"That’s just scared the rest of the world a little bit”.
So said Grant Hackett after the men swam a sizzling time of 3.12.26 in the 4x 100m Freestyle Relay on the final night of the Australian Swimming Championships in Adelaide. The time would have won gold at the 2015 world championships, and though the relay team is not yet qualified for Rio, its inclusion appears a formality.
But it's not just one relay team that'll send ripples through world swimming. It's virtually the entire Australian squad of 34, which on paper looks to be the strongest team we've sent to an Olympics in memory.
Australian swimmers always look good beating other Australian swimmers before an adoring Australian crowd. You get all excited about our Olympic hopes and tend to forget that other nations are amassing strong teams too. But this Australian team is unquestionably classy.
Australia finished seventh in the swimming medal tally at the 2012 London Olympics with no individual gold medals. It was a lowly performance by historical standards. At the 2015 swimming world championships in Kazan, Russia, we finished a narrow second behind the USA with seven golds. Suddenly, things were on the up again in Aussie swimming.
The swimmers who went well in Kazan did not disappoint in Adelaide. Dual backstroke world champ Mitch Larkin won the 100m and 200m. Our female backstrokers Belinda Hocking and Emily Seebohm were no less impressive. Cate and Bronte Campbell did what Cate and Bronte Campbell generally do, which is dominate.
How to tell the Campbell sisters apart. Cate (left) is awesomely excellent. Bronte (right) is excellently awesome. Easy.
If one clear superstar emerged in Adelaide, it was Cameron McEvoy. The 21-year-old Gold Coaster with the likeable demeanour finished second in the 100m freestyle in Kazan. In Adelaide he swam the fastest ever time by someone not wearing one of the now-banned so-called "super suits". His 47.04 swim would have won gold by a body length in Russia.
McEvoy also won the 200m and the 50m freestyle. There's something rhythmic and unpanicky about the way he swims, even as he completes a full lap without a breath -- which is the neat little trick he pulled off in the 50.
But it's what McEvoy did on the pool deck that really emphasised how far this team has come. In short, he was nice. Not boring nice or bland nice but great bloke nice. The whole team seems to be full of terrific guys and girls. Something's happened in the culture of Australian swimming.
The Huffington Post Australia rang an Olympic official or two on Thursday to try to understand why we suddenly have a team so far removed from the disharmonious rabble of London. One answer is that certain older swimmers have retired. So there's been a generational change.
But there's more to it than that. This is a team of well-rounded individuals. McEvoy is studying physics. They jokingly call him "The Professor". Mitch Larkin is studying engineering. Our swimmers are so busy leading productive, interesting lives outside of their six-to-eight hours of training each day, they're simply too busy to turn into dickheads.
We're mad for Maddie.
No one better symbolises the new breed of Australian Olympic swimmer than 21-year-old Madison "Maddie" Wilson, who spends her spare time volunteering at a children's hospital because she wants to "give something back". This is a young woman who hasn't taken much from the sport yet in terms of wealth or public recognition, but already she's giving.
Then there's 21-year-old Queenslander Jack McLoughlin, who knocked a whopping 24 seconds off his personal best in claiming second spot and an Olympic berth in the 1500m on Thursday night. "I'll do anything it takes to get into the team," he said afterwards. And he did. Memories of the Stilnox Six get dimmer by the day.
Even the parents are getting along better. The POOs have become PODs. POO was an acronym for parents of Olympians. PODs means parents of Dolphins, the nickname for the Australian Swimming Team. By all accounts they're getting on famously. There's genuine goodwill all around this team.
Setting the tone is Dutch coach Jacco Verhaeren, who became head Australian coach in 2013 and has done for our swimmers what the Dutch football coach Guus Hiddink did for the Socceroos in 2006. In addition to his technical nous, insiders say Verhaeren is making the swimmers love coming to work each day. He has made them believe.
If they ever make grinning an Olympic sport, Jacco will win gold, silver and bronze.
The rest of us should probably believe too. This is a team that might just bring home a record haul of medals. More importantly, it'll be a team we can proud of no matter how it fares in the pool.
THE FULL TEAM
(Note: the men's 4 x100m Freestyle Relay team has not yet achieved qualification. It probably will, though, and we'll know on May 31. If so, Mathew Abood, James Magnussen and James Roberts will be added to the team.
Jessica Ashwood - 400m Freestyle, 800m Freestyle
Bronte Barratt - 200m Freestyle, 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay
Joshua Beaver - 200m Backstroke
Georgia Bohl - 100m Breaststroke, 4 x 100m Medley Relay
Bronte Campbell - 50m Freestyle, 100m Freestyle, 4 x 100m Freestyle, 4 x 100m Medley Relay
Cate Campbell - 50m Freestyle, 100m Freestyle, 4 x 100m Freestyle, 4 x 100m Medley Relay
Kyle Chalmers - 100m Freestyle
Tamsin Cook - 400m Freestyle
Alicia Coutts - 200m Individual Medley
Brittany Elmslie -4 x 100m Freestyle
Blair Evans - 400m Individual Medley
Thomas Fraser-Holmes - 400m Individual Medley, 200m Freestyle, 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay
Madeline Groves - 100m , 200m Butterfly, 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay
Jacob Hansford - 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay
Belinda Hocking - 200m Backstroke
Mack Horton - 400m Freestyle, 1500m Freestyle 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay
Grant Irvine - 200m Butterfly
Mitch Larkin - 100 & 200m Backstroke, 4 x 100m Medley Relay
Travis Mahoney - 400m Individual Medley
Cameron McEvoy - 50m, 100m & 200m Freestyle, 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay, 4 x 100m Medley Relay
David McKeon - 400m Freestyle, 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay
Emma McKeon - 200m Freestyle, 100m Butterfly, 4 x 100m Freestyle, 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay, 4 x 100m Medley Relay
Taylor McKeown - 100 & 200m Breaststroke, 4 x 100m Medley Relay
Jack McLoughlin - 1500m Freestyle
Keryn McMaster - 400m Individual Medley
David Morgan - 200m Butterfly, 4 x 100m Medley Relay
Leah Neale - 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay
Kotuku Ngawati - 200m Individual Medley
Jake Packard - 100m Breaststroke, 4 x 100m Medley Relay
Joshua Palmer - 4 x 100m Medley Relay
Emily Seebohm - 100m Backstroke, 4 x 100m Medley Relay
Daniel Smith - 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay
Brianna Throssell - 200m Butterfly
Madison Wilson - 100m Backstroke