Australian Dolphins Swim Team adding two bronze medals & World Champs
The 2017 FINA World Championships in Budapest has wrapped up with the Australian Dolphins Swim Team adding two bronze medals to their tally through distance swimmer Mack Horton and the women’s 4x100m medley relay team to leave Hungary with ten medals; one gold, five silver and four bronze.
That total saw the Aussies finish in second place overall with Russia and China and eighth on the gold medal tally.
It has been 12 years since Australia was last on the podium at a World Championship meet in the men’s 1500m freestyle, but tonight, the Olympic gold medallist and world championships silver medallist from the 400m freestyle, Horton, changed that as he swam into bronze at Budapest in a time of 14:47.70.
The event was last won by an Australian in 2005 when Grant Hackett won his fourth straight world title in Montreal.
Horton has been a looming force in the 1500m freestyle since his teenage years, he won the world junior title in 2013, silver at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and bronze at the Pan Pacs in that same year.
But this was his first major international final in the event, after the 21-year-old narrowly missed a finals berth in both Kazan 2015 and Rio 2016 and he was determined to make tonight count.
“The 4 and the 15 are my loves,” Horton said of his two favourite events the 400 and 1500m freestyle.
“It’s definitely good to have an Australian back up there, that’s why I do the event, really,” he said.
Swimming from lane one Horton was able to focus on his own race plan and he stuck to his strategy to take it out with early speed.
“I wanted to take it out a bit harder, put a bit of stress on Greg at the start because he struggles with that speed,” Horton said.
“I probably need to back myself a bit more at the start and take it out even harder.”
The perks of a lane one swim also meant Horton was on the same side as his Aussie teammates as they cheered him on from the stands on pool deck.
“Yep the whole way!” Horton said when quizzed if he could see his teammates during the race.
“It was quite nice. I could see them all up the back and when I dropped off, I assume it was when I dropped off, they told me to pick it up and I’d pick it up and they helped me through that.”
With three years until Tokyo 2020, Horton was confident he could continue his rise-up the ranks.
“It’s the start of an Olympic cycle and I think it has probably been a better-balanced week, balancing the 400, the 1500 and I had the 200 in there as well,” Horton said.
“So we’re getting the balance right, we just need to make everything faster and I have three years to do that.
“I still have a couple of steps to climb up I think, I still want to get on that higher one,” Horton said.
The gold medal went to the defending world and Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri in 14:35.85 with Ukraine’s Mykhallo Romanchuk securing the silver in 14:37.14.
The women’s 4x100m medley relay team delivered the second bronze medal of the evening when Emily Seebohm (58.53), Taylor McKeown (1:06.29), Emma McKeon (56.78) and Bronte Campbell (52.69) combined to clock a 3:54.29.
The quartet finished behind the USA in gold with 3:41.55 and Russia in silver with 3:53.38.
Seebohm led off for the team, capping off an excellent week in the pool with a bronze medal to add to her gold form the 200m backstroke and bronze from the 100m back earlier in the meet.
“I’m happy with that, just stoked to be out there with the girls, and just enjoy it and have fun. Put a good one out there for the last one,” Seebohm said of her final event of the meet.
Seebohm had an upward trajectory in her times since Trials, and that trend was common throughout the team here, proving the path to peak performance was improving.
A massive 57% of the individual events were faster than Trials, this is Australia’s best improvement in performance from the national championships to the major meet in the last five years.
One of the standout swimmers of the meet was Australia’s most decorated Olympian from Rio, Emma McKeon.
After swimming a total of 14 races over eight days of competition, McKeon will leave Hungary with six medals; including silver in the 100m butterfly, 200m freestyle, the 4x100m and 4x200m freestyle relays and two bronze medals, after her efforts in both the 4x100m mixed medley relay and the women’s medley relay on the last night of racing.
This is the most medals won by any Australian female swimmer at a world championship event, surpassing Libby Trickett (nee Lenton) who won five total in both 2005 and 2007.
While the Brisbane based swimmer was over the moon with her results, she is now more determined than ever to turn her silvers into gold.
“I gave it my all, and after an 8 day meet I’m pretty happy,” McKeon said.
“Obviously I wasn’t even thinking about medals at the beginning, but now that it’s all over I didn’t think I’d be on the podium six times this week.
“I think now I’ll have a short break and get back in the pool, and inspired to make it a gold in the coming years, because that’s what I want to achieve.”
With an eye to our future and particularly on progression over the next three years, the 2017 FINA World Championships also unearthed some bright new talent for the Australian Dolphins Swim Team, with the rookies exceeding expectations on the world stage.
A staggering 37% of the team were rookies, and Head Coach Jacco Verhaeren said he was excited about the next generation of swimmers coming through.
“I’m absolutely very pleased with the rookies and the performances they set and the steps that they made into finals, into records, into personal best times.
“This is just the beginning, so onward from here!” Verhaeren said.
“I’m very hopeful for the younger ones we’ve seen here, almost all improved what they did at Trials, they showed that they could handle the meet and could handle the travel and I think that is important. We are look forward to showing ourselves on the Gold Coast.”
In other events…
Women’s 50m Freestyle Final
The women’s 50m freestyle field was always going to be close and less than 0.30 separated the top three place getters while Australia’s Bronte Campbell (24.58), Anna Santamans (FRA 24.58) and Liu Xiang (CHN 24.58) were in a three-way-tie for sixth place.
“It’s good to come here and have a look at what everyone else is doing and the faster people go, the more motivated I get,” Campbell said.
Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom, the world record holder in the event, held on to take the title in 23.69 with Ranomi Kromowidjojo sneaking into silver in 23.85 with 100m freestyle World Champion Simone Manuel third in 23.97.
Photo - Swimming Australia Ltd.