Halfway Through The Meet, Australia Has Suffered Major Blows (Day 5 Oceania Recap)

2022 FINA WORLD AQUATICS CHAMPIONSHIPS

The Australian swim team was faced with bad news just minutes into the start of this morning’s prelims session when it was revealed that Shayna Jack had hurt her hand in training, and would be withdrawing from Worlds in its entirety. As the team’s second-fastest 100 freestyler and fastest 50 freestyler, Jack’s absence means a potential loss of two medals for the Aussies, and even more damage done to upcoming relays such as the mixed free relay and the women’s medley relay.

Then, in the women’s 50 back, Kaylee McKeown uncharacteristically finished well off the podium, tying for fifth in a time of 27.47. This comes just a year after setting a best time of 27.16, and reportedly having broken the 50 back world record multiple times in training leading up to the Olympics. Then, Mitch Larkin continued the trend of Aussie backstroke disappointment today when he failed to reach the men’s 200 back finals.

Finally, Australia’s evening concluded with the finals of the women’s 4×200 free relay. Earlier this year at trials, the Aussies had an incredible showing in the women’s 200 free. Notably pointed out by superstar Ariarne Titmus was the fact that the Aussie depth in this race was so strong to the point where Meg Harris, the last-place finisher at Australian trials, was fast enough to beat Claire Weinstein, the second-place finisher at U.S. trials.

TOP 8 FINISHERS, WOMEN’S 200 FREE, AUSTRALIAN TRIALS TOP 8 FINISHERS, WOMEN’S 200 FREE, U.S. TRIALS
1. Ariarne Titmus – 1:53.31 1. Katie Ledecky – 1:55.11
2. Mollie O’Callaghan – 1:54.94 2. Claire Weinstein – 1:57.08
3. Madi Wilson – 1:55.86 3. Leah Smith – 1:57.44
4. Kiah Melverton – 1:55.94 4. Hali Flickinger – 1:57.53
5. Leah Neale – 1:56.10 5. Bella Sims – 1:57.71
6. Lani Pallister – 1:56.28 6. Alex Walsh – 1:57.82
7. Brianna Throssell – 1:56.34 7. Erin Gemmell – 1:58.12
8. Meg Harris – 1:56.82 8. Katie Grimes – 1:58.22

Flash forward a month later, and the Americans ended up beating the Australians by a margin of 2.41 seconds. And yes, part of that was because the U.S. stepped up to the occasion and well exceeded expectations. Without Titmus and Emma McKeon, their best 200 freestylers, the fact that the Aussies still managed to take silver is an impressive finish. However, Madi Wilson (1:56.27), Leah Neale (1:55.27), Kiah Melverton (1:55.91), and Mollie O’Callaghan (1:55.94) put up an overall time of 7:43.86, over a second slower than their added up trials time of 7:42.84. On anchor, O’Callaghan had made the mistake of going out way too hard, opening in 54.93 and then fading by a large amount to close in 1:01.01. Had she been more conservative on her start, she could have had more energy on her back half to be near her best time.

That being said, judging the Australians by their performances at this meet is an unfair evaluation of where they really are as a team. Even before Worlds started, we knew that the majority of this team was prioritizing the upcoming Commonwealth Games and wouldn’t be peaking for a meet that was just weeks beforehand. Most likely, the performances of stars such as McKeown and O’Callaghan at Commonwealth Games will be better indicator of what shape they are in compared to their performances here. In addition, the Aussies are third in the medal rankings despite having an “off” meet, which is still something to be proud of.

Silver Linings:

  • World record holder Zac Stubblety-Cook is the top qualifier headed into the finals of the men’s 200 breast. He swam a time of 2:06.72 in the semifinals, the ninth-fastest of all time, and is on track to claim gold and even break the world record tomorrow. In the women’s 200 breast, Jenna Strauch had a massive breakthrough to take the top seed. She put up a time of 2:22.22, a near second improvement from the 2:23.12 she put up at trials.
  • Elizabeth Dekkers finished fifth in the women’s 200 fly, putting up a best time of 2:07.01
  • Despite underperforming on the 4×200 free relay, Mollie O’Callaghan enters the women’s 100 free as the top seed from semifinals with her time of 52.85. She also had some ridiculous splits in her race, splitting 26.42/26.43 to record the fastest back half in the history of the women’s 100 free.

