The 2013 FINA World Swimming Championships in Barcelona have come to an end and all the signs of the rebuild of the Australian Swimming Team are positive, both in and out of the pool!
Personally it was tough not be involved in anyway other than by cheering from a far, after having been involved in every World Champs since 1991, either as an athlete or a broadcaster! Making it even harder was no television coverage in Australia ... hopefully the results I'm about to detail will remind our Australian Television Networks that the Australian Swimming team racing in an international meet is a worthwhile investment.
First and foremost it was a fast meet with several new World Records being set. Mostly from young girls!
The women's breaststroke records took a hammering with all distances rewritten by either 16 year old Ruta Meilutyte from Lithuanian or Yuliya Efimova, 21, from Russia, who between them now own the 50, 100 and 200m breaststroke rights. The USA's Katie Ledecky, at just 16 years old, set two records - one in the non Olympic 1500m free event and the second in the 800m free to prove that last year's Olympic gold at the same distance was no fluke.
The Australian Swim team had some great moments and finished the medal tally with 3 Gold and 10 Silver medals, placing them 4th on the Barcelona medal tally. The USA won, with China and France filling the top 3.
However, if you look at just Olympic events, the Aussie team would be 2nd on the medal tally behind the USA. A big improvement from the 7th placing in London 2012.
Here's some of the best:
It was all kicked started by Christian Sprenger, who turned the tables on his Olympic conqueror, South African Cameron van der Burgh, winning the 100m breaststroke crown. Sprenger at 27, has been a part of our team for quite some time. A veteran of two Olympic campaigns, he had a taste of success on the biggest stage in 2012 and wanted more, so instead of taking time off like his opponents, he went racing on the World Cup circuit and then got stuck back into work with his Indooroopilly coach, Simon Cuscack. The hard work and sacrifices have certainly paid off!
What a meet for Coach Simon Cusack!
Our only female individual gold medalist was Cate Campbell, who has quite literally been in the wars! After debuting on the Australian Team as a 16 year old and winning Olympic bronze in Beijing in the 50m free, her career has been a roller coaster ride. Injury and illness have prevented her from achieving what most in the swimming world knew she was capable of. The frustration of the past 4 years would have ended the careers of most, but Cate never lost slight of what she wanted and continues to want....to show she is the fastest women in the world, in the water!
Not to be out done, James Magnussen defended his 100m free world crown. It's been a 12 month learning period for the sprint ace after missing gold at the Olympics by the smallest of margins. A year older and wiser after racing throughout Europe following the Australian trials, he seemed to be much more controlled in all aspects of his preparation this time around.
Alicia Coutts again showed she is the ironwoman of the Australian Team with a huge schedule of racing, walking away with 5 silver medals.
And of course, then there are our backstroke girls, Emily Seebohm and Belinda Hocking. Both came up against Missy Franklin from the USA, who set a new record for gold medals by a female at Worlds, surpassing Libby Lenton and Tracey Caulkins' 5, with 6 to her name by close of business.
Emily Seebohm has been such a consistent performer for Australia since debuting in 2007 as a 15 year old and has added a silver to her collection in the 100m back.
After moving to coach Rohan Taylor at the Nunawading Swim Club, Belinda "Bindy" Hocking has found her form again, coming home "balls out" (Bindy's words not mine, but they made me laugh!) to take 2nd in the 200m back, with the fastest last lap in the field excepting Missy Franklin.
There were also a number of encouraging performances;
Cameron McEvoy, who at his first World Champs not only made the 100m free final at 18 years of age but finished 4th, just hundreths off a medal. This was his first individual race at a major senior comp!
Jordan Harrsison, made the final of an event that as Australian's we hold close to our hearts - the 1500m free. Jordan finished 6th in a final dominated by his some time training partner, China's, Sun Yang.
Most pleasing though, were the reports of the grand stand being filled by Australian team members supporting each other and creating a team atmosphere that allowed for great racing!
Well done to all who were involved with our team, especially High Performance Director, Michael Scott. He's only been in the role since May and has already recreated an environment that's supportive and caring, where athletes and coaches know what is expected and they are encouraged and supported to perform to the best of their ability.