Matt Temple Now in Contention for Rare Australian Butterfly Success
During the early portion of an Olympic season, unlikely swimmers add their names to medal contention with unexpected swims at meets throughout the world. Consider how Kaylee McKeown, Tom Dean and Lydia Jacoby all dramatically boosted their standing in the swimming world in the months leading up to the Tokyo Games before winning gold. Look for more of those breakthroughs in the early months of 2023, but Australia’s Matt Temple has achieved a performance that could launch his Olympic medal hopes.
Temple, of course, already has two Olympic relay medals, with the 24-year-old Australian leading off his country’s men’s 400 freestyle relay that won bronze in Tokyo before handling the butterfly leg of the mixed 400 medley relay, which won another bronze medal. Temple has also won six World Championship medals on relays, including gold on the men’s 400 free relay this year, and he was the silver medalist in the 100 fly at last year’s Commonwealth Games.
At the Japan Open over the weekend, though, Temple achieved the best performance of his life. He clocked 50.25 in the 100 fly to knock two tenths off his own Australian record and move up to No. 6 all-time in the event. Four men in history have broken 50, Caeleb Dressel, Kristof Milak, Michael Phelps and Milorad Cavic, while France’s Maxime Grousset won the world title in the event this year in 50.14.
That means only three active swimmers have ever gone quicker than Temple just did, and two of them (Dressel and Milak) are coming off extended breaks from swimming. Continued progression or even improvement could lift Temple to his first individual medal at a global-level competition.
Big deal? You bet.
In 2023, Australia has claimed the mantle of world’s top swimming nation after winning 13 gold medals and 25 total medals at the 2023 World Championships. Before that, the Aussies captured 21 medals at the Tokyo Games, their most ever at the Olympic level. But even so, the Dolphins typically win most of their medals in relays and women’s individual events, with fewer individual men’s standouts.
In Tokyo, only four Aussie men won individual medals. In 2016, there were only three medal-winners; four years prior, just two. Even at this year’s World Championships, only Cameron McEvoy in the 50 free, Kyle Chalmers in the 100 free, Zac Stubblety-Cook in the 200 breast and Sam Short in the three longest freestyle events reached the podium.
Aussie butterflyers, meanwhile, almost never win individual medals. Australia has combined for five Olympic medals ever in the 100 fly, none since Andrew Lauterstein claimed bronze in 2008 behind the infamous Phelps-Cavic finish that came down to one hundredth. The drought is even more startling on the World Championships level, where no Aussie has won a medal in the 100 fly since Geoff Huegill took bronze in 2001.
In the 200 fly, Australia has won five Olympic medals, including two gold, but none since Justin Norris grabbed bronze in 2000. Ironically, no Aussie man has ever reached the World Championships podium in the 200 fly.
It’s fair to say that history will be working against Temple as he aims for an individual medal next year, but even repeating his 50.25 will put him extremely close to the podium, perhaps on it. Regardless, his ability to provide strong butterfly legs on medley relays plus his sprint freestyle talent for a 400 free relay team with legitimate gold-medal hopes will be an aid for his country in Paris.