Medal Table:

Gold Silver Bronze Total
Australia 2 5 1 8

 

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MIKE IN DALLAS
12 days ago

When all is said and done, both sides have suffered medical problems that probably cancel each other out. Commonwealth games are a bit of an added problem for OZ, too!

Gheko
12 days ago

I think they have done well considering. Go Aussies🇦🇺🇦🇺🦘🦘❤❤

commonwombat
12 days ago

Minus Titmus, AUS is what we saw last night; a medals level 4X200 which is a distinct level below being a true title contender at this level. They do have some admirable depth of 1.55high/1.56 swimmers but that is the ceiling for everyone of them bar MOC who lacks the experience to carry such a relay at this point of her career.

They had one, and only one, path to gold last night and that was to have everyone in their line-up perform to their max and hope that their competition underperform with none of the opposition big hitters firing up. USA didn’t oblige.

Even with Titmus, it would be line-ball

Troyy
Reply to  commonwombat
12 days ago

Yes, but what about Neale? Tell us what you think.

commonwombat
Reply to  Troyy
12 days ago

She performed to the best of her ability. She was arguably up against the weakest legs of both CAN (Sanchez) and USA (Smith) and more than held her own. Certainly a creditable performance but for AUS to win, they needed to be probably 2.5sec ahead of USA before Ledecky hit the water in order to neatralise her.

With this line-up, that was only going to happen if the US front half fell in a heap and that didn’t happen. This loss is by no means “on her” … or any of the other four. The reality was that they didn’t have the firepower to prevail against an opponent that both possesses that …. and performs as a unit.

Punter
Reply to  commonwombat
12 days ago

The reality is simple, 3 of Australians not named Neale performed much worse then their performance in the Aussie trials and 2 Americans exceeded their time trials.
Going in last swimmer Australia had MOC a 18 year old swimming in first relay final with a PB of 1.44.94 up against a 17 year old Sims for the US with a PB of 1.57.
One performed out of skin and the other poorly performed, 1.5 seconds slower than her trials swim allowing flying start.

Awsi Dooger
Reply to  commonwombat
12 days ago

Agreed. They may have been technically ahead of all the American girls but a bunch of 1:56 types doesn’t scare anybody. It’s too easy to find that level, given the numbers game in the United States.

Superstars…now that scares people. They swipe 2+ seconds all by themselves.

Mollie went out too fast but you really can’t blame her given the circumstances. She had to chase Sims and hope for a combination of her own adrenaline plus Sims burning out. Instead it went the other way.

I thought Mollie’s 200 final was a lot more disappointing than the relay. Prodigies always step up in that scenario. The fact that Mollie flattened out indicates to me she will be very good… Read more »

Hooked on Chlorine
Reply to  Awsi Dooger
12 days ago

Oops! Accidentally hit the downvote icon. What a shame.

commonwombat
Reply to  Awsi Dooger
12 days ago

I think expectations have probably been excessive given she has only ever previously swam relays, and heats at that, at this level but is now thrown into her first World level individual swims …. not only with medal but gold medal expectations heaped upon her.

I’ll give her another couple of years and at least another Worlds, hopefully the next one with a better balanced team and more realistic expectations before making a bigger call.

SBOmega
Reply to  commonwombat
12 days ago

A key part of humility is being able to admit you are wrong. You’ve had a vendetta against Neale about her ability to perform in relay finals for years, but in both Tokyo and in Budapest she has swum a time around the best of her abilities when her team mates have been the ones who have underperformed…

Troyy
Reply to  SBOmega
12 days ago

if Neale hasn’t earned commonwombat’s respect with her performance last night nothing she does will ever be enough and I’m glad she got put into the final and hopefully she’ll get more in the future because 1:55.27 low is a very final worthy split. Neale and Cartwright both delivered when it matters and both won’t be at Comm Games which is a shame.

