Tokyo Olympics 2021: Why head coach Rohan Taylor is bullish about swim team’s medal chances


Australian swimming’s senior coaches have witnessed far too many heartbreaking upsets in the past to fall into the trap of making any bold predictions, but there is a quiet confidence about the way the team is shaping up for this year’s Tokyo Olympics.

It’s still early days with the Games more than two months away and the national selection trials four weeks from now, but there are enough positive signs to suggest Tokyo could be one of Australian swimming’s most profitable Olympics.

“For me, when I look across the board and see where are our opportunities, we’ve got quite a lot of opportunities to be on the podium,” national head coach Rohan Taylor said.

“And then, when you’re on the podium, you’re a better chance of converting to gold.

“We haven’t been able to maybe do that in the last couple of Olympics. I think maybe there were some missed opportunities.”

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Few would disagree that the team hasn’t lived up to expectations at the last two Olympics but statistically, the Dolphins are already in great shape for Tokyo, with the national trials still to come.

Everyone is expected to go faster at the trials because Australia’s best swimmers have all been in heavy training since emerging from the lockdown, but the United States has also not held its trials yet, so the rankings could fluctuate next month.

As things stand right now though, three Australians, Kaylee McKeown (100m backstroke, 200m backstroke, 200m individual medley and 400 individual medley), Emma McKeon (100m freestyle) and Elijah Winnington (400m freestyle) are all currently ranked No. 1 in the world in their events.

There are also plenty of others ranked in the top three including Cate Campbell, Ariarne Titmus, Mitch Larkin and Zac Stubbletty-Cook, while several others, including Rio champions Mack Horton and Kyle Chalmers, haven’t revealed their hands yet because they’re ting to peak when it matters.

“From my perspective, we have a lot of opportunities. We’ve always had opportunities but it’s about converting the opportunity into performance at the Olympics,” Taylor said.

“We know that 86 per cent of all medals are won from the top five in the world going into the meet. So we need to get in there. Then we’re in there with a chance.

“Fifty per cent of the golds are won by the first ranked swimmer going into the event. We want to be in that 50 per cent in as many top fives so we have more chances to win medals.”

Australia won 10 medals, including three golds, at the 2016 Rio Olympics but almost doubled those numbers at the last world championships in 2019 so has high hopes for Tokyo.

Australia’s women are once again expected to provide the lion’s share of the medals, along with the relays, which have been increased to seven this time following the inclusion of a mixed medley.

Australia’s men have mostly been struggling this season, barring a few exceptions, before Stubbletty-Cook gave the team a big lift ahead of the cut-throat trials.

He won the 200m breaststroke at the Sydney Open on Sunday in 2:07.00, a time that catapulted him to second on the world rankings to remind his teammates how quickly things can turn around.

“It does wonders for the confidence, knowing that all the hard work in training, that comes down to just over two minutes’ work in the race is certainly paying off and we are on the right track,” he said.

THE AUSSIE SENDING SHOCKWAVES THROUGH WORLD SWIMMING

Australia’s new teenage swimming sensation Kaylee McKeown came within a whisker of breaking another world record after an equipment malfunction almost derailed her latest assault on the history books.

The 19-year-old once again showed why she is quickly emerging as one of Australia’s best medal hopes for this year’s Tokyo Olympics with another head-spinning performance in the lead up to next month’s national trials.

McKeown had already stolen the show at the Sydney Open – the last warm-up event before the trials – by winning four gold medals, including two that were an blink of an eye away from breaking world records.

The Queenslander came within just 0.06 seconds of breaking the 100 metres backstroke world record on Saturday, then 24 hours later she missed the 50m backstroke mark by 0.18.

Even more incredible was that her close shave with the 50m backstroke world record came just 30 minutes after she had won the final of the 200m individual medley, one of the most exhausting races in swimming, in 2:08.73, the fastest time in the world this year.

And if that wasn’t dramatic enough, when she jumped back in the pool for her surprise crack at the 50m record, she had to climb straight back out of the water and take a seat on the blocks because the starting ledge in her lane was broken.

Unflustered by the unexpected postponement as officials went to fetch a replacement foot ledge from a storeroom, McKeown made a flying getaway when the race did start, bursting off the blocks in just 0.57, then motored down the length of the Sydney Olympic pool to stop the clock at 27.16.

She just missed the world record, held by China’s Liu Xiang Liu, by a fingernail but still managed to post a new Australian and Commonwealth record – her third in three remarkable days that has sent shockwaves through the swimming world.

