Australia is way ahead of schedule and on track to reclaim world No.
1 swimming nation status at the Rio Olympics after narrowly missing top spot at the world championships in Russia.
But head coach Jacco Verhaeren has warned his team not to get ahead of themselves, insisting there is a lot of work to be done to translate that form to the Olympic stage in Rio next year.
When Verhaeren was hired in the wake of the Australian team’s miserable London Olympics campaign, he was tasked with claiming the world No.1 ranking by the 2020 Games.
However, the Dolphins went close to becoming world No.1 for the first time since 2001 when they finished the world titles in Kazan on Sunday with seven gold, three silver and six bronze, just behind the United States (8-10-5).
Even more impressively, if the medal table is adjusted to include only Olympic events, Australia would have finished on top with seven gold compared to the Americans’ six.
And that haul was achieved with injured world 100m freestyle champion James Magnussen (shoulder) and Olympic relay gold medallists Brittany Elmslie (injury) and Kylie Palmer (provisional doping ban).
In the absence of Magnussen, Cameron McEvoy almost reeled in American Nathan Adrian in an inspired anchor leg as Australia fell 0.15 of a second short of 4x100m medley relay gold on Sunday night.
And Bronte Campbell claimed Australia’s seventh gold medal when she backed up her 100m freestyle triumph with victory in the 50 freestyle.
Verhaeren was not making any Rio predictions despite Australia more than doubling their 2013 world titles haul of three gold.
“I think we should be careful getting ahead of ourselves,” the coach said.
“We are still learning.
“There were great performances but we still have a lot to do to make it happen on an Olympic stage.”
Verhaeren claimed his team’s progress was “not about medal tallies” but he liked what he saw in a squad, which produced three dual world champions in Campbell and backstroke guns Emily Seebohm and Mitch Larkin.
Campbell – finally stepping out of her big sister Cate’s shadow – and Seebohm both finished with a team high three gold and one bronze.
“You can only measure the strength of a team under pressure,” Verhaeren said.
“And I think this team in many ways, by making finals and winning medals, succeeded very well in that.
“We can say after this that we are progressing definitely.”
Larkin was Australia’s male swimmer of the meet with two gold and a silver after becoming the first man in 10 years to claim the 100m-200m backstroke double.
Seebohm nabbed the women’s 100m-200m titles.
Campbell became the third woman in history to notch 50m-100m world titles, leaving famous big sister Cate in her wake.
“It was a major step up,” Verhaeren said of Bronte Campbell.
“It’s just phenomenal for a country to have such classy and exciting girls who can perform on such a level.”