Spinetingling wins in the final-night medley relays at the Commonwealth Games on Tuesday crowned a spectacular showing in the pool for Australia that has raised hopes for future Olympic success.
Bronte Campbell, preferred to elder sister Cate for the freestyle anchor leg, overhauled Canada’s Taylor Ruck to seal a thrilling victory in the 4x100m medley in Games record time.
“It’s pretty unreal. It’s very rare that I get a swim in the medley relay at all,” Bronte said as the Commonwealth swimming competition wrapped up on the Gold Coast.
“We knew Canada was going to be really strong, but I’m just glad that the girls set me up and we did a good job in the end.”
Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers then reeled in England’s Ben Proud in a supercharged final lap to win the men’s medley relay by just nine hundredths in the final event of the six-day meet.
It left the host nation alone at the top with 21 golds on the able-bodied swimming medal tally, well ahead of England and South Africa, both on six golds.
Australia also won seven more golds in the para swimming events for a combined team tally of 73 medals.
Australia have not lost in the pool at a Commonwealth Games since going down to Canada at Edmonton in 1978.
Mitch Larkin was Australia’s most successful swimmer with five golds in five events, including a backstroke sweep, while Chalmers won four titles – three in relays, but had to settle for silver in the 100m free, the event he won at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The Campbell sister and rising teen star Ariarne Titmus finished with three golds and a silver.
“We’ve got such a great team,” said Larkin, looking ahead to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“We just swam through our skin, we held our nerve, showed up in those pressure situations.
“We’ve had some tough years,” he added. “But it sets us up with some great confidence heading into next year and hopefully on to 2020.”
Australia’s head coach Jacco Verhaeren pointed to a greater number of personal and season-best times as justification for his move to bring the selection trials closer to the Games competition in line with other major nations.
“Our aim was to make Australia proud and show Australia what we’re made of and we succeeded in that,” said the Dutchman, who used statistics to support his optimism.
“We’re hitting about a 65 percent rate in terms of personal best times, season best times, and that’s a very good score,” he told reporters. “That’s double the Rio Olympics.”
Verhaeren plans to put his swimmers through a training camp in tropical north Queensland ahead of the Pan Pacific competition in Tokyo this August – and use it as a preparation blueprint for the Tokyo Olympics.
The Commonwealth gold rush has given Australian swimming a boost after a 10-medal haul at Rio that featured just three golds with a new generation of swimmers, headed by Olympic champions Chalmers and Mack Horton at the forefront.
“It’s great to win this amount of medals,” Verhaeren said.
“But in doing that you need performances and medals – and from what I can see the people love it, so we love it too.”