McKeown now heads to next month’s Olympic trials in Adelaide as the red-hot favourite to qualify for the Australian team in the 100m backstroke, 200m backstroke and 200m individual medley.

She is currently ranked No. 1 in the world in all three individual events and could also be included in up to three relays in Tokyo, the women’s medley, the mixed medley, and the women’s 4x200m freestyle, which Australia is the early favourite to win gold in with the likes of Emma McKeon and Ariarne Titmus involved.

McKeown told News Corp she doesn’t plan to enter the 200m freestyle heats at next month’s trials but national head coach Rohan Taylor said the in-form teenager remains in the mix because every swimmer who makes the team for Tokyo is a candidate for the relays.

“When we pick the team, we have a number of relay only potential selections (but) we have people in the team who can fill spots and we consider that,” Taylor said.

“So if Kaylee and others have posted 200m free times, we can consider them … everybody on the team has an opportunity.”

Australia’s newest swim sensation has blown her cover

Nothing raises the expectations around young Australian swimmers more than a close shave with a world record.

Especially just before an Olympics, as teenage sensation Kaylee McKeown is suddenly finding out.

Thanks to the pandemic, the Queenslander has managed to keep a low profile in the build up to Tokyo, but not much for longer.

Most Australians may not know who she is just yet, but McKeown’s cover is about to be blown wide open if her jaw-dropping performances in the pool this season are anything to go by.

In the lead-up to the most anticipated Olympics in history, the 19-year-old from the Sunshine Coast has climbed to the number one ranking in the world in not one, not two, not three but four different events.

That doesn’t mean she’s a sure bet to win any gold medals because she’s going up against some of the most ferocious competitors in swimming history, but it has ensured her days out of the spotlight are numbered.

“My coach’s words are ‘fly under the radar’ but if you’re feeling vanilla you’ve got to go for it,” McKeown said.

“You’ve only got one shot at swimming, it’s a short career, so why not put up the best you can when you can.”

True to her word, McKeown’s been doing just that, setting the fastest times in the world this season in 100m backstroke, 200m backstroke, 200m individual medley and 400m individual medley.

A double silver medallist at the 2019 world championships, she broke the 200m backstroke world record at last year’s Australian short-course championships and at the Sydney Aquatic Centre on Saturday, she came within 0.06 seconds of breaking the 100m backstroke world record when she stopped the clock at 57.63.

“I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t expecting to come out and do that,” she said.

“When I looked at the time, I was like ‘surely not. Oh s**t’.”

McKeown’s performances haven’t gone unnoticed by her rivals.

American Regan Smith, who currently holds the world records for both 100m and 200m backstroke, sent the Australian a private message to tell her she was impressed.

McKeown’s coach Chris Mooney was also pleased, even though he knows one of the prices for sporting excellence is all the extra attention that brings.

“This is new territory for us, too, so we‘re definitely learning on the run, but it’s important to keep a lid on it and get back to the grind, because we haven’t got the job done yet,” he said.

“We‘re tracking well, we’re training well but we’re not doing anything more than what we need to do, we’re just doing our job.”

Mooney is already familiar with the suffocating pressure that the Olympics bring. He coached McKeown’s older sister Taylor to the 2016 Rio Olympics, where she finished fifth in the 200m breaststroke final and won a silver medal in the medley relay.

Kaylee is seven years younger than Taylor but Mooney said he knew from the first time he started training her that she was up to the physical and mental challenges heading her way.

“She’s just not scared of pain. She takes her body and her mind and she punches through pain barriers like no one else that I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said.

“And God, she’s been training well over the last eight weeks.

“She’s no nonsense, she knows her job. She‘s the postman, she always delivers and the fact that there’s no fuss about the girl is really, really pleasing.”

Perhaps too good for her own good, McKeown has already had to make one agonising sacrifice – ditching the 400m individual medley from her Olympic plans, even though she’s currently more than two seconds faster than anyone else in the world this season.

The reason, her coach says, is she’s playing the odds without recklessly gambling.

The 400m individual medley is such a physically gruelling event that entering it will harm her chances in her other three races, so it makes sense to focus on the two backstroke distances, the shorter medley and the relays.

“One day we’ll test ourselves, we’ll find an event, whether it’s the Commonwealth Games or world championships and try to do the Iron Cross, which is the 400 IM, the 200 IM, the 100 back, the 200 back,” he said.

