Australia Still Winless with 2 Days Left at 2017 World Championships


Australia is a swimming super power, but they haven’t always been that way, and they now may fear fading out of that top tier again.

So far in 2017, with two days remaining, Australia hasn’t won a single World Championship in either the men’s or women’s events. The last time that happened was at the 1986 World Championships, where they only had 5 finalists combined (3 men and 2 women).

It’s not that Australia has been without their highlights at the meet. 16-year old Ariarne Titmus placed 4th in the 400 free early in the meet, and Emma McKeon already has four silver medals in the 100 fly, 200 free, women’s 400 free relay, and mixed medley relay (the former of those races included a new Australian Record). Grant Irvine‘s 100 fly of 51.31 is the fastest ever Australian in textile, and got him in a final – though a medal would still be a long shot at this point.

But with so many chances, they’ve been unable to break through to the top of the podium. On day 1, Mack Horton lost to his arch rival Sun Yang in the 400 free, and has since scratched the 800 free and missed the final in the 200. Cam McEvoy, who still has the fastest time in textile in the 100 free, placed 4th and missed the medals in that event, while missing out on the 50 free final altogether.

Emily Seebohm missed defending her title in the 100 back, though she did take a bronze, and the 400 free relay (which Australia set the World Record in last year) didn’t have enough to take down the Americans without their top swimmer Cate Campbell.

Australia has been reviewing its culture and has become a revolving door of leadership trying to capture a formula that will work. It’s not that they haven’t swum well – it’s that by-and-large they’ve been unable to swim well at the biggest meet. 2018 will be a big year for them, as they’re hosting the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. That’s an opportunity for Australia to showcase and recapture their swimming dominance that would be hard to see pass by – especially with the rising quality of the Brits.

The Australians are down, but they’re not out quite yet. In the last two days of the meet, they’ve still got some of their best chances to win gold. A look at Australia’s best chances remaining:

  • Mixed 400 free relay – with young Jack Cartwright swimming well, Australia has the 4th they need to complete this relay alongside Bronte Campbell, Cam McEvoy, and Emma McKeon. McKeon is on the verge of superstardom, and McEvoy has still been consistently sub-48 at this meet, in spite of misses in his individual events. The key here is what relay the Americans will put forward. They have 2 of the 4 best female 100 freestylers at the meet in Simone Manuel and Mallory Comerford, but Caeleb Dressel would have to take on a triple (he’s got the 50 free and 100 fly finals on Saturday as well) to participate for team USA. Nathan Adrian missed the 50 free final, so he’ll be rested for the mixed relay, but without Dressel, the Americans probably have to turn to Townley Haas for their 4th. That costs them 7 or 8 tenths of a second and opens a door for Australia.
  • Emily Seebohm, while she didn’t defend her 100 back title, has been swimming well – including a new Australian Record for 4th in the 50 back. She looked good as the top qualifier (2:05.81 – tying an Aussie Record) in the 200 backstroke semi-finals, and while that field is loaded, she’s got as good of a chance as any of them at the win.
  • Mitch Larkin isn’t having a good meet, and he’s at times sounded disengaged in interviews, but the 50 back should be his strongest race. There’s a whole lot of factors going into this race though. China’s Jiayu Xu has been impressive, Camille Lacourt is swimming his specialty in his last competitive race, and Russian Evegeny Rylov ranks #3 in the world and won the 200 back on Friday. Larkin’s got a puncher’s chance though – a 24.2 probably wins it, and he’s capable of that time.

Oceania Medals Table:

Australia remains the only relevant Oceanic country at this meet, and have own all 7 of the country’s medals.

 Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1  Australia 0 5 2 7
Total 0 5 2 7

Day 6 Oceanic Records:

  • Oceania – Emily Seebohm, 200m back, 2:05.81 (TIED)
  • Australia – Emily Seebohm, 200m back, 2:05.81 (TIED)
  • New Zealand – Bradlee Ashby, 200 IM, 1:59.24
  • Palau – Osisang Chilton, 200 back, 2:46.60


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He Gets It Done Again

Am I the only one who was stunned when they didn’t fire their national team head coach Jacco Verhaeren after Rio? Australia’s huge overall talent level may have hidden the fact that they underperformed in 2016. Now things seem to be getting worse. Of course they’ll probably have a bunch of excuses about how it’s a post-Olympic year and how they’re more focused on the upcoming Commonwealth Games (which conveniently those rebellious Yankees cannot compete at).

Ned Jr

No you are not the only one. However the structure at SAL needs a spring clean from top to bottom. After London we had the new broom come in and provide the foresight (sic) of their knowledge and fix all the issues. Hows that all going? They removed President and Board replaced them with XSpurts who could solve all the issues and have Aus at No. 1 of those pesky Americans. A new CEO from another sport a new President with the swimming knowledge of a gnat who replaced the shot termer who was sacked for indiscretions. In addition to a coach who was engaged to deliver a new team. Of course we also saw the brilliant talent that was… Read more »


I agree with a lot of what you are saying but its easy to say “blame the foreigner” when its arguable how much of the responsibility should be sheeted home to him rather than SAL itself and to individual coaches who are actually responsible for the preparations of their swimmers.Your criticisms of SAL ….. and their political ineptitude …. fully concur. The obsession with CommGames (mind you, how much of this is being inflated by the bloviators at Ch7) makes me shudder as to what planet some people are living on. Its a “bush league” meet which at best may be useful as an intl airing for younger swimmers …. and a farewell for those exiting the sport. The “real… Read more »


Most Brits prioritise CWG over Europeans, even if the NGB does not.


