Dolphins to make world swim titles splash

Despite no James Magnussen, Australian head coach Jacco Verhaeren is backing his team to improve on their impressive 2013 world titles medal haul at this month’s championships in Russia.

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Verhaeren and his Australian squad have arrived in Kazan full of confidence ahead of Sunday’s start to the eight-day swimming program without Magnussen (shoulder).

The Dolphins made a statement in the fallout of their worst Olympic display in 20 years at the 2012 London Games with three gold and 10 silver medals two years ago at the Barcelona world titles.

Australia’s stunning comeback from their “toxic” London campaign was all but summed up by Magnussen digging deep to seal back-to back 100m freestyle world title gold in Spain following his shock Olympic meltdown.

The team made greater strides at the 2014 Pan Pacific championships on the Gold Coast.

They emerged as the “virtual world No.1” with the most top-ranked individual swimmers in their events with 10 gold, eight silver and eight bronze.

But Verhaeren admits the true test awaits when they look to back that up at Kazan – and is tipping his rejuvenated squad to again make a statement.

“Definitely we have a team with a lot of talent and a lot of athletes in the mix for medals,” he said.

“You can never predict outcomes but we definitely have the material to do better (than 2013 world titles).”

Besides Magnussen, the Dolphins’ squad has also been hit by the withdrawal of Olympic relay gold medallists Brittany Elmslie (breast surgery) and Kylie Palmer (provisional doping ban).

Their glaring absences appeared to place the pressure on unofficial team captain and defending 100m freestyle champion Cate Campbell to lead by example at Kazan.

However, Verhaeren said his squad – boasting dual Olympic champion Grant Hackett in his first world titles in eight years – were in a good head space.

“I don’t have the feeling the athletes think if somebody else drops out, they have to step up,” he said.

“I believe every athlete feels they have to step up anyway.

“(I want to see) an extension of what we saw in Glasgow at the Commonwealth Games and the Pan Pacs in team cohesion, behaviour, showing themselves as elite athletes and everything that goes along with that.”

Besides Campbell, Christian Sprenger (100m breaststroke) will also look to defend his world title.

Australia are ranked No.1 in six individual events ahead of the Kazan meet – Campbell (50m, 100m freestyle), Emily Seebohm (100m, 200m backstroke) and Mack Horton (400m, 800m freestyle).