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US has six swimmers ranked No 1, Australia has seven

June 30, 2013

Cover Free 7

n a somewhat surprising twist, the maligned Australian team will go into this month’s world championships with more world No 1 ranked swimmers than the USA, the sport’s superpower.

The US trials finished yesterday, revealing a team in transition as it becomes accustomed to life without Michael Phelps, and with Ryan Lochte seriously underdone following his post-Olympic sabbatical.

A strong final day in which Olympic gold medallists Nathan Adrian (50m freestyle), Lochte (200m individual medley) and Katie Ledecky (1500m freestyle) set world-leading times gave the US team some momentum but it does not look the force of last year.

It has swimmers ranked No 1 in six events. Missy Franklin is the standout in the 100m and 200m backstroke, but that is one short of Australia’s seven top spots.

Before the US trials began, Australians were setting the pace in nine events and the fact that they have held on to seven of those positions is very encouraging.

Cate Campbell (50m and 100m freestyle), Alicia Coutts (100m butterfly and 200m individual medley), Christian Sprenger and James Magnussen (100m freestyle) still hold the fastest times of the year.

That is not to suggest that the Australian team is ready to go toe-to-toe with the US for international supremacy this year but it is encouraging for a young Australian team looking for confidence and momentum to get this Olympiad rolling after the troubled London campaign.

Rankings are a measure of possibilities rather than certainties, as Magnussen discovered last year.

But if the Australian team can take another step forward in Barcelona later this month, after a strong trials performance, then it will establish a strong foundation from which to build towards the 2016 Rio Games.

In hindsight, the Australian team struggled for momentum leading up to London.

The supersuit world championships in 2009 was followed by the logistically difficult 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games and a further drop in standards at the 2011 world titles (except Magnussen), giving the Australian team precious little impetus to take to London.

Under new leader Michael Scott, the Australian team management is determined to learn from past mistakes and start this cycle on the right foot.

Magnussen and his coach Brant Best are doing likewise. The world champion sprinter did not have a single tune-up race leading into London but will follow last weekend’s Australian team time trials with next weekend’s French Open meet to ensure he is fully prepared for his re-match with Adrian in Barcelona.


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