The Unofficial 2021 Australian Trials Awards


With the conclusion of the 2021 Swimming Australia Olympic Trials, a roster of 35 men and women has been selected to represent the nation at next month’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Among them are newcomers Ariarne Titmus, Kaylee McKeown and Matt Wilson, while veterans Cate Campbell and Emily Seebohm are making their 4th Olympic appearance.

We saw a World Record bite the dust, several Commonwealth and Australian records get demolished, as well as a shuddering preview as to what the Aussie relay arsenals will look like in Tokyo.

With the United States Olympic Trials still in full gear, let’s reflect back on the 6-day Trials down under with our totally unofficial Aussie Trials awards.

Female Swimmer of the Meet

It’s incredible that Ariarne Titmusthe 20-year-old who smashed two Commonwealth Records and three Australian Records isn’t the one snagging this recognition, but breaking a World Record trumps all when it comes to the pool.

Enter 19-year-old Kaylee McKeown, the newly-minted fastest-ever 100m backstroke carrying a new WR time of 57.45 into Tokyo. McKeown’s new scorcher here in South Australia overtook the previous World standard of 57.57 set at the 2019 FINA World Championships by American Regan Smith.

At the U.S. Trials, Smith posted a winning time of 58.35 to book her ticket to Tokyo, so the pair will meet again in this event, as well as most likely the 200m back, which is being contested tomorrow in the United States.

McKeown broke the Aussie record en route to taking the 200m back down under, posting a new lifetime best of 2:04.28 to rank as the 3rd fastest performer all-time.

But McKeown is a force to be reckoned with in the 200m IM as well. The USC Spartan scorched a mark of 2:08.19 to establish a new All Comers Record (the equivalent to a U.S. Open Record) and lead the world heading into the Games.

Kaylee McKeown’s 100m back World Record article

Male Swimmer of the Meet

Yes, Mitch Larkin posted a 1:56.29 200m IM and yes, Kyle Chalmers hit a 47.59 as his fastest 100m free since January of 2020. But Nunawading’s Matt Temple qualified for the Olympic Games in a head-turning 3 individual events, plus the relays, which makes him one to watch next month.

Already a World Championships finalist via his 6th place finish in the men’s 100m fly, Temple took this race to an entirely new level at these Aussie Trials. Temple punched a time of 50.45 to not only overtake the Australian Record but to now rank as the 8th fastest man in history.

Temple earlier had topped the men’s 200m fly in a mark of 1:55.25 to scorch his previous lifetime best of 1:56.52 posted in Gwangju, adding his name to the Aussie roster in this event.

His third individual event is the men’s 100m freestyle, where his time of 48.32, a personal best by well over half a second, allowed him to touch the wall behind winner Chalmers and slide under the Aussie QT by .01.

All told, we’ll look for Temple to race the 3 aforementioned individual events, in addition to the men’s medley relay and 400m free relay, and possibly the mixed medley relay for a possible total of 6 events.

Matt Temple’s 100m fly national record article

Newcomer of the Meet

The men’s 400m IM has been a thorn in the Australian men’s side for quite some time, with the nation owning a 37-year medal drought in this event at an Olympic Games.

20-year-old Brendon Smith of Nunawading is trying to change that, with our ‘newcomer of the meet’ busting out the swim of his life to post a new Aussie Record of 4:10.04.

At just the right time, Smith dropped well over 4 seconds to hack his previous PB of 4:14.91 to bits and stake his claim on this event as the 5th fastest man in the world this season.

Brendon Smith’s 400m IM national record article

Comeback Swimmer of the Meet

We highlighted the fact it was remarkable that 23-year-old Tamsin Cook, the 2016 Rio Olympic finalist in the 400m free, even qualified for this meet let alone made the final in her specialty event.

The youngest member of the Aussie roster for Rio at just 17, Cook suffered injuries from a car accident in 2017, took time away from the pool in the 2018/2019 timeframe and has only been back racing since late last summer.

This week at Trials, Cook finished 2nd to Titmus in the 400m free to make her 2nd Olympics team. You can read Cook’s backstory here.

Male Performance of the Meet

The men’s 200m breaststroke nearly saw another World Record get wiped out, courtesy of Zac Stubblety-Cook.

Stubblety-Cook threw down a monumental 2:06.28 lifetime best in the event to fall just .12 outside of Russian Anton Chupkov’s world standard. As such, Stubblety-Cook ranks as the #2 man in history in this event, one which was already being hailed as one of THE races to watch next month.

Post-race Stubblety-Cook reflected on how his 2:07.00 from last month’s Sydney Open fueled his confidence for this breakthrough performance. We’ll see if he can replicate this type of feat when he meets the likes of the aforementioned Chupkov, Japan’s Shoma Sato and Dutchman Arno Kamminga.