“But because it’s the Olympics and we’ve put a lot into this one, we’re focused on the events that we think we can be successful in because physiologically, it just takes too much out of you to be at peak performance for the other events.

“We‘re going to go there trying to win, so you’ve got to give yourself every chance and focus on controlling the controllables because this is going to be a very challenging Olympics.”

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Australian Olympic Team get COVID-19 vaccinations ahead of Tokyo Games


Three-time Olympian Cate Campbell said it was a huge relief for the athletes.

“We are going into a pretty unknown situation over in Tokyo so to have this little band-aid is a huge weight off everyone’s shoulders,” Campbell said.

Campbell said she had had no adverse reaction to the vaccine.

“I honestly had to double-check that she’d administered it, so everything ran really smoothly — nothing to be concerned about at all,” she said.

Campbell is one of 2,050 athletes and officials, including the Paralympic team, who will receive the jab in the lead up to the games, although several sports are yet to make their final selections.

Vaccine hubs have been set up at the Institute of Sport in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth in partnership with Aspen Medical.

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Chloe Dalton on the mend with Tokyo Olympics in sight


“The drawcard is not a lot of people have been playing games … so coming back from an injury doesn’t seem as daunting in a short period of time. I am sure there will be a few elements of my game that will be a bit rusty.”

Dalton bulged a disc in her back and now has it as a memento in her room.

“The morning after my surgery, old mate mad scientist came up to me at 6am,” Dalton said. “I’d hardly slept and I was probably high on drugs and he said, ‘I’ve got your disc in the back of my Land Rover if you want?’

“Now I have it sitting in my desk in my room and I don’t really know what to do with it.”

After a stint in the AFLW for Carlton – where Dalton is likely to return in 2022 after her tilt at the Olympics – the 27-year-old says another gold medal would arguably be the highlight of her career.

“I think that would have to be up the top if we could go back-to-back gold. That would be absolutely incredible,” Dalton said. “I’ve looked up to so many athletes who have been to multiple Olympics and had success. Two would be amazing.”

Dalton is a busy individual off the field. A qualified physio, Dalton has started a successful podcast called ‘The Female Athlete Podcast’ which shines a light on favourable women’s sports coverage and invites guests to talk about their experiences.

She is keen to keep her options open beyond football and has become an ambassador for Pickstar; an online platform that connects athletes and celebrities with brands and companies – and vice versa – for extra income.

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“I’m really keen to keep growing that side of my life outside of footy,” Dalton said. “I really enjoy speaking to kids at schools, showing gold medals, keynote presentations. It’s a really good way on the side to grow your profile and something I really enjoy doing. I’ve learnt some important lessons that can transfer into the business world.”

Dalton is passionate about women’s sport receiving greater coverage, something her 2016 side experienced en route to a gold medal.

“The last Olympics we had great coverage,” Dalton said. “With that comes added pressure with the hopes of going back-to-back.

“Across the board I’d love to see Super W getting more coverage and recognition. I know those girls are all working full-time job and rocking up to play at the end of the day and playing in competitions. I’d love to see Super W and the Wallaroos get more coverage in the lead-up.”

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Delly given ‘every chance’ for Tokyo


Boomers coach Brian Goorjian will give Matthew Dellavedova “every opportunity” to prove his fitness for the Tokyo Olympics, with a neck injury expected to rule Dellavedova out for the remainder of the NBA season.

Dellavedova, who missed the season’s first 47 games because of a severe concussion, whiplash, and neck injury, is sidelined with a neck strain suffered on April 25.

He hasn’t been with the team in any capacity since the injury and is set to sit out the rest of Cleveland’s season, which finishes on May 16.

The Cavaliers are second last in the Eastern Conference, with no chance of making the playoffs.

According to reports in the US, the Cavaliers were granted a hardship exemption following key injuries to sign 38-year-old centre Anderson Varejao to a 10-day contract.

This will end the seasons of Dellavedova and Larry Nance Jr to comply with the hardship rules.

Goorjian will contact Dellavedova in the coming days to ascertain the extent of his neck injury, but he wants to give the veteran guard every chance to don the green and gold in Tokyo this July and August.

“We’ll call Delly and just get a rundown on the injury,” Goorjian said.

“I hadn’t heard from anybody until I noticed the scoresheet and it said he was out with a neck.

“But he is certainly a huge part of this Olympic campaign as an NBA player as far as their commitment goes to the Boomers.

