Since becoming double World Champion in 2015 by winning the men’s 100m and 200m backstroke events in Kazan, Australian Mitch Larkin has primarily been thought of as strictly a backstroking ace. His recent success in the men’s IM events, including capturing gold at this year’s Commonwealth Games ahead of Scottish multi-medalist Duncan Scott and his own Aussie teammate Clyde Lewis, has come as a surprise to some, including Aussie Head Coach Jacco Verhaeren.
Per The Daily Mail, when asked ahead of the men’s 200m IM event if his national team swimmer Larkin would be a threat in the race at the just-concluded Pan Pacific Championships, Verhaeren reportedly stated, “No. Not on the podium level, not at the world standard”.
But Larkin in fact did put up a podium-level performance, clinching silver behind America’s Chase Kalisz and ahead of the Olympic silver medalist in the event, Kosuke Hagino of Japan. Larkin produced a huge personal best of 1:56.21, laying waste to his previous career fastest effort of 1:57.67 he earned just weeks before to nab Commonwealth Games gold.
With his 1:56.21 silver medal swim at Pan Pacs, Larkin registered new Australian, Oceanic and Commonwealth records, while also checking in as the 12th fastest performer ever in the event.
Larkin’s result in the pool prompted his St. Peters Western coach Dean Boxall to comment post-race, “It is quite funny Jacco said to the media he was not world-class.
“It’s about confidence for Mitch and he found it.” (The Daily Mail)
It’s worth noting that the IM events, both the 200 and 400, have been in and out of Larkin’s racing repertoire for some time. Back at the 2010 Junior Pan Pacs, a then-17-year-old Larkin took gold over Japan’s Daiya Seto in a new Jr. Pan Pacs Record of 4:16.07. He also snagged silver in the sprint IM behind America’s David Nolan.
Larkin’s most recent progression in the 200m IM event specifically includes his clocking a 1:59.31 at the 2016 Queensland Championships, then crushing that with a much-improved 1:58.89 at the 2017 edition of the same meet. He was even faster at his nation’s Pan Pac Trials, sealing the win in 1:58.42, only to drop it down to the aforementioned 1:57.67 and 1:56.21 earned at the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacs, respectively, to become the #2 swimmer in the world in the event.