top of the podium.
MEN’S 50 BACKSTROKE
- Commonwealth Record: 24.04, Liam Tancock (ENG), 2009 World Championships
- Commonwealth Games Record: 24.62, Liam Tancock (ENG), 2010
- 2018 Commonwealth Champion: Mitch Larkin (AUS), 24.68
Cooper’s best event is currently the 50 back, so his absence really opens the door for the two other men in the field sub-25 this year to fight it out for gold.
With Cooper out, South African Pieter Coetze will be looking to take full advantage after he was forced to withdraw from the World Championships due to COVID-19.
Coetze, 18, has clocked 24-point five times this year despite not getting the opportunity to swim in Budapest, notching a best of 24.74 at the South African Championships in April before reeling off consecutive swims of 24.81, 24.78 and 24.75 at each stop of the Mare Nostrum Tour in May.
New Zealand’s Andrew Jeffcoat is the other swimmer who has cracked 25 in 2022, setting a new Kiwi Record of 24.83 in February before clocking 24.91 in Budapest to tie for 13th.
Larkin is a bit of dark horse in this race. He has been 24.6 five times, most recently in April 2021, but was well off in 25.47 at Worlds last month. If that was simply a miscalculation of going too easy in the prelims, or he doesn’t quite have the speed he used to, will be a question answered in Birmingham.
Others in the mix for a spot on the podium include Canadian Javier Acevedo and Australian Ben Armbruster.
Acevedo was two one-hundredths shy of tying for 16th in Budapest, clocking 25.18 to narrowly miss his 25.13 PB, while Armbruster swam a best of 25.13 at the Australian Championships.
|1||Pieter Coetze||South Africa||24.74||24.74|
|3||Andrew Jeffcoat||New Zealand||24.83||24.83|
MEN’S 100 BACKSTROKE
- Commonwealth Record: 52.11, Mitch Larkin (AUS), 2015 FINA World Cup – Dubai
- Commonwealth Games Record: 53.12, Chris Walker-Hebborn (ENG), 2014
- 2018 Commonwealth Champion: Mitch Larkin (AUS), 53.18
While the 50 back appeared to be Cooper’s race to lose before the withdrawal, the 100 back was slated to be a shootout between a few different swimmers.
Cooper was the fastest coming in at 53.55, but we’ve also got Coetze (53.72), Jeffcoat (53.72), Larkin (53.73) and Luke Greenbank (53.81) who have been sub-54 this year.
Among those four, Jeffcoat is the only one whose fastest swim this year is an all-time best, as both Coetze (53.62) and Greenbank (53.34) swam their PBs in 2021.
Larkin, one of the fastest swimmers of all-time with his 52.11 from 2015, clocked 52.76 last year to make the Olympic final, but was nearly a second off that at this year’s Worlds to place 13th in 53.73. He was even overtaken by Cooper as the lead-off man on Australia’s medley relay.
While this projects to be an incredibly close race, Coetze may be the one coming in with the most motivation after missing Worlds. He broke 54 twice on the Mare Nostrum Tour, including a 53.72 that is quicker than what Larkin, Greenbank or Jeffcoat managed at the World Championships.
On top of that, at 18, Coetze is the youngest of the group by five years, so if anyone will be dropping time from their current bests, it’s him.
Larkin is the main question mark, having been 52.7 last year. If he was saving his full taper for the Games, he should be able to win, but if Worlds was simply where he’s at right now, the edge goes to Coetze.
Some other names to keep in mind include Australia’s Joshua Edwards-Smith, Canada’s Acevedo, England’s Brodie Williams and India’s Srihari Nataraj, who have all been in the 54-second range this year.
|1||Pieter Coetze||South Africa||53.72||53.62|
|4||Andrew Jeffcoat||New Zealand||53.72||53.72|
MEN’S 200 BACKSTROKE
- Commonwealth Record: 1:53.17, Mitch Larkin (AUS), 2015 FINA World Cup – Dubai
- Commonwealth Games Record: 1:55.58, James Goddard (ENG), 2010
- 2018 Commonwealth Champion: Mitch Larkin (AUS), 1:56.10
In the four years since the last Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Luke Greenbank has established himself as a big-meet performer in the 200 back.
Greenbank placed fourth in 2018, finishing behind the Australian sweep from Larkin, Bradley Woodward and Josh Beaver, and has since progressed into a consistent medalist on the world stage.
The 24-year-old Greenbank won bronze at the 2019 Worlds, bronze at the Tokyo Olympics, and nearly upended Russia’s Evgeny Rylov at the 2021 European Championships. Greenbank then moved up to silver at Worlds last month without Rylov in the field.
Greenbank has now been under 1:55 six times, a feat Larkin has only done once since 2016. The defending champion clocked 1:54.38 in April 2021 before dropping the event in favor of the 200 IM at the Olympics, and then failed to make the final at the 2022 Worlds in ninth (1:57.36).
Larkin’s quickest time this year is 1:56.79, which not only trails Greenbank (1:55.16), but also is behind Brodie Williams (1:56.16) and Joshua Edwards-Smith (1:56.71) among swimmers in the Birmingham field, while Pieter Coetze is close behind at 1:56.92.
Greenbank and Williams finished 2-4 for Great Britain in Budapest, and are in a great position to go 1-2 at the Commonwealth Games.
The aforementioned Woodward will also be competing, having produced his fastest time since 2018 at the Australian Championships in 1:57.38.
|5||Pieter Coetze||South Africa||1:56.92||1:56.92|
Other than Greenbank at 200, these events look largely bereft of quality. Whilst one always hopes to be pleasantly surprised, with these 3 specific events the optimal word is ‘surprise’ should we see any time of legitimate international consequence other than if Greenbank actually extends himself. One hopes to see it.
Larkin ?? TBH, the vast majority of his performances in recent years would not have been out of place in a National Lampoon movie. He stated at AUS Trials that he has been dealing with a shoulder issue. Looking at his Budapest performances; one has to ask the question “if you have these issues then what purpose is being served by you being here ?”.
Have 0 expectation… Read more »
Will there be a pick’em for Commonwealth Games?
It was mentioned during trials that Larkin was carrying an injury so probably he hasn’t just been saving his taper.
correct. Mitch tore something not too far out the trials as making the Aussie team was a feat in itself. Hopefully he’s rehabbed a bit and can go faster than worlds.