“He is one of the key culture guys in the importance of the green and gold and trying to medal.

“So, everything possible will be done to have him available, healthy and ready to play.

“I mean, every opportunity, every chance.”

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Australia’s Scott opts out of Tokyo Olympics




FILE PHOTO: Golf – The Masters – Augusta National Golf Club – Augusta, Georgia, U.S. – April 8, 2021 Australia’s Adam Scott hits his tee shot on the 3rd hole during the first round REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

April 22, 2021

(Reuters) – Former world number one Adam Scott has decided to skip the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics this year to spend time with his family, the Australian’s manager told Golf Channel on Thursday.

Scott, who won the Masters in 2013 and gained the number one ranking a year later, also withdrew from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games because he was worried about the possible transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

“With the world being the way it is, Adam is gone 4-5 weeks at a time this year during his playing blocks,” his manager said in a statement.

“With three young children at home, this time in the schedule will be devoted to family. It is pretty much the only time up until October when he has a chance to see them for a stretch of time and not only a few days a week.”

Scott, ranked 35 in the world, is the second top golfer to say he would skip the Tokyo Games after world number one Dustin Johnson did not put his name forward for a spot on the U.S. team last month.

Johnson had said he wanted to focus on the British Open and the PGA Tour.

The Olympic golf tournament starts on July 29 — 11 days after the final round of the British Open at Royal St. George.

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)




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Tokyo Olympic torch staffer becomes event’s 1st COVID-19 infection



FILE PHOTO: The Olympic rings are illuminated in front of the National Stadium in Tokyo, Japan January 22, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

April 22, 2021

TOKYO (Reuters) – A police officer helping with Japan’s Olympic Torch relay has become the first participant in the event to be diagnosed with COVID-19, organisers said on Thursday.

A man in his 30s tested positive for the virus after working on the relay in Kagawa prefecture on Japan’s southern island of Shikoku, Tokyo 2020 said in a statement.

The officer was guiding traffic in the town of Naoshima on Saturday and came down with a fever on Sunday, the Asahi Newspaper reported, citing organisers and prefectural police. The man wore a mask and had no contact with runners, the report said.

Separately, two runners, a TV personality and a former Olympian, dropped out of a relay event due to be held in the western prefecture of Tottori next month, public broadcaster NHK reported.

Public support for the Games has waned amid concern the event will exacerbate COVID-19 infections, now battering the country in a fourth wave. Japan’s government is expected to declare a state of emergency, the third in the past year, in the major population centres of Tokyo and Osaka this week.

The Games, already delayed by one year, are due to start in 92 days. Olympic and government officials have said further postponement of the Games is out of the question.

(Reporting by Chris Gallagher and Rocky Swift, editing by Estelle Shirbon)



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Olympians given early access to vaccines ahead of Tokyo Games


Australia’s Olympic and Paralympic team will go to Tokyo with the protection of vaccines after the Federal Government agreed to provide early access for athletes and officials ahead of the Tokyo Games.

After months of wrangling behind closed doors, national cabinet agreed on Tuesday to include all athletes and support staff under priority group 1b, granting them two doses of the Pfizer vaccine or for over 50s, the AstraZeneca vaccine.

AOC chief executive Matt Carroll has said team vaccinations need to begin in May to ensure it was done in time for the Olympics.Credit:SMH

The move brings Australia into line with nations like New Zealand, the USA and Germany, who have already started the process of vaccinating their Olympians as they head to a Games in which it’s almost certain outbreaks will occur, even amid strict protocols put in place by organisers.

Around 2050 individuals have been identified as part of the plan, which had been slated to be discussed on Friday but has been addressed early in a move that will come as a huge relief to the Tokyo-bound contingent of athletes and officials.

“While vulnerable Australians remain an absolute priority as the vaccine rollout continues, National Cabinet understands the pressure our high-performance athletes have been facing as the Tokyo Games draw closer,” sports minister Richard Colbeck said.

“This will be a very different Olympics and Paralympics but our athletes deserve the opportunity to compete.”

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Australia’s Milly Tapper targeting Tokyo Paralympics medal in table tennis


She is ranked number three in the world.

She is a Commonwealth Games gold medallist, a world championships bronze medal winner and is now on target for a podium finish in Tokyo.

Milly Tapper will head to her third Paralympic Games in August with a history of achieving her goals.

