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Australian Dolphins give Gold Coast thumbs up for Olympic prep

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Australia’s national swim team will aim to repeat its national swim camps and Olympic lead up events on the Gold Coast, following outstanding performances in the pool at the Australian swimming championships held from Wednesday to Sunday.

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The event, held at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre at Southport, was one of the world’s biggest sporting events, by the number of athletes competing, since the coronavirus pandemic shut down or restricted major sports events last year.

Over the five days, more than 1660 swimmers competed in the concurrent Australian Age championships and a further 654 athletes in the Open titles.

Australian Dolphins head coach Rohan Taylor said the Gold Coast meet was a key step on the road to the Tokyo Olympics, with the reigning royalty of Australian swimming delivering inspiring performances.

Olympic 100m freestyle champion Kyle Chalmers and 400m freestyle world champion Ariane Titmus both claimed early titles with Titmus winning the women’s 200m freestyle and Chalmers winning his third straight national 200m freestyle title to set the pace on the first day of finals on Thursday.

Australia’s freestyle sprint queen Cate Campbell also showed she was back to her sizzling best, rocketing to the top of the 2021 World Rankings in her 100m freestyle heat, only for Emma McKeon to claim victory over Campbell in the final on Friday.

Taylor said the Gold Coast venue, that hosted the world-class 2018 Commonwealth Games swim competition, was ideal for the athletes’ Olympic focus with the event replicating the morning finals and night-time prelims format to help athletes prepare for the post-breakfast medal races that will be in place for Tokyo.

“I think the opportunity to be in a venue like this with the swim-down pools, warm-up and all the facilities offered to us help is great preparation for the athletes,” Taylor said.

“It’s a great atmosphere outdoors, we enjoy that.

“And there’s a lot of great accommodation around, so it’s a good place to be.”

Taylor said the championships, ahead of Australia’s Olympic Trials event that will be a one-shot meet for Tokyo Olympic hopefuls in Adelaide in June, would not be the last time the country’s swimming elite would converge on the Gold Coast.

The Gold Coast also played host to the Australian Dolphins elite swimmers in February, allowing the team to unite as a group for the first time since 2019.

The Dolphins National Event Camp (NEC) was held across three venues – the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre, Bond University and Palm Beach Aquatic Centre.

For the first time, all nine camps converged in Queensland over 10 days rather than scattered camps around the country.

Taylor said the NEC was very successful and was already looking to a return to the Gold Coast in 2022.

“The ability to bring everyone together and the ability to have our best athletes and coaches and support staff together in one venue using multiple pools like Bond University, and here (the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre), as well as Griffith University, just having everyone together is great,” he said.

“We are looking to do that again next year.  We are looking to do another all-in-one with the same setup and relay focus as well.”

Looking further ahead Taylor said the Gold Coast should also feature in the south-east Queensland 2032 Olympic swimming program.

Brisbane and southeast Queensland remain the preferred hosts for the 2032 Olympics, ahead of a final decision by the International Olympic Committee.

“Hopefully we can have some lead up competitions in Australia like we had leading into Sydney (2000 Olympics),” Taylor said.

“It would be nice if we could do that and it would be nice if this venue could host some of those competitions.”

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