With 5 Best Times in 5 Swims, 18-Year-Old Olivia Wunsch Is What’s Next in Australia


Olympic Trials meets have three positive categories of swimmers. One is the stars, the swimmers that the fans come to see, going through the obligatory motions to qualify for the Olympic Games (which is not intentionally designed to make it seem dull, as we saw in the women’s 200 free this week).

Another is for the surprises, the upsets, the ones who weren’t supposed to make the team. Swimmers like Bronte Campbell, who for the last decade has been in the former category but now perhaps shifts to this category of pleasant surprises given the age and injury that has afflicted her in recent years.

Then there is the third category. The swimmers who were always on track, who were always going to get there, and for whom this is a coming out party. This latter is my favorite category of swimmer, the ones I want to watch at the meet. Are they going to become the next Mollie O’Callaghan? Or settle into a nice support role like a Meg Harris?

18-year-old Carlile swimmer Olivia Wunsch is in this latter category, and while she has not been a dominant figure at these Australian Trials, she has still made a statement that continues her launching-off pad for the 2028 Los Angeles Games and beyond.

The Wunsch File

So far at this meet, with the 50 free left to swim, Wunsch has not only swum a best time in all three events, she has swum a best time in all five swims, prelims or finals. That culminated with making her first Olympic Team in the 100 free via a 5th place finish.

It wouldn’t be quite accurate to call this Wunsch’s breakout meet. At last year’s World Junior Championships, she won six medals, including individual golds in the 50 and 100 free, and tied the Championship Record in the 50 free (24.59). With the world’s best sprint free group beginning to show signs of age in Australia, that put some eyes on her by those looking for the next generation to replenish those relays.

So this isn’t really a breakout meet for her, but it’s the step after that, more of a senior introduction.

While it’s too soon to put her on the same plane as American sprinter Caeleb Dresel, it feels a bit like his 2016 Trials meet. We knew he was very good, but seeing that translate to the senior level was an important evolution. The American men’s sprint group wasn’t as deep as this Australian one is, so he was able to sneak the 2nd spot in the 100 free at that meet and earn an individual swim as well.

Even without the same pressures as the American high school-college-pro pathway, Australians are generally not afraid to switch coaches. Now that Wunsch has broken through, she’ll face the temptation to join the group of a coach like Dean Boxall, who is responsible for much of the current relay performance in Australia.

But her current coach Chris Nesbit has a deep resume as well. He was on the Australian staffs at the 2017 and 2019 World Championships and at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, where he put David Morgan, Cam McEvoy, Kiah Melverton, Maddy Gough, and Kai Edwards on the team while coaching at the TSS Aquatic program on the Gold Coast.

There are of course others stories and experience at Olympic Trials meets. That includes the neutral (like those who got a good experience but didn’t do much of note) or the negative (like those who were supposed to make the team but didn’t). Everyone has their own Trials story.

But when I watch a meet like this, the Olivia Wunschs are what excites me most.

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Southerly Buster
1 month ago

After the 50 Free it’s now 6 Personal Bests and a Season Best from 7 swims. Wunsch has arrived!

1 month ago

Lovely article Braden. Like you, I also love seeing young swimmers on the way up, and when they take their first big steps in the big world of open swimming. I am old enough to remember when Kieren Perkins first made his mark as a youngster at Aussie CG trials in December 1989. A few weeks later he broke 15 mins at the CGs. I look forward to seeing what Olivia and her fellow teens Iona and the even younger Jackie B can do at Paris.

1 month ago

Really rubbed me the wrong way when she was excluded from the post race interview so I’m glad to see Wunsch get the recognition she deserves. Congrats on making your first Olympic team Olivia!

Isn’t Michaela Pattison Wusch’s coach?

Rebecca johnson
Reply to  Troyy
1 month ago

Yes she is coached by Michaela Pattinson

Southerly Buster
1 month ago

When Wunsch swam those relay splits of 52.61 and 52.73 at World Junior Championships it seemed inevitable that she would force her way into the team sooner rather than later. Turns out it was sooner. 

She has a great chance to grab that 4th spot on the relay in Paris being only 0.07 behind Bronte in the final tonight. She gives every impression that she will handle the pressure of swimming at the Olympics. Can’t wait to see her in action on Day 1.

Genevieve Nnaji
Reply to  Southerly Buster
1 month ago

Based on the fact that she put all her eggs in one basket (The trials) when she chose not to swim at AUS Age and forego a chance for JPP, and then swam PBs in the trials, it seems she can handle the pressure well.

Reply to  Genevieve Nnaji
1 month ago

I think those decisions showed she was confident she could perform at trials.

Reply to  Mark69
1 month ago

Although Olivia was at 2024 age nationals, but clearly still in work. She skipped the open nats afterwards.

1 month ago

The lone swimmer to swim at her best in today nervy final and she’s a great relay-swimmer as seen at Junior Worlds (52.61 anchor in the 400 free relay).

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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