Big three primed for Games pool return

Cate Campbell won the women's 100 metre freestyle at the Australian swimming trials early in March.
Cate Campbell won the women's 100 metre freestyle at the Australian swimming trials early in March.

The return of Australia's big three - Cate Campbell, James Magnussen and Kyle Chalmers - looks set to inflict a major dent to new-found British confidence in the pool at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

Australia swimming coach Jacco Verhaeren copped plenty of criticism for allowing his star trio to take a break and miss the 2017 world titles in Budapest.

The once-mighty Dolphins were blown out of the water in Hungary, finishing a distant eighth on the ladder with just one gold.

Great Britain ensured bragging rights when they achieved their equal-best finish of second behind the all-conquering United States with four gold.

While the Brits will split into their respective countries for the Games, it has given England and Scotland a spring in their step against Australia who have not been threatened for top spot in the Commonwealth pool since 1986.

But Verhaeren said he felt vindicated over his decision to let Rio gold medallist Chalmers and former world champions Campbell and Magnussen take time out after they returned for their Games tilt in career-best shape.

He believed they were now primed to bolster a national team that has regrouped since Budapest and is set to revel at home next month.

"Cate, James and Kyle had breaks for very different reasons but for the right reasons and it shows; they are truly excited to perform and are in fine shape," Verhaeren said.

"I can understand the criticism but for the longevity of the athletes, it (break) made complete sense."

Olympic 100m freestyle champion Chalmers, 19, is back after electing to miss the 2017 world titles for surgery to correct a heart condition.

Former world record-holder Campbell, 25, took a 2017 sabbatical to deal with the disappointment of missing Rio 100m freestyle gold.

And ex-dual world champion Magnussen has fully recovered from a shoulder reconstruction.

"I think it is something that someone can learn from," Campbell said of her break.

"I think coaches are very wary of letting athletes step away from the pool because they are terrified they are going to lose fitness or lose strength.

"I think I have shown that is not the case."

Australia grabbed their biggest Commonwealth pool medal haul at 2014 Glasgow Games with a total of 57 including 19 gold.

They will back themselves to threaten that tally in their own backyard.

"It's a great advantage to know the venue better (than rivals)," Verhaeren said of the outdoor Gold Coast Aquatic Centre.

"It is a privilege and a benefit to be here."

Australian Associated Press