GLASGOW - Australia expect a glut of gold medals when the swimming action at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow gets underway on Thursday and bury the misery of their 2012 Olympic campaign. Despite Australian Commonwealth Games Association president Sam Coffa tempering expectations that the Aussies will top the overall medal table for a seventh consecutive Games, their 59-strong swim team is expected to dominate.
Australia claimed half of the 44 swimming gold medals on offer in Delhi four years ago and world champions James Magnussen, Cate Campbell and Christian Springer are expected to deliver more glory across six days of competition at the Tollcross Park Aquatics Centre. A return to the United Kingdom will also allow many of Australia's big names to banish the ghosts of a disappointing Olympic Games in 2012.
Magnussen was touched out of the 100m freestyle gold by a mere one-hundredth of a second by America's Nathan Adrian and was also part of the much-fancied Aussie 4x100m relay squad which missed out on a medal completely. However, he bounced back to take the world 100m freestyle title last year in Barcelona, whilst Campbell replicated that success in the women's event.
Alicia Coutts was one of the few Aussie successes in London as she claimed five medals in total and will also have a huge task replicating her haul of five Commonwealth gold medals from Delhi four years ago. World 100m breaststroke champion Springer is expected to face a tough test to claim his first individual Commonwealth gold, though, as he renews his rivalry with South African Cameron van der Burgh.
Olympic champion Van der Burgh was beaten into second place by Springer in Barcelona, but gained revenge by edging out Springer by one hundredth of a second to take the world 50m breaststroke title and will be defending his 50m and 100m Commonwealth titles from four years ago. Another South African Chad le Clos is likely to be a serial medal winner in Glasgow as the 200m butterfly world champion could race in as many as nine events, including three relays.
Le Clos will definitely compete in the 100m and 200m butterfly, whilst he is also the defending Commonwealth champion in the 400m individual medley. The pool will also carry much of the host nation's hopes for gold as Michael Jamieson, Hannah Miley and Robbie Renwick look to replicate their success from Delhi four years ago. Glasgow-born Jamieson has battled back from a scare at the end of last year when his heart had to be restarted after an intense training session to become the poster boy of the Games and will hope to get Scotland off to a flying start in the 200m breaststroke on Thursday evening.
Miley will be defending her 400m individual medley Commonwealth title and is determined to not be fazed by the pressure of performing on home soil. "For myself, MJ and Robbie, we have just got to go in there and do it and if that's good enough to get medals then it's all positive and if it's not then we will need to pick ourselves up and help pick the team up to make sure others can step up," the 24-year-old told The Scotsman. "But it is nice that it's not just one person going out there with that medal expectation. It's nice to know that there are others as well."
England's quest for gold will be spearheaded by seven-time Commonwealth Games medallist Fran Halsall who will have five chances to add to her medal haul as she goes in the 50 and 100m freestyle, the 50m butterfly, 4x100m freestyle relay and 4x100m medley relay.
"I've swam quite fast at this event previously and I'll be looking to improve on that. It's going to be another good marker two years out from the next Olympics," she told the Team England website. "It will show where we are, how we're doing and how you deal with a multi-sport Games environment."