Australians defeat U.S. freestyle sprinters, relay at Pan Pacs

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The U.S. has dominated swimming since the heyday of its rivalry with Australia more than a decade ago, but the Aussies had one of their biggest recent gold-medal sweeps at the expense of the Americans on Friday.

Cate Campbell and Kyle Chalmers won the 100m freestyles at the Pan Pacific Championships, the biggest international meet for U.S. swimmers this year, in Tokyo.

The Aussies also beat the U.S. in the 4x200m free relay, with Madeline Groves holding off Katie Ledecky on anchor.

Groves was given a 2.88-second lead and edged Ledecky by .25, marking the American women’s first loss in a major international meet since 2009 Worlds.

Ledecky had the fastest split of the relay — 1:53.84 — which was .28 faster than Canadian Taylor Ruck, who won the individual 200m free over Ledecky on Thursday.

U.S. leadoff Allison Schmitt had the slowest leg of the 16 total swimmers — 1:58.62 — the slowest by an American woman in a 4x200m free final at a major meet since 2010, though leadoff legs are slowed by reaction time.

The U.S. men held off Australia in the 4x200m free, with Townley Haas touching .24 ahead of Jack Cartwright.

PAN PACS: Results | TV/Stream Schedule

Campbell clocked the second-fastest time ever — 52.03 seconds — to hand Simone Manuel her first loss in a major international 100m free in three years. Manuel, a distant runner-up in 52.66, shared the 2016 Olympic title with Canadian Penny Oleksiak and took the 2017 World title outright.

“I definitely was disappointed with losing, but I think I’m more disappointed with my time,” said Manuel, who was .12 faster at nationals two weeks ago.

Campbell entered the Rio Games as the world-record holder but was a disappointing sixth in Brazil, later saying she swam with a hernia. The 26-year-old skipped the 2017 Worlds but stormed back this year, clocking 52.37 in March, good for No. 2 in the world going into Pan Pacs.

“I can put to bed all the nightmares and thoughts that come creeping in when you’re lying awake, stewing over past performances,” Campbell said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “I swam a personal best. These don’t come around very often at my age. I couldn’t be happier.”

Chalmers, the surprise Rio Olympic 100m free champion, pulled off another upset to take the Pan Pacs title. He touched in 48.00, beating world champion Caeleb Dressel and fellow Aussie Cartwright by .22.

Chalmers, 20, entered the final with the fifth-fastest time this year among the eight racers. He missed the 2017 Worlds after undergoing heart surgery and was third at the Commonwealth Games on April 8.

“I was beginning to doubt myself that little bit in the 100m,” Chalmers said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “I haven’t done a whole lot of 100m work, but I’m a competitor.”

Australia bagged as many gold medals Friday at Pan Pacs — a meet without European nations and top stars from China and South Africa — as it did in all swim events at the Rio Olympics. The Aussies won a single gold at the 2017 Worlds.

Dressel dominated the 100m free at 2017 Worlds, winning in an American record 47.17 seconds as one of his Michael Phelps-record-tying seven gold medals at the meet.

He was sixth at the U.S. Championships two weeks ago in what coach Gregg Troy said was the worst thing that’s happened to him in the pool in four years since matriculating at the University of Florida.

“Pretty far off my best,” Dressel said Friday. “It’s been a little bit of a hectic year [Dressel finished his college career and turned pro in the last six months]. It was a learning year. Pan Pacs is a little more low key than worlds and Olympics. It’s just been a little crazy. That’s all right for right now.”

Dressel managed a different kind of victory Friday, grabbing one of two spots on the U.S. team in the 100m free for the 2019 World Championships, along with U.S. champion Blake Pieroni.

That means Nathan Adrian will not contest a 100m free at a major international meet for the first time since he was a prelim relay swimmer at the 2008 Olympics.

Also Friday, Rio gold medalist Ryan Murphy won the 100m backstroke in 51.94, just .09 off his world record. The race lacked world champion Xu Jiayu as China is saving its best swimmers for the Asian Games later this month.

World champion Kylie Masse of Canada captured the women’s 100m back in 58.61, .11 ahead of 2015 World champion Emily Seebohm of Australia. American Kathleen Baker, who at nationals broke Masse’s world record, earned bronze.

U.S. Olympian Hali Flickinger won the 200m butterfly in 2:07.35. Flickinger ranks second in the world this year with her 2:05.87 from nationals.

