Well here we are folks, the opening ceremony is upon us, and the first action in pool begins in less than 24 hours. In this series I have reviewed Australia’s Olympic medal hopes in all the big events in the pool. I haven’t covered all of our incredible athletes, there just isn’t time here, but rest assured each are equally as deserving of the right to call themselves Australian Dolphins.
There is one major headline event that I am yet to cover… well I had to save the best for last! It’s said at every Olympics but this year the Green and Gold have a real chance at gold in the 400m freestyle relay event. It won’t be easy though, the US, France, Italy and Brazil will be fielding strong teams, and we all know how a winning Aussie team on paper doesn’t always work out that way in reality.
This week’s final Olympic-inspired Cook & Phillip Saturday morning swim set is inspired by one of this year’s men’s freestyle relay team, click here to download.
As per the new FINA rules, swimmers who are nominated as relay only swimmers MUST swim in that event (prelims or finals is fine), if they don’t the team is DQ’ed. For this reason just two relay-only swimmers have been entered, other spots can be taken by anyone else already on the team. It is likely that the fastest freestyle swimmers with the busiest schedules will be rested and only swim in the relay finals though. So, in reverse qualifying time, here are your most likely men’s 4x100 freestyle relay team:
Matthew Abood – Despite this being his first Olympic games, men’s team captain Abood is one of the most experienced swimmers on the circuit. He will be swimming in the relay and later in the week in the 50m freestyle splash and dash event. It is likely that whomever of him and Roberts posts a fasters time will swim in both heats and finals.
The Sydney-born swimmer faced heartbreak in 2012 when he missed the London Team by 0.02 seconds after he finished third in the 50 freestyle. In 2010, at trials for the Commonwealth Games, he again missed a berth in both the 4x100 freestyle relay team and the 50 freestyle by a fraction of a second.
It was almost heartbreak again at the 2014 Commonwealth Games trials when Abood dead-heated for third with James Magnussen. The 2013 World Champion Magnussen went on to win the swim-off for the berth and Abood was left out of the squad. His change of fortune came at the expense of Eamon Sullivan, who had won the 50m freestyle final. Sullivan was forced to withdraw because of shoulder injury and Abood came in as his replacement for his first Commonwealth Games.
James Magnussen - Two-time World Champion James ‘Maggie’ Magnussen, is on the comeback from shoulder surgery and posting progressively faster times as he recovers. He will compete at his second Games after being selected in the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay for Rio 2016.
Magnussen missed out on an individual berth in the men’s 100m freestyle after facing strong competition at the Australian Championships in April and so finished in fourth, which was enough to secure a relay spot.
The ‘Missile’ won a silver and bronze medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in the 100m freestyle and 4x100m medley relay respectively. Having claimed a win at the 2011 World Championships in the 100m freestyle, Magnussen overcame the disappointment of his 2012 Olympics campaign to successfully defend his 100m freestyle world title at the 2013 FINA World Championships in Barcelona.
James Roberts – Roberts narrowly pipped Magnussen to the touch at trials earning his place on the relay team at Rio, but he has also earned the unfortunate reputation of being inconsistent in the past due to his performance in the relays at the London Olympics,
Roberts finished third in 48.32 in the men’s 100m freestyle at the Australian Championships in Adelaide to secure his spot on the Team, with the top six swimmers all clocking under 49 seconds.
Since competing at the last Games, Roberts has had extensive surgery on both shoulders, the most recent in February 2015 which kept him out of the pool for nine months. A move to train under Olympic relay gold medallist Ashley Callus on the Gold Coast at his childhood club of Somerset has paid off.
Kyle Chalmers – As discussed previously in the ‘Young Guns’ blog, Chalmers claimed his spot on the 2016 Team with a standout performance in the men’s 100m freestyle (48.03), finishing second ahead of his much more experienced rivals.
The 2014 Youth Olympian made his World Championships debut in July last year in Kazan, Russia with a fantastic 47.92 second leg in the men's 4x100m freestyle relay. He also raced in the 4x100m medley heats where he swam even faster (47.86sec) to guide that team to the final where they won the silver medal.
The Immanuel College student trains at the Marion Swimming Club in Adelaide in the High Performance squad coached by Peter Bishop alongside Sally Hunter and Andrew Abood. Chalmers’ is almost identical in size to his father Brett, who played AFL for Adelaide and Port Adelaide.
And finally… it probably wasn’t hard for you to guess where this series was going to finish. Allow me to introduce you to the fastest man over a 100m in the world right now:
Cam McEvoy – McEvoy is regarded as having technically the best stroke of any swimmer, so if you’re watching for some swimming tips – watch him closely! He will be Australia’s busiest swimmer at the Rio games with heats and finals in the 50m free and 100m free, plus relays swims in all three men’s relays. Cam also qualified at trials in first place for the 200m free but decided to scratch the event as it falls on the same day as a relay.
Alongside studying Physics at Bond University in the Gold Coast, Cam holds the Commonwealth and Australian record in the men’s 100m freestyle, set at the Olympic trials, in a time of 47.04. This swim was the third fastest in history, and just 0.13 seconds outside of the world record set by Brazil's Cesar Cielo in a now-banned super-suit in 2009. This makes the 100 free his best chance of an individual gold, though it will obviously be hotly contested by Nathan Adrian of the US, and Florent Manadou of France.
McEvoy made his Olympic debut at London 2012 at the age of 17, helping qualify the 4x100m and 4 x 200m freestyle relay teams for the finals before Australia went on to finish fourth (4x100m) and fifth (4x200m). He then went on to win six medals (2 gold, 4 silver) at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Due to his schedule, it is widely expected that he will be rested in the relay heats (Australia should still make top 8 with him), allowing him to swim fast when it counts. Look out for Cam in the anchor leg of the relays – with a ‘rolling start’ he should be able to swim a 46-low – which frankly doesn’t happen all that often!