W when Australia's head swim coach Rohan Taylor holds the court, its subtle melody American becomes more pronounced. "You can tell I have an American accent, " he hastily confirms. "I was born in Australia, but I grew up in the USA - I swam in high school, I swam in universityersity. "Taylor may have been home a long time ago, but the lessons he learned in the American swimming system remain with him. In Tokyo, they could prove to be crucial.
The nine-day Olympic swimming program, which kicks off with the opening heats on Saturday night, is expected to be dominated by the rivalry between the swimming powers Australia and the United States. United. The Americans have dominated the pool for the past decade; in Rio they won 16 gold medals against three in Australia. But on the eve of the Tokyo meeting, it looks like it's on the terrace from the pool that it might be time for the Australian dolphins to shine.
" Americans have historically proven at the Olympics that they perform well, "says Taylor." For us, they are the standard that we are looking for. And rightly so - they deserve it. We are.didn’t play to our potential. Not for much longer, if Taylor and his 37-person swim team have anything to say.
The Aussie team is led by three young stars - Elijah Winnington , Ariarne Titmus and Kaylee McKeown - all still in their early twenties. Winnington will be Australia 's first major medal prospect in the 400m freestyle, with the final on Sunday morning. After dethroning compatriot and 2016 champion Mack Horton in recent swimming trials, Winnington will start the grueling event as the favorite.
The next day, Titmus will face off against American arch-nemesis Katie Ledecky, the reigning queen of the pool, in the women's 400m freestyle. This will be one of three meter solos with Ledecky in Tokyo, and all three will be watching on TV - especially after the American failed to shake hands with Titmus when he was beaten to the last champions of the world. Titmus has shaken off his worries about posting a blazing test time, but it will take something really special to defeat five-time Olympic gold medalist Ledecky again.
McKeown, meanwhile, will be a gold contender in the 100m and 200m backstroke events, but retired late from the 200m individual medley. Taylor broke the news on Thursday, saying the busy playoff and finals schedule prompted the decision. With McKeown having the fastest medley time this year at this distance, it may well have cost Australia a gold medal.
The Dolphins also have medal prospects in a host of other events. Zac Stubblety-Cook narrowly missed the world record in the 200 breaststroke in qualifying last month, while Mitch Larkin is a threat in the200 m individual medley. In addition to top-level debutants, the more experienced female ranks - including flag bearer Cate Campbell, four-time Olympian Emily Seebohm and Rio star Emma McKeon - also have the ability to triumph in Tokyo.
The women's 1500m freestyle makes its Olympic debut at these Games, and Coffs Harbor native Madeleine Gough is expected to be among the fastest qualifiers in the heats. The Dolphins have a distinguished pedigree in the men's version of the long-distance epic, with Kieren Perkins and Grant Hackett claiming the Olympic crown on four consecutive occasions, and Gough will be eager to launch a distinctive Australian legacy in the women's event.
But the main stage in the Australian-American pool rivalry will be the seven relays. And this is where Taylor's American education - where relays are the centerpiece of the competition.n in college swimming - was the most pronounced. of effect on his coaching strategy. “For me, relays are the best thing to be a part of,” he says. "I pushed the relays. There are seven stints in which we compete, that's seven opportunities. We made it a very high priority in our preparation.
At the last world championships in South Korea in 2019, Australia won gold in the men's 4 x 200m freestyle. The women faced the Americans in all three disciplines - 4x100m freestyle, 4x200m freestyle and 4x100m medley - and came out on top, two gold medals to one. The Dolphins also triumphed, by just two hundredths of a second, in the mixed medley relay, which will make its Olympic debut next Saturday.
All that leaves Australian swimmers on the cusp of what could be a godsend of medals inthe swimming pool. But Taylor knows that many of his young accusations have not been proven at this highest level. “They have to prove it,” he said. "Until they prove it, we are very positive about how we look, but it 's on paper.
Whatever the final medal tally, Taylor is confident his swimmers will provide a welcome distraction for the Australians as much of the country remains stranded. “We know that in our country people have a hard time,” he says. "We hope that we can give them 'disturbance and [put] smiles on their faces. "