Swim stars set for Tokyo 2020 dress rehearsal
AUSTRALIA'S preparations to regain the mantle of the world's top swimming nation by 2020 is well under way as athletes reach the two-year countdown to the Tokyo Olympics.
The Dolphins will celebrate the two-year mark on Tuesday in Cairns as they put the final touches on their preparations for the Pan Pacific Championships, which start in Tokyo in just over a fortnight.
While the meet will act as a dress rehearsal for the Australian team, director Jacco Verhaeren said he was playing a long game, with an emphasis on results in two years rather than the sugar hit of a pre-Games gold rush.
Australia will take a 32-member team to the Pan Pacs, including Rio Olympic champions Mack Horton and Kyle Chalmers, world shortcourse record-holder Cate Campbell and world champion Emily Seebohm.
"We're two years away from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and it's crazy to think that Rio was two years ago, it feels like just last month," said Horton, who won the 400m freestyle at the 2016 Olympics.
"It's exciting to be here (in Cairns) and getting ready to go to Tokyo two years out - get a taste, get a feel for Tokyo and look forward to the Olympics in a couple of years time."
Verhaeren said while the team was seeking the strongest results possible at this year's benchmark meet as many of its top swimmers returned from breaks to the international arena, the main goal was the Olympics.
"Last year post-Rio, Maddy Groves wasn't there, Kyle Chalmers wasn't there, Cate Campbell wasn't there, James Magnussen wasn't there - all for different reasons but all for the right reasons and for longevity," he said.
"In the long-term objective, you do need to give them that opportunity.
"But short-term we do want to give it a go and see what we can do at Pan Pacs.
"It's a relatively small team, but it's a strong team that we're sending."
Canadian Olympic gold medallist Alex Baumann, now Swimming Australia chief strategist, said the team was playing the long game.
"Ultimately our goal is to perform in Tokyo in 2020," he said.
Breaststroker Jake Packard has his mind on 2020 already.
"It's two years to the Tokyo Olympics, time's flying past and we've got an awesome facility to train in here in Cairns," he said. "This is where we knuckle down and the preparations are going really well. Two years to go, I can't wait."
Gold Coaster David Morgan has also started the countdown.
"I can't believe in two more years we'll be at the Tokyo Olympics," he said.
"We're all training hard here in Cairns and it's just around the corner."