Larkin: Aussie swimmers felt pressure at Games

Emily Seebohm and Mitch Larkin posing for a photo with fans during the meet and greet session at Kallang Wave Mall on Oct 20, 2016.
Emily Seebohm and Mitch Larkin posing for a photo with fans during the meet and greet session at Kallang Wave Mall on Oct 20, 2016. ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

One would not fault the Australian swim team for dreaming of a flurry of gold medals as they headed to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

After all, they had, among them, reigning world champions Emily Seebohm (100m and 200m backstroke) and Bronte Campbell (50m and 100m freestyle) and Cameron McEvoy, who still holds the fastest 100m free time in a textile suit.

Yet, none of the trio won individual medals in Rio, with Australia's three swimming golds coming from one relay, 18-year-old Kyle Chalmers' surprise win in the 100m free and Mack Horton (400m free).

Mitch Larkin, here for the seventh leg of the Fina/airweave Swimming World Cup, said perhaps the pressure got to them.

Larkin, who went to Rio as world 100m and 200m backstroke champion but clinched only a silver in the 200m event, said: "Going into the Olympics as the favourite is good, it means you got confidence and that behind you.

"But it's also bad in that there's a lot of pressure. In the team there was a few of us who really wanted to show our country we've come a long way since London... we sort of felt that bit of pressure as well."

In London, Australia returned with only one gold and a review was ordered by the country's sports governing body, amid rumours that there was a culture of bullying in the team. But Larkin said there is no trace of that in the current team.

Seebohm added that the team exceeded expectations overall.

"Our only goal was to do better than London and we did that. Unfortunately it's from areas we didn't expect or put pressure on. It was interesting. (But) we definitely turned it around after 2012. We changed our attitudes towards being in a team together... our team were looking really good this year."

The duo, who are dating, are more upbeat here. Yesterday, they visited Gardens by the Bay, and are itching to get into the pool. Seebohm said: "I just like racing. I'm just here for the fun, to be honest."

Chua Siang Yee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2016, with the headline 'Larkin: Aussie swimmers felt pressure at Games'. Print Edition | Subscribe