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World swimming championships 2017: Australians take first step on long road to Tokyo

by July 22, 2017 General

Where and when

This year’s edition of the FINA World Championships are being held in Budapest, Hungary. The swimming component will begin on Sunday with heats of the women’s 100-metre butterfly, wrapping up a week later with the men’s 4 x 100m medley relay.

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A look at the key events involving Australians at the World Swimming Championships, with events getting underway in Budapest, Hungary on Sunday July 23. Vision:AAP

What’s the significance?

This is the major meet in the world this year, but the championships can often take a different complexion in the first year of a new Olympic cycle. A number of high-profile Olympic champions and medallists, including Australia’s Kyle Chalmers and Cate Campbell, are sitting it out, thus weakening certain individual and relay fields.

But a world championship gold medal remains highly appealing and most of the sport’s big names will be in the water, while some of the bitter rivalries from Rio could spice things right up. Think the rematch between Australia’s Mack Horton and China’s Sun Yang in the 400m freestyle and American Lilly King and Russia’s Yulia Efimova in the 200m breaststroke, who really don’t get on at all.

For Australia and Commonwealth powers such as Canada and Great Britain, it’s a key meet on the way to the Gold Coast in 2018, while the Dolphins will be keen to see how their swimmers perform with some recent racing under their belt in European lead-up events.

The Australian contingent

The 2015 championships in Russia would prove to be a bounty for Australia but, as is often the case, that didn’t transfer to automatic dominance in the Olympic pool. Emily Seebohm (two), Mitch Larkin (two), Bronte Campbell (two) and the women’s 4 x 100m relay all topped the podium. All should be key players again in their events.

Mack Horton will be the first big player for Australia when he meets Sun in the 400m freestyle. Horton won the event in such memorable fashion in Rio but Sun has the better time in 2017.

Best of enemies: Mack Horton defeats Sun Yang in the 400-metre freestyle final in Rio.

Best of enemies: Mack Horton defeats Sun Yang in the 400-metre freestyle final in Rio. Photo: AAP

Seebohmwas another of the Australians short of her best in Brazil, but defends her 100m and 200m backstroke crowns. She should be on the podium for both.

Larkin, too, has a pair of gold medals to defend in the backstroke, but faces a hot field in both events, headed by Olympic champion  Ryan Murphy, of the US.

Campbelltook out both women’s sprints two years ago and was a finalist in Rio. She has battled injury and is back on the upswing but in the 100m must overcome the super Swede Sarah Sjostrom, who has been flying in lead-up meets and closing in on Cate Campbell’s world record.

Rising sprint star Shayna Jack could be in for a breakout meet in Budapest.

With no Chalmers, Cameron McEvoy stands a strong chance of claiming his maiden gold at a major meet, having finished second in 2015 before struggling to reproduce his best at the Olympics. At his peak, he has the class and the times on the board to salute.

Australia’s women’s 4 x 100m relay team own the world record and have been dominant, but without Cate Campbell to bring them home may fall to the Americans.

Out for redemption: Cameron McEvoy will be seeking a better performance than his Rio campaign.

Out for redemption: Cameron McEvoy will be seeking a better performance than his Rio campaign. Photo: Getty Images

The internationals

As in Rio – and until she decides to swim without kicking just to make it even – Katie Ledecky stands to raze the village. The American freestyle star is the best swimmer on the planet and will be chasing a haul of six golds in Budapest.

Home-town hero Katinka Hosszu will be desperate to carry on her dominance from Rio and will chase gold in four individual events (medleys, backstroke), while in-form Sjostrumcould steal the 100m freestyle world record and should dominate the sprint butterfly events.

On the men’ side, Brit Adam Peaty is a breaststroke god, owns the eight fastest times in history and is nearly a second ahead of his 100m rivals. With no Michael Phelps, perhaps 20-year-old Caeleb Dressel will be the man to step up for he Americans (100m, 200m freestyle and butterfly).

And don’t forget Singapore’s Joseph Schooling, who took down Phelps in the 100m fly in Rio and now has the chance to take full command of that event and hunt down the world record.