GLASGOW (Reuters) - Two years on from a disappointing Olympic campaign, Australia’s swim team head into next month’s showdown with the United States at the Pan Pacific Championships with confidence following a record medal haul at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
The Australians, who won just one gold medal at the 2012 Olympics, earned 57 medals at the Tollcross Swimming Centre, 19 of them gold.
The Olympic champion women’s 4x100 freestyle relay team also broke the world record in the final, eclipsing one of the marks set during the ‘supersuit’ frenzy at the 2009 world championships in Rome.
The team had downplayed any pre-Games hype, pointing out that while Britain was divided into its component parts, they still had a strong swimming program and would be buoyed by enthusiastic local crowds.
Emma Mckeon topped the individual tally for Australia with four golds and two bronze medals, while world 100 freestyle champion Cate Campbell won three golds and a silver. She also anchored the 4x100 freestyle relay team to their world record.
Double world 100 freestyle champion James Magnussen, who finished second in London in the blue riband event behind American Nathan Adrian, also banished his demons from British pools by clinching two golds.
He held off young team mate Cameron McEvoy, who had beaten him at the nationals, in 48.11 seconds, the fourth-fastest time of the year.
The team’s success was a far cry from the scandal that enveloped them after London with an inquiry unveiling revelations of sleeping pill abuse, drunkenness and mismanagement.
Team management instigated a ‘dry’ Commonwealth Games policy and they have little time to celebrate their success anyway.
The swimmers will leave Glasgow almost immediately to head straight into camp on Australia’s Gold Coast for the Aug. 21-24 Pan Pacs, where they face Commonwealth challengers New Zealand and Canada, as well as Japan and the powerful Americans.
New Zealand’s team will not leave from Glasgow as early as Australia, though there was no chance for them to celebrate with 400 freestyle gold medalist Lauren Boyle telling media they had a training session scheduled for early on Wednesday.
”I‘m coming in for training at 6:15 tomorrow morning,“ Boyle told New Zealand media in Glasgow shortly after her medal ceremony. ”It’s not a joke - I was kind of shocked myself.
“I’ll see my family after this and hang out for a few hours but I’ve got to get ready for the next competition. That’s the life of an athlete.”
Boyle’s medal winning performance, she also claimed silver in the 800 freestyle, could set up an interesting showdown with American teenager Katie Ledecky on the Gold Coast.
Ledecky, the London Olympics 800 champion, has already broken her own world records in the 800 and 1,500 at a meeting in Texas in June, and could be targeting Federica Pellegrini’s 400 record of 3:59.15 at next week’s U.S. nationals in California.
Ledecky holds the fastest time for the 400 this year with 4:03.09. Boyle set a Commonwealth Games record of 4:04.47 on Tuesday in Glasgow, the fourth fastest this year, and less than 24 hours after the 800 final.
“I didn’t actually feel too bad,” Boyle said of her ability to back up.
“It was a pretty hard double - eight and a half minutes of full-bore racing last night and then heats this morning and finals tonight. I haven’t done that for a few years.”
Boyle’s challenge on the Gold Coast will undoubtedly be bigger against the 17-year-old Ledecky, who clocked eight minutes, 11.00 seconds in the 800 last month, two days after she took more than two seconds off her 1,500 record.
The U.S. championships will also double as the selection for the Pan Pacs and the squad for the 2015 world championships in Kazan, Russia.
Writing by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford