Dolphins throw down challenge to the US

IN disarray after the London Olympics where it won just a single gold medal, Australia's swim team is ready to again challenge the USA in next year's Games in Rio after an outstanding world championships in Russia.

The Dolphins finished second on the medal table with seven gold, three silver and six bronze.

The total of seven gold was more than our swimmers won at the 2011 world championships, the 2012 Olympics and the 2013 world championships combined.

The USA, without Olympic medals record-holder Michael Phelps, who was unable to compete because of a drink-driving suspension, won eight gold medals in its total of 23 in Russia, well down on the 29 it won at the last world championships in Barcelona two years ago.

Mind you, Phelps would have boosted the haul judging by his efforts in the US national championships which have just finished in San Antonio.

The 30-year-old won the 100m and 200m butterfly events in the fastest times since bodysuits were banned in 2009, and also took out the 200m individual medley in the fastest time this year.

Australian swimmers didn't medal in any of those events in Kazan, and will head to Rio next year confident of at least matching the target of "five or six golds" unveiled by Olympic chef de mission Kitty Chiller last week, co-inciding with 12 months to go to the opening ceremony in Rio de Janiero.

If Australia is to achieve its goal of jumping back into the top five in Rio - after finishing a disappointing 10th in London - it will need to win at least 14 gold medals, and 45 in total.

"I'm confident that we have the opportunity of getting to our aspirational goal - it's absolutely not impossible by any stretch of the imagination," Chiller said.

The swimmers have certainly shown they are up for the challenge, and later this week some of our best sailors, the stars of our campaign in London three years ago, will test their medal hopes in a regatta at the Olympic sailing venue on Guanabara Bay.

The sailors saved Australia from an even worse result in London, winning three of the seven gold medals, as well as one silver.

Gold medallists in the men's 49er class in 2012 - Iain Jensen and Nathan Outteridge - will be among the 10 sailors named in the six classes for the Guanabara Bay event.

Mat Belcher, who won gold in the 470 class with Malcolm Page in London, is ranked No.1 in the world with his new crewman Will Ryan, and will be out to show they will be the combination to beat in Rio next August, while fellow world No.1 Tom Burton will also be targeting gold in the laser class.

- APN SPORTS BUREAU

SWIM GOLD

Women's 4x100m freestyle relay

Emily Seebohm (100m and 200 backstroke)

Mitch Larkin (100m and 200m backstroke)

Bronte Campbell (50m and 100m freestyle).



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