Japan’s Daiya Seto took the men’s 200m fly in 1:54.34, ranking him fifth in the world this year. The top American was Zach Harting in third in 1:55.05.

Pan Pacs continue Saturday, highlighted by Ledecky in the 400m freestyle (full broadcast schedule here).

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Australian swim star to undergo heart surgery, miss world champs

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Kyle Chalmers, the Olympic 100m freestyle champion, will undergo heart surgery and miss the world championships in July.

The 18-year-old Chalmers has Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT), an elevated-heart-rate condition that can cause chest pain and fainting.

Chalmers had three “attacks” this year related to his condition, according to 7 News in Australia. He was diagnosed at age 12 and had one previous operation, according to 9 News in Australia.

“We decided it was in Kyle’s best long-term interest to get the surgery done sooner rather than later,” Chalmers’ coach, Peter Bishop, said in a Swimming Australia press release. “This will enable Kyle a good recovery period, before preparing for a home Commonwealth Games in 2018.”

Chalmers was a surprise champion in Rio, becoming the youngest man to win an Olympic swimming gold medal since countryman Ian Thorpe at Sydney 2000. Thorpe penned a letter to Chalmers as part of a team bonding exercise before Rio.

Chalmers played Australian rules football up until 2015, stopping after he broke his wrist and tore ankle ligaments during a game. In 2016, he finished second to veteran Cameron McEvoy at the Australian Olympic Trials before winning the Olympic 100m free title by two tenths of a second.

He also earned two relay bronze medals in Rio.

Chalmers is the latest Australian star to bow out of worlds, joining women’s 100m free world-record holder Cate Campbell, Rio Olympic 200m butterfly silver medalist Madeline Groves and veteran Olympians James MagnussenThomas Fraser-Holmes and Belinda Hocking.

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Cameron McEvoy now ‘the hunted’ in Australian swimming

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James Magnussen has been the fastest 100m freestyle swimmer each of the last four years, but an aspiring physicist now appears to be the man with the best chance of ending a 12-year drought at the Rio Olympics.

Cameron McEvoy defeated Magnussen in the 100m free final at the Australian Championships on Tuesday. It’s the second straight year McEvoy beat Magnussen at Nationals.

Magnussen won the 100m free at the 2011 and 2013 World Championships, but now McEvoy may be the one tasked with winning Australia’s first individual Olympic swimming gold medal by a man since Athens 2004.

“I’ve been what everyone would call an underdog in the past, so it’s a new feeling to be the hunted,” McEvoy told reporters after the final in Sydney (highlights here).

McEvoy, a 20-year-old physics buff, topped Magnussen 48.06 to 48.18 in the final Tuesday. It was not as great of a margin as at the 2014 Australian Championships, where McEvoy prevailed 47.65 to 47.92.

And McEvoy also touched first at the biggest international meet of 2014, the Pan Pacific Championships in Gold Coast, Australia. There, McEvoy swam 47.82, with Olympic champion Nathan Adrian way back in 48.30 and Magnussen in third at 48.36.

McEvoy did not make the Australian team for the London Olympic 100m free, won by Adrian by .01 over Magnussen.

Magnussen, 23, changed coaches last year and is arguably the most scrutinized Australian swimmer since Ian Thorpe.

“That’s pretty disappointing. I shouldn’t be swimming 48s,” Magnussen said of his swim Tuesday, according to the Courier-Mail. “[Losing and the time] both equally pissed me off. Losing is probably worse.”

In 2012, Magnussen clocked 47.10 in the 100m free, the best time since the fast suit era. His top time in 2013 slowed to 47.53 and in 2014 was 47.59.

Meanwhile, McEvoy improved the last three years from 49.19 (2011) to 48.58 (2012) to 47.88 (2013) and 47.65 (2014). Only Magnussen was quicker last year.

Both McEvoy and Magnussen must take notice of Kyle Chalmers, who finished fourth Tuesday in, reportedly, the fastest time ever by a 16-year-old.

Chalmers, who had size 15 feet by age 13, clocked 48.69, likely putting him in the Australian 4x100m free relay lineup at the World Championships in Kazan, Russia, in August.

Australia failed to make the podium in the relay at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 World Championships but topped the U.S. for gold at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships.

In 2014, the U.S. had two men swim sub-48.7 for the entire year (Adrian and Michael Phelps). Australia put four men sub-48.7 in Tuesday’s final alone.

“I reckon the rest of the world will probably sit up and take notice of that,” Magnussen said.

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