Aussie swimmers can do better: coach Jacco Verhaeren

Cate Campbell, Emma McKeon, Lorna Tonks and Emily Seebohm. Picture: GETTY IMAGES
Cate Campbell, Emma McKeon, Lorna Tonks and Emily Seebohm. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Australian swim team head coach Jacco Verhaeren declares the team's best ever Commonwealth Games haul a good result but says the job is far from done.

The Australians won 57 medals - 19 of them gold - in the pool.

It was 29 medals more than the next best, England, and three better than the previous standard set in Melbourne in 2006 and Delhi in 2010.

High performance director Michael Scott revealed on Wednesday that Swimming Australia had targeted 53 to 55 medals (including the para-swimming tally) after a Australian Sports Commission report set the mark at 53.

On face value, it has been an impressive turnaround for the team that reached its lowest point during the fallout from the forgettableLondon Olympics campaign, where the women's 4x100 freestyle relay won the only gold medal and independent reports blasted a "toxic" culture within the sport.

A regeneration of the team and a clean out of the Swimming Australia administration led to significantly improved performances at last year's World Championships in Barcelona, where Australia won three gold and 10 silver medals, and at Glasgow, where the haul included 21 silver and 17 bronze medals.

Verhaeren said that the swimmers had taken "a massive step towards its stated goal of becoming the world's No 1 swim nation by 2020.

"We don't focus on the end outcome when we are in the process but I think we can all be very happy with the outcome," Verhaeren said.

"Lots of medals, lots of good swims, a good transfer from trials to this big competition and a great team culture and atmosphere - so very happy with that."

Emerging talent, including Wollongong's Emma McKeon, who won four gold medals and two bronze; Cate Campbell (three gold, one silver) and Bronte Campbell (three gold, one bronze), who truly emerged from her sister's shadow, were among the most successful swimmers, but the men were not overshadowed, winning nine gold compared to the women's 10.

Cameron McEvoy lost his much-hyped 100 freestyle showdown against James Magnussen but won five medals (including two relay gold), while Thomas Fraser-Holmes (two golds, silver) also left with a handy haul.

The women's 4x100 freestyle relay team, led by the Campbell sisters, also broke the world record in winning gold on the opening night.

The Games were notable for the emergence of young talent, such as the McKeon siblings (David and Emma), Mack Horton and Josh Beaver, but also the belated coming of age of the likes of Thomas Fraser-Holmes and Mitchell Larkin.

Veterans such as Christian Sprenger and Alicia Coutts struggled through injury and illness, respectively.

Verhaeren said that celebrations would be tempered in the knowledge that swimmers' improved world rankings could be soon surpassed by competitors at the US nationals that will be held next week and at the Pan Pacs, where Australia will face teams from America, Japan and Canada in late August.

"I think the sense of reality is there," Verhaeren said.

"This is not a world championship [but] we had to fight hard for every medal.


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