Gold Coast (Australia) (AFP) – England’s swimmers are ready to fight fire with fire at the Commonwealth Games when they clash with a fearsome Australia team revved up by their home crowd.
The English, spearheaded by Olympic breaststroke champion Adam Peaty, expect a rude reception from the Australians when the competition begins Friday, but their swimming boss promised they will rise to the occasion.
“Australia are a powerhouse, they’re the team to beat,” team leader Grant Robins told AFP in an interview.
“They’re strong across pretty much all the events and have a production line of swimming quality.”
“It’s going to be a hostile crowd,” added the former Commonwealth Games competitor.
“We’ve said ‘You’re going to walk out here and it’s going to be a hostile crowd’. We’ve said to the swimmers ‘Stick to your game plan, soak up the atmosphere — but don’t be afraid of it!’ It will be fun and enjoyable, but tough.”
Australian athletes can be every bit as spiky as their crowds and the aggressive antics of their cricketers have sparked a public outcry following a recent ball-tampering scandal.
Aussie swimmers are no shrinking violets either, but Robins insisted there would be “mutual respect” between the home team and their English rivals on the pool deck.
“It’s a hard sport,” he said. “But once you get to the cool room (before the race) there’s no limits, it’s every man for themselves.
“But the Australian crowd are very well informed, they appreciate good quality racing and hopefully we can deliver and get a round of applause for appreciation if nothing else.”
– ‘Jewel in the crown’ –
Robins predicted a strong showing from England’s 32 swimmers, even if Britain’s relay teams have had to be broken up under the Games format where the British home nations compete separately.
“We’ve got to be careful not to put everything on Adam Peaty — but he’s our jewel in the crown,” said Robins.
“He’s an awesome athlete, a great role model. He’s a hell of an athlete. He doesn’t need to get out of bed and do this but he loves racing.”
“But we’ve got some world-ranked people,” added Robins. “Ben Proud obviously had a great world championships last year (50m butterfly gold) and James Guy had a good Olympics and world championships.
“Siobhan O’Connor, in the 200 individual medley, she’s an Olympic silver medallist. We think she’s going to be competitive so we’ve got some big-hitters.
“Obviously some of our combined British relay teams have gone off to their home nations. There will be an opportunity for some people to step up and get their name in lights with Tokyo 2020 in mind.”
But given the enormity of the task facing the English, Robins refused to say what their medal target was.
“What I would like is for some of our newbies to step up,” he said. “That would be the icing on our cake. We have got a medal target but that is stuck on my bedroom wall and we’ll see.”