With just one and a half weeks until the games, we now turn our attention to the Individual Medleys. Very few swimmers are the masters of all strokes and especially for the Australian men this has proven to be a difficult set of events to conquer. As in previous games, all eyes will surely be on the showdown (for the last time ever) between Phelps and Lochte, and the domination of the Japanese men in the 200m event. If Phelps manages to pull off the seemingly impossible in this race and win it for a fourth time in a row, expect the house to come down. In the 400m event, it is a new generation of American young guns and the same Japanese men who lead the world rankings. What can our Aussie boys do to interrupt their domination?
Thomas Fraser Holmes – Swimming the 400 IM and the 200 Free in Rio, Fraser Holmes made his Olympic debut in London and made it to the finals of each of these events but not onto the podium so he will be looking to rectify that this year. His trials time in the 400 IM (4.11.09) ranks him fifth in the world and less than half a second off podium potential. Fraser Holmes is a NSW boy, born in Newcastle, but trains at the Miami Swimming Club excellence centre.
Travis Mahoney – Mahoney will make his Olympic debut in Rio after a breakthrough performance at the selection trials in Adelaide on the opening night where he finished second in the most gruelling of events, the 400m individual medley.
Cheered on by his Nunawading teammates in the stands, Mahoney finished in a personal best time of 4:14.98s, behind only Thomas Fraser-Holmes. Reaching the podium in Rio will be a tall order for Trav, but surely, he will be targeting a finals swim.
On the women’s side of the team things are looking equally challenging for our Aussie ladies. The 200m and 400m individual medley events are dominated by Hungarian Katinka Hosszu who is two seconds and four seconds faster than anyone else in the world for those events respectively. The Brits, Americans, Japanese, and Russians (assuming FINA allows them to swim) will be fighting for the silver and bronze medals here as the field is very tightly packed. Australia’s best bet is one of the women’s team captains Alicia Coutts OAM.
Alicia Coutts - Coutts secured selection on her third Olympic Team when she won the 200m individual medley at the trials in Adelaide. She was also 5th in the 100m freestyle final, after just missing in the 100m butterfly (3rd).
Coutts, coached by John Fowlie, became the star of Australia’s swim team at the London 2012 Games when she took home two individual and three relay medals. That five-medal haul matched Ian Thorpe and Shane Gould’s record of most medals at a single Olympics.
Winning 21 medals for Australia in major championships since 2008, she was awarded an Australia Day Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for her service to sport in 2014. She has previously announced that she will retire from competitive swimming after the Rio Olympic Games.
Kotuku Ngawati - Ngawati’s Olympic dream will be realised in Rio after she secured a spot in the 200m individual medley. Ngawati set a personal best time of 2:11.03 when she finished second behind Alicia Coutts at trials.
Ngawati won silver at the 2010 World Short Course Championships in the 100m individual medley. Her 59.18 time saw her become the third fastest Australian woman ever in the event. She made her debut Commonwealth Games appearance in 2014 when she competed in the 200 individual medley however her swim of 2:17.04 did not see her progress from the heats to the finals – let’s hope for better luck in Rio.
Blair Evans - Blair Evans clocked a personal best time (4:35.26) to secure her spot on her second Olympic team, upsetting the women’s 400m individual medley hot favourite, Queensland’s Keryn McMaster, to claim this year’s national title.
Evans, from West Australia, finished second behind Stephanie Rice in the 400m Individual Medley at the 2012 Australian Championships to secure her maiden berth on the Australian Olympic Team for the 2012 London Games. Evans finished sixth in her heat of the event in London before swimming in the heat of the 4x200m freestyle, which saw Australia taking home the silver medal in the final.
Keryn McMaster - McMaster will make her Olympic debut in Rio after three years dominating the women’s 400m individual medley in Australia. She claimed the 2013, 14 and 15 National titles before finishing second to fellow Australian teammate Blair Evans in a time of 4:37.94 at this year’s Nationals. The pair both finished under the qualifying time to secure a spot at the 2016 Games.
McMaster won gold in the 400m Individual Medley at the 2013 US Open Championships, bronze in the same event at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and finished 13th at the 2015 World Championships in the 200m IM.
Acknowledgement: Some words taken from http://rio2016.olympics.com.au/ to ensure I got the facts right!