Home » Here’s what you need to know as one of the hottest fields in Aussie swimming history fights for an Olympics spot

Here’s what you need to know as one of the hottest fields in Aussie swimming history fights for an Olympics spot

The Paris 2024 Olympic Games are barely a month and a half away — and that means athletes across the world are honing their preparations for the upcoming spectacle.

No squad in Australia has more eyeballs on it at this stage of the Olympic cycle than the swimming team.

The Dolphins are by far Australia’s most successful cohort at the Olympics.

This week in Brisbane, the nation’s top swimmers will have a chance to shoot for Paris over six days of intense competition.

Australia’s stunning Olympic record

The Tokyo Games featured lots of masks and lots of medals.(Getty Images: James Chance)

Australia’s record in swimming is sensational — it’s the sport in which Australia has won the most medals by far

All time, the Aussies are second in terms of medals won, behind only the United States.

At the last Games, it was again the USA at the top of the pile with a total of 30 medals, including 11 golds.

Australia was not far behind though, winning nine golds and a total of 21 medals.

No other country reached double figures, with Great Britain the next most successful country with eight medals in total.

That success was almost entirely down to the all-conquering women’s squad, who claimed a whopping eight gold medals out of a possible 17 in the pool.

In total, Australia’s women won 17 of the 51 medals on offer in the pool — and given each country is limited to two athletes per event, that was over half the maximum they could conceivably have won.

All up, 10 of Australia’s 11 most successful Summer Olympians are swimmers.

Emma McKeon smiles with four gold medals

Emma McKeon has 11 Olympic medals, the most of any Australian in history. (Getty Images: Brendon Thorne)

Indeed, at the last Games, Emma McKeon was the most successful athlete in terms of medals won across the board, winning seven medals in total (four golds and three bronzes).

That was the first time a female swimmer had ever been the top medallist at a single Games, and the first time a female athlete had done so since Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina won six medals at the 1964 Games in Tokyo.

How do the Olympic swimming trials work?

It’s all pretty straightforward.

Swimmers race in their heats in the morning, with the eight fastest swimming again in that evening’s final.

Australia has a maximum quota of athletes to choose from, which is 26 men and 26 women.

Izaac Stubblety-Cook smiles

If you touch the wall first (or second) in trials, and do a good time, you can start smiling.(Getty Images: Abbie Parr)

The top two swimmers in the final will make the Olympic team — as long as they swim under the qualifying standard set by Swimming Australia.

If no athletes swim under the qualification time, they will not be selected even if they finish in the top two positions.

That time is actually faster than the official Olympic qualification time in all but a handful of instances — the 100m breaststroke and 400m individual medley (IM) for men, and the 100m freestyle, 100m breaststroke, and the 400m IM for women.

Selection for the relay teams will be subject to an athlete making the final of the event.

Who are Australia’s top names to look out for?

Kayley Mckeown holds up her hands

Kaylee McKeown has four Olympic Games medals, three of them gold.(Getty Images: Fred Lee)

All four of Australia’s individual Olympic champions from Tokyo will be in action in Brisbane.

Australia’s only male individual gold medallist from Tokyo, Zac Stubblety-Cook in the 200m breaststroke, has entered both the 100m and 200m breaststroke in his home pool — events he won at April’s Australian Swimming Championships on the Gold Coast.

Ariarne Titmus will compete in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m.

Australia’s golden girl is favourite in the two longer events, but comes up against world record holder Mollie O’Callaghan in the 200m and, well, just about every one of Australia’s greatest modern 100m sprinters in the two-length effort — but more on that later.

Backstroke queen Kaylee McKeown is also keeping busy this week, swimming the 200m IM, the 100m and 200m back and the 100m and 200m free.

Emma McKeon is sticking to three events, racing the 100m fly, 100m and 50m free — all events she won individual medals in at the Tokyo Games.

Outside those stars, look out for Cameron McEvoy, whose less is more approach to sprinting has seen the veteran record the two fastest times in the world this year over 50m.

Cameron McEvoy holds out his arms

Cameron McEvoy is back to his best over the shortest sprint distances.(Getty Images: Insidefoto/LightRocket/Andrea Staccioli)

Kyle Chalmers‘s 47.63 over 100m free to win the Australian Championships in April was the sixth-fastest time in the world this year and a very positive sign, although Flynn Southam leads a strong contingent of swimmers hoping to upset the established order.

In the 400m, both Elijah Winnington and Sam Short have gone way under the Swimming Australia qualifying time already this year, with both men looking good to hit the 800m qualifying time as well.

Winnington should also be there or thereabouts in a very competitive-looking 200m free, with Max Giuliani, Zac Incerti and Kai Taylor all posting impressive times.

The women’s 100m freestyle

Australian 4x100m Olympic relay swimming team hold their medals and smile

Australia’s 100m women’s freestyle field is stacked.(Getty Images: picture alliance/Michael Kappeler)

The strength in depth of Australian women’s swimming has arguably never been more impressive.

And nowhere is that more clear than in the 100m, which consists of one of the best domestic fields ever assembled.

Eight of the women down to swim in the 100m free have an Olympic gold medal to their name.

Six women — O’Callaghan, Shayna Jack, Emma McKeon, Meg Harris, Cate Campbell and Bronte Campbell — have entered a time that is below Swimming Australia’s qualification mark of 53:61.

A further three entered a time of sub-54 seconds to set up an explosive battle for a spot in the relay team, let alone one of the two individual spots, including reigning world junior champion, Olivia Wunsch, Brianna Throssell and Titmus.

The 50m freestyle is just as crammed with talent, meaning there is a very realistic chance that this could be the last time we see the Campbell sisters in action.

Seven women have entered times below the Swimming Australia qualifying standard for the Games in the one-length sprint — including both Campbell sisters.

Cate and Bronte Campbell smile

Bronte and Cate Campbell have won 11 Olympic medals between them.(Getty Images: Clive Rose)

When are the USA trials?

Australia will learn the identity of its American challengers the week after the trials in Brisbane conclude.

The Olympic trials are kind of a big deal Stateside.

So important that the competition will take place inside the home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts.

The 70,000-seat venue has been reconfigured to host 30,000 supporters at a cost of more than a million dollars.

“The last five Olympic Trials were in temporary pools,” chief commercial officer of USA Swimming, Shana Ferguson told the Indy Star. 

“The reason for that is there’s simply no natatorium in the United States that is big enough to host a meet of this magnitude.”

Eyes will mostly be on Katie Ledecky, who will be aiming, primarily, to win a fourth-straight title in the 800m freestyle, having also won the crown in London, Rio and Tokyo.

How are the other medal favourites faring?

Summer Mcintosh looks out of the pool

Be warned Australia, Summer (McIntosh) is coming.(Getty Images: Ian MacNicol)

Canada held its Olympic trials last month, and predictably Summer McIntosh stole the show.

The 17-year-old qualified for five individual events, including the events in which she currently reigns in as two-time world champion — the 400m IM and 200m butterfly — and the 400m freestyle.

Maggie Mac Neil, who beat McKeon in the 100m butterfly in Tokyo, qualified for her chance to repeat the triumph.

Great Britain’s Olympic trials took place in April with Matt Richards winning the 200m freestyle ahead of gold and silver medallists from Tokyo, Duncan Scott and Tom Dean.

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