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.

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1 year ago

Maybe it’s time to have a SwimSwam bio for Zac Stubblety-Cook? After all you have given him “Male performance of the meet” after setting the 2nd fastest time of all time in the 200m Breaststroke and is the fastest time this season.

1 year ago

just loving the aussies! can’t wait to see them really put on a show in Tokyo! (IIRC Rio was a bit of a disappointment, and definitely don’t want a repeat of that!!) so much talent and fast swimming and great spirit is so good for the sport!

1 year ago

On a sidenote, rooting hard for Cate and Emma to go 1-2 for 100 FR in Tokyo!! (either order)

1 year ago

Titmus’s 1.53 in the 200 free is the female performance of the meet for me! So close to the supersuited record that no one has come close to

Joris Bohnson
1 year ago

Jack macloughlin? Hellooo (1500, 800, 400)

Last edited 1 year ago by Joris Bohnson
1 year ago

Tremendous swims by the Aussie swimmers.
My fav amongst the women’s was Titmus in the 200 & in the Men’s Zac in the 200 Breast.
Cannot wait for the Olympics.

Corn Pop
1 year ago

The Gloria Gaynor Award ………. Madi Wilson .

Reply to  Corn Pop
1 year ago

she’s done so well!!

1 year 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 year ago

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

Reply to  Troyy
1 year 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 year 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

About Retta Race

Retta Race

Former Masters swimmer and coach Loretta (Retta) thrives on a non-stop but productive schedule. Nowadays, that includes having just earned her MBA while working full-time in IT while owning French 75 Boutique while also providing swimming insight for BBC.

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