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Wednesday July 17, 2024

Titmus and McKeown carry Australian Olympic swim hopes in bid to topple US

By AFP
June 17, 2024
A combo of images showing Australias swimmers Ariarne Titmus (left) and Kaylee McKeown. — AFP/Reuters/File
A combo of images showing Australia's swimmers Ariarne Titmus (left) and Kaylee McKeown. — AFP/Reuters/File

SYDNEY: Australia´s formidable swim team heads for the Olympics this week headlined by two superstars of the sport in Ariarne Titmus and Kaylee McKeown as they look to snap a 68-year hoodoo against arch-rivals the United States.

The pool squad was whittled down after six intense days of trials that culminated in Brisbane on Saturday, with bettering their haul from Tokyo three years ago the immediate target.

“I´m excited, really excited, we have a great group of athletes,” said head coach Rohan Taylor, who steered them to nine gold and 21 medals overall in Japan behind only the all-conquering Americans.

Australia last beat the United States on the medal table at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, but Taylor is bullish they can mount a serious challenge again. “This team is going to give it a good shake,” he told reporters. “But the Americans, there´s a reason they haven´t been beaten since 1956 -- they´re just extremely competent when it comes to the Olympics, this is where they step up.

“They have got the depth, they´ve got the numbers, they´ve got the experience. “We´re going to go there and do everything we can to create an environment for these (Australian) athletes, first and foremost, to do their best.” Their aspirations rest heavily on the shoulders of Titmus and McKeown, along with Mollie O´Callaghan and their relay teams.

Titmus returns to the Olympic stage as defending 200m and 400m freestyle champion, with the 800m, where she claimed silver in Japan, also on the agenda. McKeown is defending her 100m and 200m backstroke titles and world records. She will also swim the 200m medley after clocking the fastest time since the 2016 Rio Olympics last week.