More than a month removed from a lackluster showing at the 2017 World Championships, Australian backstroking ace Mitch Larkin is returning to his roots. With only 7 months of working with new coach Simon Cusack at Commercial Swimming Club under his belt, Larkin is making his way back to St. Peters Western.
After a break-out World Championships in 2015 where he won 100m and 200m backstroke golds, Larkin raced to silver in the 200m backstroke at the 2016 Olympic Games. Somewhat disappointed with nothing to show for his 100m race, as well as finishing runner-up in the longer backstroke event, Larkin was looking for something new training-wise after having been with storied coach Michael Bohl at St. Peters Western the previous 9 years.
After trying out several different coaches within Australia, Larkin settled on Cusack at Commercial, acknowledging that he was taking a step in a new direction training-wise. At the time of the change, Larkin stated, “The volume of work was the concern for me because I was used to doing five or six kilometres a session, for 10 sessions a week, and Simon does nine sessions a week with 5km in the morning and less in the evening, but the quality and intensity of that second session is higher.
“It’s very different to what I’ve done before. There’s a lot more of a speed base to it, the intensity is a lot higher and I feel like I’m swimming better more frequently in training. Because there’s more work at race pace I feel like I am practising better stroke technique more often.’’
Not able to completely buy-in to his new training regimen in such a short time prior to this year’s World Championships, Larkin performed sub-par across his events in Budapest, finishing 6th in the 100m and not even making the final in the 200m or 50m backstroke races.
While in Budapest, Larkin ruffled some feathers by stating, “The goal wasn’t to win the 100 here, if I wanted to defend my title I wouldn’t have changed coaches and had a bigger break after Rio.” The national record holder stated that he’d “go home and tweak things with Simon, he’s a good coach and there are some areas in the backstroke that we can work on.”
Instead of tweaking his system with Cusack, however, The Australian, is reporting that Larkin is doing a full-on 180, moving back to St. Peters Western. There will still be change involved, however, as Bohl has since moved on to the new High Performance Center at Griffith. Larkin will fall under the fold of Bohl’s former assistant, Dean Boxall. Boxall has been making a solid name for himself as of late with junior stars Ariarne Titmus, Jack Cartwright and Clyde Lewis.
Helping Larkin see the need to return to his former method of training was Aussie Head Coach Jacco Verhaeren. Larkin told The Australian, “One of the major questions for me was whether Simon was the best fit for me. I have huge respect for him but Jacco said to me that if you have 1% of doubt in your mind, it’s too much and I did have those doubts.”
Due to his high endurance background, Larkin said he was ‘psychologically unsuited to Cusack’s high-quality, low-volume approach. As such, Cusak’s program wound up being a ‘step too far in the opposite direction.’
‘I grew up doing a lot of hard work with Bohly, a lot of grinding through high volume and I just missed that element of working hard in a big group of swimmers who were all pushing hard twice a day.
“Mentally I was trying to buy in to the new approach, but I couldn’t get over the hurdle of not having done the work I had done previously.”