“I find it quite fun to set myself goals and it’s always nice if you do get to check them off,” Tapper said.

“The last one I really want to check off is a medal at the Paralympic Games … we’ve been working very hard towards that.”

Tapper competed at the Olympics and Paralympics in Rio in 2016, becoming the first Australian athlete to achieve that feat in the same year.

“That came about as a childhood dream, to try and compete in table tennis for Australia,” she said.

Tapper initially only competed in able-bodied competition and was crowned Australian junior champion six times.

She was born with nerve damage in her right arm, resulting in Erb’s palsy. She has never considered it a disability.

“As I went through the years I tried qualifying about two or three times for the Olympics and missed out, several Commonwealth Games and missed out, then 2012 was my first Paralympic Games,” Tapper said.

“[That] Helped in terms of progress in international results and then come 2016 it was a very successful year for me — I qualified for both the Olympics and Paralympics and made it a dream come true.”

Tapper has a knack for making things sound easy, but the reality was very different in 2016.

“It was definitely pretty hectic,” she laughed.

“When I actually got to stop and switch off, that was when I really did feel it … thankfully I’ve got great people around me that help manage that.

“In the moment it is exciting, and you sort of just keep riding with all the adrenaline that comes with the Games.”

In Tokyo, Tapper’s focus will be solely on the Paralympic Games, where Australia will be taking its largest table tennis team in history, with 11 athletes having already qualified.

In the Class 10 classification in which Tapper competes, she is currently ranked number three in the world behind Poland’s Natalia Partyka and Australian teammate Yang Qian.

“I’ve done everything, given the circumstances as well over the last year, to put myself in the best position to [win a medal],” Tapper said.

“We’ll get over there and compete and see how we go, but regardless of the result I’ve absolutely loved in particular the last two years of training and preparation.”

With the assistance of an Australian Institute of Sport grant, the team has been able to train on eight newly purchased San-Ei tables, the same as those they will use in Tokyo.

“It definitely does make a difference … there’s been a lot of adjusting to that,” Tapper said.

“Some [tables] can be faster so the ball might slide through, or slower and the ball will stop, so it’s really good we have the opportunity to adjust.

“Everyone’s different in terms of their style and what they prefer … I would say [these tables] are slower so there’s an adjustment particularly for me.

“For example, the ball won’t come through, it will stop, so I need to remember to move forward more.”

The squad’s former tables will be donated to community groups, potentially enabling the next Milly Tapper to emerge.

“I started when I was eight years old in primary school at lunchtime sport for fun, so now I’ve been competing for close to 23 years,” Tapper said.

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Australia hammered again 5-0, Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson’s big Tokyo Olympics challenge


The fact that the Matildas have not played together in more than a year and had not met their new coach until gathering in camp in Europe before these two games are clearly mitigating factors.

However, this Matildas squad boasts many players who have been in the system for years and have faced tough opponents alongside each other before, so familiarity should not have been a problem for the likes of Emily Van Egmond, Alanna Kennedy, Caitlin Foord, Laura Alleway, Aivi Luik, Hayley Raso and Sam Kerr.

The Netherlands’ Stefanie van der Gragt (right) is hot on the heels of Australia’s Sam Kerr.Credit:Getty Images

It was never going to be easy taking on such high quality teams as Germany and the Netherlands so the outcome, in the circumstances, was predictable enough although few would have expected the Matildas to concede 10 goals in two games.

They will be better with the marauding Carpenter back in the side and Catley will add defensive experience to the rearguard.

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Rugby Sevens starTim Anstee places Wallaby debut ahead of Tokyo Olympics


“I think the Olympics is something that excites a lot of people. I dedicated four years to the sevens program and (Tokyo) was something we were building towards. Then COVID happened.

“Potentially, it’s something I would like to tick off.

“But at the same time, playing for the Wallabies is something I dreamed about as a kid. We will see how it plays out.”

Anstee may not be overly eager to return to the Australian Sevens fold but he’s cognisant the skills he’s developed are largely thanks to the all-encompassing nature of the seven-man game.

“In Sevens, you need quite a broad skill set,” he said.

“Sometimes, in 15s, if you’re not good at a certain skill, you can hide from it or get away from it.

“In Sevens, you’re going to get found out if you can’t catch and pass 15 metres, if you can’t clean out or you can’t make your one-on-one tackles.

“I think I’ve learned and developed a lot of parts of my game there and I’d like to think I’ve brought them into the 15 man game.”

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