2016 HANCOCK PROSPECTING AUSTRALIAN CHAMPIONSHIPS (AUSTRALIAN OLYMPIC TRIALS)
- Thursday April 7th-Thursday April 14th
- SA Aquatic and Leisure Centre – Adelaide
- Prelims – 11 am local (9:30 pm EDT previous evening); Finals – 7:45 pm local (6:15 am EDT)
- Australian Olympic Qualifying Criteria
- Psych Sheets
- Program of Events
- Live stream
- Live results
As the doors closed upon the final session of the 2016 Swimming Australia Olympic & Paralympic Trials in Adelaide over the last week, there is much to reflect on. The Australians are the hottest thing in the world in sprinting right now, with Cam McEvoy reviving the men’s group to match the furor of their women. Mitch Larkin is swimming as well as he ever has; Mack Horton and Emma McKeon are proving the prophecies true; and the Dolphins qualified everyone through to Rio that they really needed to qualify through to Rio, save for a mild upset here-or-there (the same of which could not be said for the simultaneous qualifying meets in France and Britain, for example).
While there’s still some holes in Australia’s overall lineup, in totality, the major questions have been answered, save for one: the men’s 400 medley relay.
The Australians have the best bookends in the world with Mitch Larkin and Cam McEvoy now sitting as favorites in the 100 backstroke and 100 freestyle, respectively, at least until the United States has its Olympic Trials in late June.
The middle is where the Australians lack the same power, especially with the country’s former top butterflier Jayden Hadler missing the final altogether at this meet.
There’s been some concern over the breaststroking in Australia since Brenton Rickard lost form and eventually retired in 2013, and Christian Sprenger followed in 2016. A stroke that has been locked-in for a decade-or-more seems to have its next torch-bearer, as 21-year old Jake Packard continues to improve (he was 59.65 this week).
But 59.65 isn’t the split it used to be, not when the likes of Adam Peaty has burst through into the 57-second range on flat starts.
As the French have largely flopped at their trials, the battle for gold has five primary contenders: the United States, Australia, Great Britain, Russia, and Japan. Australia will have all of these countries beat, save maybe the Americans depending on where Ryan Murphy’s improvement curve carries to this summer, and should have top honors on the freestyle leg.
The Americans have a huge group of contenders (Kevin Cordes, Cody Miller, Nic Fink, and Andrew Wilson, to name a few), but none have really given them the 58-low relay split potential that they’d need to really put things away.
On the totality of those three legs, the Australians have a slight advantage for gold.
The challenge on the butterfly leg was well-answered by a pair, Southport’s 22-year old David Morgan (51.64) and St Peters Western’s Grant Irvine (51.76) went 1-2 in that race, and after strong swims from both in the 200 fly as well, plus an Irvine 51.68 on an actual medley relay swim to close the meet and Morgan split 51.26. Those are solid silver-medal times, but the United States’ ace-in-the-hole is the butterfly. On the 3rd leg of this relay, either Tom Shields (50.5 split at Worlds) or Michael Phelps (the world #1 last year) could put an insurmountable gap on the Australians unless Morgan and Irvine continue to improve.
But if the Australians want to at least repeat their silver medal, and at most make up the .15-second deficit they had to the Americans in Kazan, there’s a glaring hole: the breaststrokes.
A potential performable Australian 400 medley relay could look something like this:
- Mitch Larkin – 52.0
- Jake Packard – 58.9
- David Morgan/Grant Irvine – 50.9
- Cam McEvoy – 46.4
That totals to a 3:28.2, which would be a new Australian Record.
The Americans’ 90th-percentile scenario looks something like this:
- Ryan Murphy 52.2
- Kevin Cordes 58.5
- Michael Phelps – 49.9
- Nathan Adrian/Caeleb Dressel – 46.8
That totals to a 3:27.4.
The on-paper advantage, with an in-form Phelps, is clearly to the Americans, but this relay will come at the end of the meet, so depending on how Phelps plans his overall Olympic schedule, a 49.9 is no guarantee given the physical strain of an Olympic run. If the Australians are going to win, though, it will require McEvoy to run down the American anchor, and with Nathan Adrian having about 7 inches of size on him, that would be a powerful wake for the Aussie anchor to fight through.
This race isn’t a runaway, and McEvoy’s 47.0 ensures a competitive final at least for Rio, but it’s going to take some magic for the Australians to keep the Americans from winning their 8th-straight gold medal in this relay.