These Euros are at home (Glasgow) in THEIR peak season so somehow I think that this will NOT be the case next year. CG, on the other hand are out of season and entail a trip to the other side of the world rather than just a couple of hours flight. It could, conceivably, serve as a useful final selection tool for Euros but that’s about it. The honest truth is that the standard of competition at Euros WILL be higher than at CG as regards depth of fields. The timing of CG is such that it clashes with NCAA championships and those Comm swimmers who compete in NCAA (ie Schooling, Sth Africans, some CAN) will not have the LCM… Read more »


His contract was renewed before the Olympics ?Good deal for someone


As an Aussie, I have much more enjoyed the World Championships then the last Olympics. In RIO we went in as favourites in many events & got out bottoms kicked, I was devastated. This year, due to some injuries, pull outs, re-grouping & stars from other countries emerging from other countries, I did not have many expectations & will leave thinking we have a fairly positive future. Based on results in Kazan, some expected the Aussies to challenge the Americans for dominance, I didn’t but expected 6-9 golds & a few minor medals. However, we just don’t have the depth to match them. In Rio, the Americans superstars shone brightly (Phelps, Ledecky) & the Aussies superstars (Seebohm & Cambell) &… Read more »

Random Joe

I was on deck at London in 2012 and Rio in 2016 and the difference I saw in the Australian culture over 4 years was nothing short of breath taking. Walking the pool deck in Rio – there were loads of Aussie staff around – the vast majority of them were NOT coaches or even physios. Instead the office jockeys came out in force. The ‘Performance Psychologists’ were all over the place. It was an admin junket pure and simple. The general manager on pool deck!? WTF? The Aussies IMO have lost their way. They are soft because there is an entire cadre of office people inserting themselves into the mix unnecessarily. Coaches are clearly second class citizens lagging way… Read more »


Thanks for that Random Joe, I’m just a fan without any contacts to any swimmer & was just in shock at how many Aussie swimmers were unable to swim to their best, I had no issue with something like Ryan Murphy who swims a WR to beat Larkin’s best to win gold, but so many of the Aussies if they had swam their best or near it would’ve won the gold in RIO, but fail so badly. McEvoy, Campbell, both but C2 injured, Seebohm (also injured), Larkin all was poor.
I agree on the extra coin going to the coaches.


As regards your read on the actual performance here in Budapest; by and large I’m on a similar page. My view going in was that there were NO real sure fire bets for gold and indeed AUS was favourite in none with the best chance being the W4X100 …. and even then they’d be slight underdogs. Seebohm & Horton chances but not favourites. Mens relays would struggle to medal. The main thing to look out for was how the first timers would handle the big time Of the major names; Seebohm has been superb. McKeon has shown herself to be far more confident that she belongs amongst the biggest names and is a legit contender in her peak events. Horton… Read more »


Some of what you are saying is absolutely correct as regards too many “on junkets”. There is a place for some sports science folk on a team and there will be need for maybe a couple of admin folk but I’d certainly heard about the “bloat” in the Rio entourage ….. and it wasn’t just swimming. AS regards AUS coaches, maybe I differ to some degrees. It is easy to throw stones at Verhaeren and I think there are some calls he made that can be questioned but there is quite a deal of difference from being the coach of individuals to stepping up to a top job. Yes, there will be some administrative side to it but it also… Read more »

Random Joe

@Commonwombat: I agree that trying to appoint blame is a fool’s errand. Honestly I don’t think that it is correct to point fingers at anyone. I don’t feel the ‘drift’ that Australian Swimming is going through is anything premeditated or deliberate. It’s simply bloat and non-sporting admin types trying to do what they think is best and (in the meantime) justify their own jobs. As for Jacco – he’s a top bloke – and has the respect and co-operation of coaches around the country. Honestly he is hamstrung by the organisation. There’s an awful lot of insight to be gained when one learns that a coach like Mr Bohl @ St. Peter’s Western, turns down repeated offers to become the… Read more »


I think we’re very much on the same page. Your final paragraph hits on another key issue and that is that the culture of AUS swimming, like so many other AUS sports (particularly Olympic) tends to be instinctively conservative and this permeates through to the coaches and the swimmers. We produce top quality swimmers but are we producing quality racers ? The answer to that seems equivocal at best. People decry SCY in NCAA, perhaps with some justification, but short course racing puts a premium on key race skills such as starts. turns and underwaters. So many AUS swimmers over the years have “begged off” swimming SC and have arguably been “enabled” by some coaches …. yet how many AUS… Read more »


Have seen that Australian Swimming at all levels in actively discourage Australians seeking competition in NCAA system and provide no support to attend international competitions outside Oly, WC.


If I’m not mistaken, in relation to it going across the various sports, wasn’t that something the Athletes’ representatives raised when the AOC vote was on? It will be interesting to see whether or not their concerns will be sorted out by Tokyo or if we’ll have to wait for the next Olympic cycle.


Australian swimming won’t improve whist SA continue to fund & pander to these older swimmers so that they can continue to live off SAL funding, train a little bit & have lots of holidays around the world all compliments of the Australian tax payer. They don’t have jobs or go to Uni but are too mentally exhausted to compete, oh the poor darlings. SA have continued to allocate top tier funding to athletes who didn’t even qualify or weren’t prepared to compete at Kazan because they needed a break! What hope has swimming in Australia got if they are prepared to accept this level of mediocrity & commitment…. how is that creating a high performance culture & mind set?????


Whoops that should be Budapest

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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