2018 COMMONWEALTH GAMES
- Thursday, April 5th – Tuesday, April 10th (swimming)
- Optus Aquatic Centre, Gold Coast, Australia
- Prelims at 10:30am local (8:30pm previous night EDT)
- Finals at 7:30pm local (5:30am EDT)
- Official Commonwealth Games website
Though the Australian men took home no medals in the backstroke events at last summer’s FINA World Championships in Budapest, they remain the best in the Commonwealth, though New Zealand’s Corey Main is gaining ground, especially in the 100.
The absences of England’s Chris Walker-Hebborn and Liam Tancock leaves the podium wide open for the Aussies who were forced to share podium space in 2014 in the 50 and 100. The Aussies did, however, sweep the 200 in 2014, pushing Main to 4th place.
Mitch Larkin was originally scheduled for 5 individual events, the backstroke races plus the 200 and 400 IMs. He’s dropped the 400 IM, which improves his chances of making the podium in all 3 backstrokes.
Men’s 50 Backstroke
- Commonwealth Record: 24.04, Liam Tancock (ENG)
- Commonwealth Games Record: 24.62, Liam Tancock (ENG)
- 2014 Commonwealth Champion: Ben Treffers (AUS), 24.67
Predicting how a 50-meter race will turn out is ever a precarious endeavor, but one thing seems certain for the men’s 50 backstroke at this year’s Commonwealth Games: Australia will sweep the medals. Just who will get their hand on the wall first is the more difficult question to answer.
Australia’s showing in the 50 back at last year’s world championships was honestly pretty bad, with Larkin placing highest with an 18th-place result; however, Larkin’s 18th is still better than anyone else in the Commonwealth with the exception of Canada’s Javier Acevedo, who is not competing in this year’s Games.
Australia returns both of its 2014 medalists–Ben Treffers (gold) and Mitch Larkin (silver)–while England loses both Liam Tancock and Chris Walker-Hebborn, who placed 3rd and 4th, respectively, in the 50 back in 2014.
Scotland’s Craig McNally could rise to the challenge in this race given his best time of 54.54 in the 100, though he’s better at the 200 and might not be able to find the speed necessary to make it on the podium when squaring off with the likes of Treffers, Larkin, and fellow Aussie Zac Incerti, who comes in with a seed time of 25.17.
50 Backstroke Podium Predictions
Men’s 100 Backstroke
- Commonwealth Record: 52.11, Mitch Larkin (AUS)
- Commonwealth Games Record: 53.12, Liam Tancock (ENG)
- 2014 Commonwealth Champion: Chris Walker-Hebborn (ENG), 53.30
The 100 backstroke title will also likely go to an Australian man, but it is much less likely to be a sweep.
Australian newcomer Bradley Woodward will also be in the contest for a spot on the podium. After destroying his former lifetime bests in both the 100 and 200 backstrokes at the Australian Trials, Woodward enters the meet with a time of 54.24.
Treffers will be racing alongside Larkin again in the 100, and if he can come close to the 53.84 he threw down out of lane 8 in 2014, he’ll be in the mix to get on the podium. And though the English have taken major hits in the backstrokes in the absences of Walker-Hebborn and Tancock, they do have a potential rising star in 20-year-old Luke Greenbank.
Greenbank’s lifetime best of 54.58 is well off Treffers’s, but Greenbank has momentum on his side. The Englishman clocked his PR in 2017, whereas Treffers set his in 2014.
Scotland’s McNally will also be a contender here and will be seeking to improve upon his 7th-place finish from 2014. At the Scottish Short Course national championships in December McNally swept the backstrokes, winning the 100 SCM back in a quick 52.95, but what that means for his 100 in the big pool is anybody’s guess.
South Africa enters two swimmers with Calvyn Justus and Martin Binedell. Justus won the 100 backstroke at South Africa’s Commonwealth Games Trials in December with a time of 55.57 and will have his work cut out for him in this event. Though he has a great chance of making the final, grabbing a spot on the podium will likely require a 53 or a low 54. Binedell, on the other hand, actually qualified for the 200 backstroke with a time of 1:59.59. What he’s capable of in the 100 remains to be seen.
100 Backstroke Podium Predictions
Men’s 200 Backstroke
- Commonwealth Record: 1:53.17, Mitch Larkin (AUS)
- Commonwealth Games Record: 1:55.58, James Goddard (ENG)
- 2014 Commonwealth Champion: Mitch Larkin (AUS), 1:55.83
The 200 meter backstroke has not been a particularly friendly event for Commonwealth swimmers in the nearly two years since Larkin won the silver medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics. At last summer’s world championships in Budapest, Larkin, Main, Greenbank, and Josh Beaver of Australia all made it through to the semifinals, but the best any of them did was Beaver’s 12th-place performance in a time of 1:58.10.
In 2014 Larkin won the event and Beaver took 2nd, but the chances of that happening again this year are less likely. Even if Beaver could get on the podium, he’d still have to surpass rising star and countryman Bradley Woodward and England’s Luke Greenbank.
Woodward should be considered dangerous in this event. At the 2018 Australian Commonwealth Games Trials, Woodward destroyed his best time in this event twice. In prelims, Woodward broke the 2-minute barrier for the first time with a 1:59.05 in prelims, and then in finals destroyed his new PR, clocking a 1:57.05.
As for the bronze, England’s Greenbank has the momentum and youth to pull it off, but he will have a hard battle with Kiwi star Main. But if Budapest is any indication as to where the latter two swimmers have put the majority of their efforts, the bronze goes to Greenbank, who finished 2.5 seconds ahead of Main in the 200 in Hungary.
200 Backstroke Podium Predictions