OLYMPICS champions Ariarne Titmus and Emma McKeon return to the pool at the Commonwealth Games with a gold rush and world records on their minds, heading an Australia swimming squad boasting “insane depth”.
After a breakout Tokyo Olympics where she dethroned American great Katie Ledecky in the 200m and 400m freestyle, the dominant Titmus carried her form into the Australian championships in May.
After narrowly missing the long-standing 200m world record set in 2009, she broke Ledecky’s world mark over 400m by 0.06 seconds, touching in 3:56.40.
Titmus, 21, then opted out of the world championships in Budapest, saving herself for the Commonwealth Games, where she will be a red-hot favourite.
“I am so excited and I think we’ve got a great team going in. It’s insane the depth we have,” said Titmus, the Commonwealth Games 400m and 800m champion.
That depth is illustrated by the inclusion of undisputed Olympic pool queen McKeon, who also missed the worlds.
The 28-year-old won a stunning seven medals in Tokyo and also boasts a phenomenal Commonwealth Games record – with eight gold and four bronze medals in two appearances at Glasgow in 2014 and the Gold Coast four years later.
McKeon has her sights set on beating the all-time record of 10 gold medals for an Australian, currently held jointly by fellow swimmers Ian Thorpe, Susie O’Neill and Leisel Jones.
She is again set to contest the 50m and 100m freestyle, but has serious competition from teen sensation Mollie O’Callaghan, who stunned Swedish world record holder Sarah Sjostrom in Budapest to win the 100m free among her six medals.
McKeon said she would need to be at her best given the rapidly improving next generation.
“You never want to get too comfortable or complacent otherwise you’re not going to keep working hard and keep striving to be better,” she said.
The Commonwealth Games hold a special place in McKeon’s heart, with her father Ron winning swimming golds in 1978 and 1982.
Her mother, Susie Woodhouse, also competed in 1982.
Australia also boast Olympic and world backstroke champion Kaylee McKeown, while pop star Cody Simpson made the grade after returning from a decade away focusing on a music career during which he worked with Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus.
But teenage backstroke hope Isaac Cooper will be missing after he was sent home over “well-being challenges, including the use of medication”.
Australia topped the overall medals table at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, with 80 golds to England’s 45 and India’s 26. — AFP