The Australians completely dominated the 2018 Commonwealth Games swimming medal table, racing away with a monster 73 total medals, with 28 of them gold. The next nearest nation was England, who achieved a mark of 24 swimming medals overall, with 9 golds to its name. With the Games having concluded on April 10th, the Swimming Australia brain trust is analyzing these and other results to help determine whether or not its new Trials timing structure can indeed be called a success.
Preparing for the 2018 Gold Coast-hosted Games, Swimming Australia tried something new in a bid to combat the relatively disappointing overall outing at the 2016 Olympic Games. In past selection competitions, the racing took place more in the ballpark of a 3 1/2 month range prior to the actual elite event. However, these Commonwealth Trials were held just a mere 5 weeks out from the actual Games, with Australian trying out the American timeline model.
According to The Australian, Head Coach Jacco Verhaeren cited that 65% of his swimmers under this format improved on their times from Commonwealth Trials to the Games, near double the ballpark of 30% who accomplished the benchmark between Olympic Trials and Rio.
“I think it’s too early to draw conclusions but we’re hitting about 60, close to 65 per cent in terms of personal best times or season’s best times and that’s a very good score, that’s double Rio, so the indications are good,’’ Verhaeren said. “But we selected people from a little bit lower standards here so we have to see in the next three years but the first signs are very good.’’ (The Australian)
Cautiously optimistic on calling the experiment an absolute success, Verhaeren identifies a positive that the swimmers themselves have at least proven the new scheduled is doable.
“What it definitely proves is that it’s no problem to move trials to five weeks out,’’ he said.
“Everybody is confident and I enjoy seeing that it’s across all events. It’s not just the sprint events or distance, or mid-distance, it’s across all events. We see quite a bit of time improvements and that was the whole aim of changing the structure. We’re happy to see it works out well.
“We definitely need to test it again during Pan Pacs and world championships and obviously the acid test is the Olympics.’’
Yes, the improvement on Trials times to Commonwealth Games times may be attributed to the new schedule. However, the fact that the Aussies competed in their own home country also most likely contributed to the positive Commonwealth Games results.
The Dolphins historically produce their best efforts on their home soil, going back to the Sydney Olympic Games through the more recent performances by both Cate Campbell and Cameron McEvoy.
Pre-Rio, Campbell notched a then-world record-setting time in the 100m freestyle at a Grand Prix meet in Australia, while McEvoy clocked the fastest 100m free ever in textile also pre-Rio. When both were unable to reach the podium come game time in Rio, Verhaeren chalked up some of the disappointment to overall nerves and stage fright.
As such, the upcoming Pan Pacific Trials slated for early July will serve as perhaps a more unbiased test of the new Trials timing, as the actual benchmark meet, in this case, the Pan Pacific Championships, takes place on foreign soil in Tokyo. We’ll be able to see once again how swimmers times improve (or not) in an approximate 5-week time span.