Mitch Larkin, who has gone from relative obscurity to one of Australia’s leading gold medal chances in Rio de Janeiro, says he is ready to embrace expectations and help lead a turnaround in the Olympic pool.
Australia came away without a single individual gold medal in London but the Dolphins are on more of a roll heading into Rio, with Larkin, fellow backstroker Emily Seebohm and sprint sisters Bronte and Cate Campbell among those capable of topping the podium.
Of that group, it has been Larkin who has sprung out of the box. He was one of world swimming’s breakout stars in 2015, taking out the 100m-200m double at the FINA World Championships in Kazan to put the writing on the wall before Rio.
As much of a confidence boost it was, Larkin said the fact he went on to back up his efforts in Russia with even quicker times in following meets convinced him he had the right stuff to challenge for gold in Rio.
“I finished In Kazan and was pretty excited with the time I swum there. And from meet to meet I was able to back it up. Bohly (coach Michael Bohl) said it was that consistency to back it up and he’s not surprised. Hopefully there’s more to come,” Larkin said.
“I said to Bohly ‘why am I swimming so fast straight after worlds? Is this bad? Should I be worried”. He said it’s hardly a worry – it’s a credit to be able to back up from session to session.”
The 22-year-old stormed onto the scene in Russia but had already been putting the pieces in place for a genuine tilt in Rio. Taking on the best in the world and beating them, twice, only affirmed his inner belief.
“A little bit. I always had similar goals to what I do now and for me, the results in Kazan gave me the confidence I needed to believe in my ability and know my goals are achievable,” Larkin said.
“Consistently swimming fast at World Cups and then again at the Queensland titles has given me the confidence to know it is there.”
Larkin has plenty of experienced veterans to lean on should he need any help dealing with the added spotlight before the Olympic Games. A degree of fame remains a new concept but the engineering student has taken everything in his stride.
“People ask me what I need to change but I spoke to my coach and nothing really needs to be changed. If we can get 1 per cent improvements, there should be some great results. I don’t look at it as pressure, more as confidence,” Larkin said.
“For the first time in my career, people are paying attention to what I’m doing. It’s not a bad thing. If I prepare the best I can, it’s not pressure, it’s just exciting.”
Larkin joined some of Australia’s top swimmers, including James Magnussen, at the Victorian championships over the weekend.
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