Australia can ride wave of home crowd to glory

A fervent home crowd is expected to help propel Australia’s swimming team to the top of the medals table in the pool for the 10th successive Commonwealth Games but also banish memories of a poor return at last year’s world championships.

Locals are expected to comprise much of the 10,000-strong crowds in the temporary stands at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre for the April 5-10 competition, which Scotland coach Alan Lynn said would provide a psychological boost for the home team.

“This is the spiritual home of swimming as far as we’re concerned,” he said of the open-air venue. “It’s like playing rugby against New Zealand in Auckland.”

Defending women’s 100m freestyle champion Cate Campbell, who lives and trains in nearby Brisbane, added that she had witnessed how the Glasgow crowd had lifted the Scotland team four years ago.

“There was something in the air that got them ready to swim fast,” Campbell said. “I’m really hoping that we feel that same energy out there on pool deck in a couple of days.”

Campbell took last year off after missing out on a medal in her signature event at the Rio Olympics and her absence was sorely missed at the world championships in Budapest.

Australia, traditionally one of the sport’s powerhouses, finished eighth on the table with 10 medals, their lowest tally since 1991, with a solitary gold to backstroker Emily Seebohm.

While the Games should provide a massive boost for coach Jacco Verhaeren’s planning as they build towards the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, they are not expected to have it all their own way.

Olympic and world champion breaststroker Adam Peaty will lead a fired-up England squad, while the rejuvenated Canadian women’s team that includes 100m backstroke world record holder Kylie Masse and 100m freestyle Olympic champion Penny Oleksiak are expected to provide some thrilling racing.

“There are always a lot of medals involved in a campaign like this,” Verhaeren said. “(But) to think it will be an easy run would be underestimating what is coming towards us.”

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