Cameron McEvoy‘s performances at the Aquatic Super Series in Perth were impressive. The 21 year-old came away with wins in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle. On the first day of competition he posted a lifetime best of 47.56 in the 100 freestyle, which is the third fastest textile time ever swum. He returned to the pool on the second day to collect gold in the 200 freestyle recording 1:46.71 followed by a win in the 50 freestyle recording a personal best of 21.73.
“The highlight of the competition for me would be the 50m free after the 200m free,” McEvoy told SwimSwam. “I believe I had the 21.7 in me for a while and it was nice to do it here before I start my race-pace phase of my training. It’s also nice to see speed after a 200m free, which gives me confidence for Rio when I have to potentially do the 200m free semi-final and then the 4x100m final if things go well.”
McEvoy is clear in how he views these superb early season results, “I think the success is a nice perspective on where I am with my training, but that’s it. I don’t see it as prospects for gold in Rio as Olympic years tend to be unpredictable and not often are best times swum in the final at an Olympic Games. Although, it sets me up leading into Rio, there is still plenty to do to make sure I have a great swim on the day that counts the most.”
One of the reasons that he has that kind of perspective is because it was only two years ago that he proved to himself that he was a contender at the highest level. In 2014 he won the 100 freestyle and finished third in the 200 freestyle at the Pan Pacific Championships along with finishing second in the same two events at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
“The biggest thing that I took from both of those competitions was that I was no longer someone who made up the numbers in an international final,” said McEvoy.
Last summer was a learning experience for McEvoy, who had a strong 100 freestyle finishing second at the World Championships, but had an extremely disappointing performance in the 200 freestyle finishing eighth, “My 2015 season was the season in which I learned the most about my swimming, in all aspects of the sport,” said McEvoy
After last summer one of the things that McEvoy and his coach Richard Scarce have been focusing on is making sure that he is ready to swim fast in the prelims, semi-finals and finals, “The biggest thing I learned is that the depth of world swimming is at an all time high and that the heats and the semi-finals should be taken as seriously as the final. Since Kazan, Richard and I have made a conscious decision to not hold back in any heats this season, regardless of the competition.”
“So far, so good.”
Other than that shift in focus they have stayed the course with their training plan, “I haven’t changed much in my preparation for this upcoming season. In the past I have stayed at home for most of the year instead of opting to travel and compete elsewhere, and this year was no exception.”
One thing that McEvoy and Scarce had considered doing differently this year was travelling to the United States where the 21 year old would have had the opportunity to train with Michael Phelps and then compete at the US Winter National Championships in Seattle.
“Richard and I were extremely close to competing at the US Winter Nationals last December, however we decided it was best to stay here and continue a solid training block and compete at the Australian Short course titles and the Queensland State Championships out of fear of losing the momentum I had built up with my training due to the travel. In hindsight we both believe it was a great decision.”
At the Australian Short Course Championships McEvoy took down Ian Thorpe’s 200 freestyle national record, which had stood for 15 years. He then went on to win the 50 (22.33), 100 freestyle (48.01) and 200 freestyle (1:46.44) at the Queensland State Championships.
Continuing to carry that momentum McEvoy came into Perth having just finished a hard endurance focused training block and was in the midst of transitioning into a more refined endurance phase of training, “We had just finished our longer endurance phase and had just started another, more refined endurance phase that focuses on a lot of heart rate based sets. These are mains sets that focus on holding speed (best averages) over longer distances such as 150’s, 300’s and 400’s.”
“Leading into Perth, the main focus was on how Richard and I could balance racing well while still doing a bit of work leading into the competition. I was doing normal sessions up until 3 days before when we traveled to Perth, then upon arrival it was just a matter of doing the right amount of pace work to keep up some training and also kick start some speed.”
He got that kick start, which was apparent by his result in the 50 freestyle. He attributes his improvement in the event to both increased technical efficiency (specifically through improved body position) and the strength gains he has achieved through his dry land program.
When it comes to training pure speed in the water they keep it pretty simple, “Richard tries to put speed into the program by giving us a few dive 20m or dive 15m sprints at the end of training throughout the week. No specific main sets that I can think of are orientated at pure speed development.”
McEvoy and Scarce have taken on a tough challenge aiming for podium finishes in Rio in both the 100 and 200 freestyle. Luckily they have a great resource in Australian National Team Head Coach Jacco Verhaeren to help them navigate their journey. Verhaeren guided Pieter van den Hoogenband to gold in both events at the 2000 Olympic Games.
“Jacco and Richard work closely, along with several others, and I believe Jacco is a big beam of support for our program and our goals, as he is with the rest of the Australian swim team. Also, having been the coach of the last person to successfully attack the 50/100/200 freestyles (peter), he is a wealth of knowledge to us for our particular pursuits too.”