Swimming-Australia's 'big hitters' may skip world championships: coach

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia are unlikely to fill their quota of swimmers at the world championships in Qatar in February because some may not value the meet as part of their Olympic preparations, head coach Rohan Taylor said.

Australia named a team of 38, including six open water swimmers, for this year's world championships in Fukuoka where they won a national record 25 medals in the pool in a confidence boost before next year's Paris Games.

However, Taylor said he expected less than 20 would head to Doha for the Feb. 11-18 meeting.

"We have up to 20 spots we can fill, I don't think we will get there, I think we will fall short," Taylor told reporters.

"But that is because people may not value going there as part of their (Olympic) preparation.

"It’ll be a quality team but some of the big hitters probably won’t take up the opportunity," he added.

"We’ve left it open so people can change their minds but I’m not going to be taking athletes over for experience, I’m looking for athletes who need to use that competition to get themselves ready for Paris."

Ariarne Titmus's coach Dean Boxall has confirmed the Olympic 200 and 400 metres freestyle champion will skip Doha, meaning she will surrender her 400 world title.

Australia's swimmers have a packed schedule in the leadup to the Paris Games in July-August, with national trials in April and Olympic trials in June.

Taylor will not confirm his Doha roster until after the Queensland state championships wrap up in mid-December.

"Before COVID, I would have said this (schedule) is crazy," he said.

"But last year, we had worlds and Commonwealth Games, world short course, and 'Duel in the Pool'.

"There were athletes who swam all four competitions — Mollie O'Callaghan did, Kaylee McKeown did, and look where they are at now.

"If it's valuable to the athlete and coach in getting international exposure, it can actually be an asset. It just really depends on where they are with their experience."

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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