Female Performance of the Meet

In addition to McKeown’s World Record, there were more than a handful of menacing swims produced by the women over the course of the meet.

Veteran Olympian Emma McKeon wreaked havoc across the 100m fly, 100m free and 50m free, qualifying for the Olympic Games in all 3 individual events for a packed schedule. Her 55.93 monster 100m fly was of particular importance, giving the Griffith University athlete her first best time in this event in 4 years.

Chelsea Hodges also made some noise in the women’s 100m breaststroke, clocking a time of 1:05.99 to hack more than half a second off of her previous PB. Just 19 years of age, Hodges became Australia’s #3 performer in history and the only the 3rd woman to ever get under the 1:06 barrier from her country.

Even in light of these standout performances, Ariarne Titmus 400m freestyle time of 3:56.90 takes home the award, primarily due to the shockwaves it sent around the world.

American Olympic icon Katie Ledecky owns the 400m free World Record in a time of 3:56.46 from the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. That time was thought to be untouchable, even perhaps by Ledecky herself.

But Titmus got within range with her historic swim here in South Australia. This outing, paired with the fact that Titmus became the first woman to beat Ledecky in a distance free event at an international meet when she topped her for 400m free gold in Gwangju has made some Americans very nervous.

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 month ago

No shoutout for Cody Simpson? His 52 fly definitely deserves some praise.

Reply to  monsterbasher
1 month ago

Can’t wait to see what he can do over the next few years.

Reply to  Kate
1 month ago

Swimswam will love(hate) it when he goes a 50 in his 100 fly in a couple years lmao.

M d e
Reply to  monsterbasher
1 month ago

52.8 is still a mile from 50.

He’s nowhere near the point where that is something that should be seriously talked about.

Reply to  M d e
1 month ago

I disagree, the bloke has been training for a year and only needs a 51.3 to make the Aussie team in Paris. The massive advantage he has is money. He has the coin to hire the best coaches, physios, doctors etc. He can definitely do it in 3 years. My prediction is he will be pushing the Comm Games team as close as next year!

M d e
Reply to  SwimWood
1 month ago

Getting to 53 is the easy part, progression is non linear and 1.5 seconds is a damn long way.

Reply to  monsterbasher
1 month ago

Male pop star of the meet?

Last edited 1 month ago by Pineapple
M d e
Reply to  monsterbasher
1 month ago

Most unwarranted attention from coverage?

1 month ago

Australian women going to get a lot more medals in Tokyo than Rio.

Texas Tap Water
Reply to  Marklewis
1 month ago

Well duh

1 month ago

I think Titmus’s 200 was an even more exciting swim than the 400! I can’t wait for next month, those two races are going to be so fun to watch.

Reply to  Meow
1 month ago

They’re about equal.

1 month ago

Nice mix of youngsters and veterans on the Aussie team. Especially looking forward to women’s 1 and 2 back, and the W distance frees. But really, every race will be exciting. Time for Tokyo !!

1 month ago

I actually feel that Titmus’ 1:53.09 was the most game changing race. Her 400free was of course impressive, but I think the 200free was more of a game changer for the event

Reply to  John26
1 month ago

Yes, it was the first time in many years a woman has pulled ahead of the pack in the 200m..

Reply to  John26
1 month ago

Did you read her lips after she saw the time? Hint: starts with F.

Reply to  Clanfa
1 month ago

And rhymes with Truck.

1 month ago

Good choices!

1 month ago

Titmus’s 200m swim just seems more epic than her 400m swim.

It’s probably because Pellegrini’s 2009 time from Rome is the longest standing and the last of the suit WRs on the women’s side. It has some of the ‘nobody is ever going to beat that’ feel of Biedermann’s times.

Ledecky’s 400m time is awesome but it doesn’t have quite the same aura for me – subconsciously I’ve always thought someone would break it sooner or later – most obviously because Ledecky herself has broken the 400 record 3 times.

Reply to  Jamie5678
1 month ago

The 200 fly suit WR still stands and is a tougher record than the 200 free.

Reply to  Troyy
1 month ago

Oops – I think I got confused because it wasn’t set in Rome at the WC. But yes you’re totally correct.

Mr Piano
Reply to  Jamie5678
1 month ago

What lmao. 3:56.46 >> 1:52.98 in an arena x glide. Ledecky’s 3:56.4 in 2016 obliterated the #2 performer by 3 seconds. Titmus’s 1:53.0 is probably on par with her 400

Corn Pop
1 month ago

The Gloria Gaynor Award ………. Madi Wilson .

Reply to  Corn Pop
1 month ago

she’s done so well!!

About Retta Race

Retta Race

Swim analyst, businesswoman.

Read More »