Cameron McEvoy excited by relay chances at world titles
SWIMMING: Cameron McEvoy says Australia can rewrite its approach to the men's sprint relay as an exciting crop of youngsters graduates to the world stage.
McEvoy has marvelled at the "pretty incredible stuff" his relay teammates have managed in training ahead of the world championships, which start in Budapest tomorrow, with the blue-riband sprint relays on the opening day of competition.
McEvoy is amazed at the fact he's now the senior member of the relay at just 23.
But with two Olympics under his belt - and two campaigns where the Australians went into the meet among the gold medal favourites but wilted under pressure - McEvoy says it may be time to take a different approach to the event.
"It's a nice opportunity to approach the relay now and build a new perspective on what it really means and how we as a nation should swim the relay with a lot of young guys," he said.
"For all of them, it's their first 4x100m freestyle team on an open team at a big competition.
"So it's an opportunity not only for them to get experience, but also to guide them into a perspective where they see the relay as something different to what we have in the past - whether that's changing it from medal-orientated to process-orientated or just an orientation of boys getting around each other and getting us to step up when the time comes.
McEvoy's first taste of senior competition was at the London Olympics, where he was part of a relay squad that was set apart from the wider team with disastrous consequences.
Along with Eamon Sullivan, James Magnussen, James Roberts, Matt Targett and Tommaso D'Orsogna, McEvoy was part of the so-called "Stilnox Six" after they were involved in a controversial pre-London bonding session that included taking the prescription sleeping drug banned by the Australian Olympic Committee.
While the culture of the swim team underwent a massive overhaul after the London Games, there was still massive pressure on the relay swimmers heading into the opening night of competition in Rio and McEvoy would prefer his young teammates not to be under such a searing spotlight.
Australia heads into the meet with the third-best cumulative time, sitting 2.29 seconds behind the US and 0.59sec behind Brazil on a list compiled by website FloSwimming.
But with McEvoy confident he can improve on his national title-winning time of 47.91sec and having watched young guns Jack Cartwright, Zac Incerti and his Bond Uni clubmate Alexander Graham put in some searing training sessions, the Australians are in with a podium chance.
"I've been watching all of them train on this camp and they've done some pretty incredible stuff, which gets me excited not only for the relay here but for at least the next four years to come because in Tokyo, they're going to be barely graduated from their teenage years," McEvoy said.
"They just have this aura about them where you almost feel like they can pull out something special or magical when it comes to doing a relay.
"And that's what we need form them."
Australia heads into the meet without Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers, who had recent heart surgery, and Magnussen, who has skipped the world titles to concentrate on his preparations for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
But McEvoy hopes he can help the young guns foster a relay culture like that of the US, where the team environment often brings out the best in athletes.
"You see the Americans, not only last year (at the Olympics) but in the past, and they have that aura of being able to pull things out for relays which most of the time they would not be able to do," McEvoy said.
"I get that feeling from these young Aussie guys coming through as well, which is super-exciting because you don't get that from many teams at all.
"As you can tell, I'm very excited."