Updated: Monday, 07 April 2014 10:06 | By Agence France-Presse

Australia's eyes on Rio Olympics as new swim stars emerge

Australia swim coach Jacco Verhaeren said Monday he is looking beyond this year's Glasgow Commonwealth Games to the 2016 Rio Olympics following the emergence of new stars at Games trials this week.


Australia's eyes on Rio Olympics as new swim stars emerge

Australia's Cameron McEvoy (C) competes in the semi-finals of the men's 200-metre freestyle at the FINA World Championships in Barcelona on July 29, 2013 - by Fabrice Coffrini

Freestyle 100m-200m champion Cameron McEvoy, world class siblings David and Emma McKeon, new breaststroke queen Taylor McKeown and young 1500m freestyle hope Mack Horton has Verhaeren excited for the future at his first major meet in charge.

Verhaeren, the former coach of dual Dutch Olympic 100m freestyle champion Pieter van den Hoogenband, took over as head coach last October, and has ambitious plans to make Australia the top swimming nation by 2020.

The highly-respected Dutchman was appointed to help Australia's swim team rebuild after a dismal London Olympics.

Those Games produced Australian swimming's worst Olympic medal haul in 20 years, and were marred by ill-discipline and drug use.

While confident of medal success in the pool at the Glasgow Games in July, Verhaeren is enthused by the potential of his transitional team.

"I'm not going to say they're all going to win (in 2016). I don't want to put pressure on them," Verhaeren said.

"But at this meet we've seen a lot of people qualifying around the age of 17, 18 and 19 and I'd say that's a perfect age for Rio."

The 59-strong team named Sunday for Glasgow is spearheaded by world champions, Cate Campbell, James Magnussen and Christian Sprenger, but the trials unearthed several up-and-comers.

Sprinter McEvoy was the meet sensation after taking down Magnussen in the 100m freestyle, the McKeon siblings triumphed, McKeown emerged as Leisel Jones's successor and world junior champion Horton stepped up to the senior ranks.

Horton, 17, celebrated making his first national team by winning the 1500m freestyle in 14 minutes, 51.55 seconds on Sunday night -- the fourth fastest on Australia's all-time list.

The federal government-funded Australian Sports Commission is forecasting the Australian swimming team to win at least 53 medals and a maximum of 55 in Glasgow.

In Delhi four years ago the Australian swim team brought home 54 medals, including 22 golds.

Swimming Australia high performance director Michael Scott specifically identified the role Verhaeren has played in restoring Australia as a credible world power in the sport.

"In his short time he has done a terrific job in what I believe is the most significant change in swimming in Australia since (Don) Talbot left," Scott said.

Talbot retired as Australia's head coach after Australia topped the swimming gold medal tally at the 2001 World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan.

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