SNygans01
Reply to  Troyy
12 days ago

This might be not be straightforward, but who took their places in the CG team?
Southam for Cartwright?
There must be scope to revisit some of these, esp. if Incerti and Jack can’t get right in time (though that seems unlikely).
I assume that most/all of the rookies on the Worlds team will get a shot at the CG, eg. Ramsay, Connor, Edwards-Smith – they will all be much better for having had this experience, which will probably entail varying degrees of disappointment.

Verram
Reply to  Troyy
12 days ago

Lets understand that theres probably no heats required at CG hence “relay only” swimmers like Neale and Cartwright have to be dropped and that more swimmers are joining the team for Comm games

Robbos
Reply to  commonwombat
12 days ago

The Aussies lost, just like in Tokyo because their best swimmers did not perform.
Look at the trials time above, in golfing terms, there was a swing of 4 seconds between each of their last swimmers & Aussies lost by 2.4 seconds.
MOC & Summer McIntosh are the 2 best teenage 200 free swimmers poise to take on Titmus & Haughey, both are game changers with a bullet, one McIntosh improved her time by .6 & the other MOC was 1.5 seconds slower.
Sad to say MOC was the one with Wilson who lost it. The Aussies had the firepower to blow everyone away, but did not while the US did blow away all everyone away with… Read more »

Verram
12 days ago

As I predicted .. the fact that Mollie was left off the Tokyo relay final didn’t help her cause as she’s now lacking experience on how to swim the 4×200 final on the big stage .. if Dean had allowed her to swim finals in Tokyo then she would have more experience on how to pace herself in big moments like this so Dean did her a disservice in Tokyo

yoo
12 days ago

Hot take: GB will beat a Dressel-less USA and challenge Australia without Jack in the 4×100 mixed free relay with their team of Burras-Dean-Hopkin-Anderson (Dean split 46.9 on men’s 4×100 Free relay, Anderson split 52.70 on both the Women’s 4×100 Free relay and mixed medley relay and Burras made the final of the individual 100 Free in a 47.6 BR).

Jamesabc
Reply to  yoo
12 days ago

Even without Dressel, I think USA and Aus are the two major players for gold. Australia should be ahead by the numbers, but multiple swimmers have underperformed on every single one of our relays so far, so definitely not counting any chickens.

Notanyswimmer
Reply to  yoo
12 days ago

Why is this being downvoted so hard?

Burras 47.63 vs Curry 47.90
Dean 46.95 vs Held 46.99
Hopkin 53.03 vs Curzan 52.62
Anderson 52.70 vs Huske 52.46 (52.96 – .50)

Overall: 3:20.31 vs 3:19.97

It’s a tossup between GB and USA

Australia:
Chalmers: 47.10 (46.60 + .50)
Cartwright: 47.62
Wilson: 52.60
MOC: 52.20 (52.70 – .50)
Overall: 3:19.52

Australia has the edge

Troyy
12 days ago

I’m not expecting McKeown to be faster at Commies because she’s normally able to swim fast with minimal rest. It’s pretty obvious she’s just not in the same shape as last year and I hope it’s not because of the change of coach. It really didn’t seem wise to end such a successful partnership with Mooney last year.

Verram
Reply to  Troyy
12 days ago

A lot of swimmers struggle with motivation post-Olympics so it’s not unheard of .. plus the coaching changes and new relationships could all play a factor etc

Sub13
Reply to  Troyy
12 days ago

Bohl is such an interesting one. He has obviously produced some superstars. But he’s also produced a lot of swimmers who never achieved anything. And none of his super stars had sustained success.

As long as Kaylee is back by Paris that’s what I really care about.

About Yanyan Li

Yanyan Li

Yanyan is from Madison, New Jersey and spent the majority of her life there. Although she wasn't the greatest competitive swimmer, she learned more about the sport of swimming through scoring countless dual meets, being a timer, and keeping track of her teammates' best times for three years as a …

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