From Ian Hanson
Olympic gold medallist and local hero Mack Horton will lead a who’s who of Australian swimmers and international stars at this weekend’s three-day Victorian State Swimming Championships at the Melbourne Sports And Aquatic Centre, starting tomorrow.
All eyes will be on Horton, his Olympic 1500m gold medal winning training partner Gregorio Paltrinieri (Italy) and another visiting squad member at Melbourne Vicentre, Japan’s 2015 World University Games gold medallist Ayatsugu Hirai.
All three are entered in both the 400m freestyle (Friday) and the 1500m on Sunday with the 400m freestyle also featuring Australia’s Rio Olympic finalist David McKeon and fellow 2016 Olympians Dan Smith and Jacob Hansford.
Hirai and McKeon will also go head-to-head in the 800m freestyle on Saturday.
But if you want to catch a glimpse of the golden boys Horton and Paltrinieri on Saturday then you’ll have to head down to the Victorian Surf Coast to the 38th Annual Lorne Pier To Pub Ocean Swim over 1.5km.
Melbourne Vicentre Head Coach Craig Jackson has given his star distance duo the day off to join 5000 swimmers in one of the most popular and sort-after Ocean Swims in the country.
Horton has run second twice to seven-time champion and notable surf and open water star Sam Sheppard who has twice used his cunning surf skills to shoot past Horton – one of the best 1500m swimmers in the world.
It is looming as one of the great Pier To Pub showdown’s with the best of the Open Water verses the best of Stillwater.
And Horton will be hoping a break from the rigors of his pool preparations for next month’s Hancock Prospecting Australian Championships and Commonwealth Games Trials on the Gold Coast will see him turn silver into gold.
No matter what the result, Horton will be back in Melbourne on Saturday night to spearhead his Melbourne Vicentre teammates in the 4 x200m freestyle relay at MSAC.
And there will be no day of rest on Sunday for Horton, Paltrinieri and Hirai who have all entered the 1500m freestyle.
The Pier to Pub came with Jackson’s blessing:
“The boys came and asked me about the Pier to Pub and I see it as a nice break away from the pool – they’ll enjoy it and it is always a big event in Melbourne. Mack will be back for the relay that night and all three have entered the 1500m on Sunday. We will then target the NSW Championships in Sydney the following week in what will be a final hit out before the Games Trials (February 28-March 3).”
In what will be an action packed three days, visiting swimmers from Greece, Korea, Canada, Czech Republic, New Zealand, Italy and Japan will certainly provide a real international feel to the meet.
Particularly in the women’s backstroke events with the presence of Canada’s Olympic bronze medallist over 200m backstroke Hilary Caldwell pitted against Brisbane Grammar’s reigning FINA World Champion and Australian Swimmer of the Year Emily Seebohm, Melbourne Vicentre’s World University Games champion Sian Whittaker, her club mate Hayley Baker and rising Australian youngsters Kaylee McKeown and Minna Atherton.
Australia’s prolific medal winner from last year’s World Championships in Budapest Emma McKeon will be joined by brother David and the return of Rio Olympic butterfly silver medallist Maddie Groves as well as fellow Griffith University team mates, Olympians Georgia Bohl and Grant Irvine.
In the absence of the Campbell sisters Cate and Bronte and their Chandler training partner Shayna Jack, the women’s sprint freestyle events will see Emma McKeon, Brittany Elmslie, joined by fellow Olympians Koti Ngawati, Leah Neale and Groves.
McKeon and Groves will also go head-to-head in the 100m and 200m butterfly and the 200m freestyle.
Olympic 100m freestyle gold medallist Kyle Chalmers, left (Swimming Australia), will also be in action in the 50, 100 and 200m freestyle events with the blue ribband 100m freestyle on the opening night alongside rising St Peters Western star Jack Cartwright and Olympians James Roberts and Daniel Smith.
Nunawading’s Jessica Hansen will carry local Victorian hopes in the women’s breaststroke events up again USC Spartans Olympian Taylor McKeown andBohl.
While in the men’s events Melbourne Vic Centre’s Daniel Cave will be up against fellow World Championship team mate Matthew Wilson and Olympian Jake Packard.