Coetze, Greenbank Riding Momentum in BK Men

COMMONWEALTH GAMES 2022

  • From Friday 29 July to Wednesday 3 August 2022
  • Birmingham, England
  • Sandwell Aquatic Center
  • Start times
    • Prelims: 10:30 a.m. local / 5:30 a.m. ET
    • Finals: 7:00 p.m. local / 2:00 p.m. ET
  • MCL (50m)
  • Meet Central
  • Scheduled event
  • Starters (in seed order) – h/t in Troyy

The men’s backstroke events at the upcoming Commonwealth Games have been turned upside down by the Australian’s late withdrawal isaac coopermaking the 50 and 100 meter events relatively open in Birmingham.

Cooper was a finalist last month in the 50 backstroke at the World Championships, and he was also the highest-ranked swimmer entering the Games in the 100 backstroke. In his absence, the door was opened for the rest of the field to have a free kick to glory.

In the 200 backstroke, England Luke Greenbank is the favourite, and Australia’s performance Mitch Larkins will be a scenario to watch everyone meet. Larkin is the defending champion in all three distances and the two-time defending champion in the 200 backstroke, but will need to show improved form to return to the top of the podium.

50 MEN’S BACKS

  • Commonwealth record: 24.04, Liam Tancock (ENG), 2009 World Championships
  • Commonwealth Games record: 24.62, Liam Tancock (ENG), 2010
  • 2018 Commonwealth Champion: Mitch Larkins (Australia), 24.68

Cooper’s best event is currently the 50 backstroke, so his absence really opens the door for the other two men in the Under-25 field this year to fight for gold.

Sans Cooper, South African Pieter Coetze will be looking to take full advantage after being forced to withdraw from the World Championships due to COVID-19.

Coetze, 18, has scored 24 points five times this year despite not having the opportunity to swim in Budapest, clocking a record 24.74 at the South African Championships in April before hitting consecutive swims of 24.81, 24.78 and 24.75 at each stage of the Mare Nostrum Tour in May.

from new zealand Andrew Jeffcoat is the other swimmer to shoot 25 in 2022, setting a new Kiwi record of 24.83 in February before scoring 24.91 in Budapest to tie for 13th.

Larkin is a bit of a dark horse in this race. It’s been 24.6 five times, most recently in April 2021, but was a good 25.47 at Worlds last month. Whether it was just a miscalculation to go too easy in the preliminaries, or if he doesn’t quite have the speed he used to have, will be an answer in Birmingham.

Others in the mix for a podium spot include the Canadian Javier Acevedo and australian Ben Armbruster.

Acevedo was two hundredths off tied for 16th in Budapest, clocking 25.18 to just miss his 25.13 PB, while Armbruster swam an Australian Championships best time of 25.13.

SwimSwam Predictions

100 MEN’S BACKS

  • Commonwealth record: 52.11, Mitch Larkins (AUS), FINA World Cup 2015 – Dubai
  • Commonwealth Games record: 53.12, Chris Walker-Hebborn (ENG), 2014
  • 2018 Commonwealth Champion: Mitch Larkins (Australia), 53.18

While the 50 backstroke seemed like Cooper’s losing race before the retirement, the 100 backstroke was expected to be a shootout between a few different swimmers.

Cooper was the fastest with 53.55, but we also have Coetze (53.72), Jeffcoat (53.72), Larkin (53.73) and Luke Greenbank (53.81) who turned under 54 this year.

Of those four, Jeffcoat is the only one whose fastest swim this year is the best ever, as Coetze (53.62) and Greenbank (53.34) swam their PBs in 2021.

Larkin, one of the fastest swimmers of all time with his 52.11 from 2015, clocked 52.76 last year to qualify for the Olympic final but was nearly a second away from that of this year’s Worlds to place 13th in 53.73. He was even overtaken by Cooper as the leader of the Australian medley relay.

Although it’s projected to be an incredibly close race, Coetze is perhaps the one coming in with the most motivation after missing Worlds. He’s beaten 54 twice on the Mare Nostrum Tour, including a 53.72 that’s faster than anything Larkin, Greenbank or Jeffcoat managed at the World Championships.

On top of that, at 18, Coetze is the youngest of the five-year-old group, so if anyone is going to fall behind his current records, it’s him.

Larkin is the main question mark, having been 52.7 last year. If he kept his full cone for the Games, he should be able to win, but if Worlds were just where he is now, the advantage goes to Coetze.

Some other names to keep in mind include Australia Joshua Edwards-SmithAcevedo from Canada, England Brodie Williams and that of India Srihari Natarajall of which have been in the 54-second range this year.

SwimSwam Predictions

200 BACK MEN

  • Commonwealth record: 1:53.17, Mitch Larkins (AUS), FINA World Cup 2015 – Dubai
  • Commonwealth Games record: 1:55.58, James Goddard (ENG), 2010
  • 2018 Commonwealth Champion: Mitch Larkins (Australia), 1:56.10

In the four years since the last Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Luke Greenbank established himself as a big meet artist in the back 200.

Greenbank placed fourth in 2018, finishing behind Australia’s sweep of Larkin, Bradley Woodward and Josh Beaverand has since become a regular medalist on the world stage.

Greenbank, 24, won bronze at the 2019 Worlds, bronze at the Tokyo Olympics and nearly toppled Russia Yevgeny Rylov at the 2021 European Championships. Greenbank then clinched the silver medal at Worlds last month without Rylov on the court.

Greenbank has now been under 1:55 six times, a feat Larkin has only done once since 2016. The defending champion clocked 1:54.38 in April 2021 before dropping the event in favor of the 200 IM at the Olympics, then failed to make the final of the 2022 Worlds in ninth position (1:57.36).

Larkin’s fastest time this year is 1:56.79, which not only trails Greenbank (1:55.16), but is also behind Brodie Williams (1:56.16) and Joshua Edwards-Smith ( 1:56.71) among swimmers at the Birmingham home ground, while Pieter Coetze is close behind at 1:56.92.

Greenbank and Williams finished 2-4 for Great Britain in Budapest and are in excellent position to go 1-2 at the Commonwealth Games.

The aforementioned Woodward will also be competing, having clocked his best time since 2018 at the Australian Championships in 1:57.38.

SwimSwam Predictions

Clyde P. Johnson