Mack Horton was well outside his best times in the trials.
Mack Horton was well outside his best times in the trials.

No panic despite slow swimming trial times

HEAD coach Jacco Verhaeren is confident Australia's swimmers will be at their peak during the Commonwealth Games despite many falling below their best during last week's trials.

The Games trials served as the first real test of Swimming Australia's new strategy to hold its selection meet within five weeks of a major championship after disappointing results at the past two Olympic Games.

And while just 12 swimmers recorded "A" qualifiers at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre, officials are confident that will have little bearing on Games results.

While Olympics and world championships allow just two athletes per nation to compete in events, with trials running on a strict "A" qualifier policy, the Commonwealth Games is generally a "softer" selection.

And with the Games themselves the priority over the selection meet, several swimmers headed to trials knowing they did not need to produce their best times simply to qualify for the team.

"We've seen before when we've had exceptional trials and then when you get there, that momentum is relative," Verhaeren said.

"This is really about making the team.

"For some it means they have to swim a personal best time, for some it means they have to swim fast but not at their very best.

"That doesn't mean that everybody is not aiming to be very good here but it's really about qualification.

"If I see that the right people get in the team and that we're actually selecting our strongest team at the moment … we have seen people we're sure can do better in five weeks' time.

"The athletes want to be fastest themselves.

"Let's see what it's worth in five weeks' time here."

Swimmers returned a mixed bag of results at the trials.

Cate Campbell was one of the stars of the trials.
Cate Campbell was one of the stars of the trials.

Some, like sprinter Cate Campbell - who set an Australian record in the 50m butterfly and Commonwealth record in the 50m freestyle - produced best times, while others, like Olympic 400m champion Mack Horton, were well outside their best.

The Southport School coach Chris Nesbit, who places three athletes - David Morgan, Laura Taylor and Kiah Melverton - on the Australian team last week, has been involved in several Olympic and Commonwealth Games programs.

He believes the short period between trials and the major championship is best practice.

"Nothing's perfect but the whole concept is good, it worked for us," said Nesbit, a former Great Britain head coach.

"You prepare (your swimmers) for the meet to get them swimming as well as you can and then you re-prepare and that five weeks (until the Games) gives you time to get ready again.

"It's been tried and tested for a long time.

"We did it in 2016 between the trials for the world shortcourse and worlds and my swimmers won five medals there.

"It's not what we've done traditionally here but you've got to move with the times and what we were doing previously maybe wasn't working efficiently, so I think it's a good process to go through."

Verhaeren said the "A" standard would continue to be the yardstick and no leeway would be available later this year when the trials for the Pan Pacific championships will be more cutthroat.

Australian Head Swim Coach Jacco Verhaeren insists times will improve.
Australian Head Swim Coach Jacco Verhaeren insists times will improve.

"(Swimming Australia) "A" times are the reference, that's our yardstick for how we track," he said.

"A top-eight time (in the world) that's what we want to achieve and that will be the yardstick as well for Pan Pacs later in the year … without any exemption.

"But this Commonwealth Games, it's always great to be able to select a little bit broader team."