MITCH Larkin knows he is nowhere near where he wants to be ahead of his dual world title defence in Hungary but says the national titles have forced him to "draw on his values as an athlete" to earn the 100m and 200m backstroke titles.
Larkin won the 100m in 53.54sec on Tuesday night, outside the automatic world championship qualifier of 53.39 but having already made the team in the longer event in the week, he will also claim the 100m swim in Budapest.
The win did not come easily for Larkin though, with the 23-year-old forced to use all his skill and experience to touch the wall ahead of Zac Incerti and Josh Beaver.
"I really had to fight the last 25m and really dug and relied on my back end speed and my strength and was able to get my hand on the wall which was nice," he said.
"I enjoy the good, close racing and you have to draw on your values as an athlete and really find something extra when you're hurting to finish strong in those last 10m and I'm really happy.
"I would've liked to be quicker but it wasn't to be."
Larkin has had plenty of change since returning from Rio last year, changing coaches from Michael Bohl to Simon Cusack in a move he admitted some in the swimming world had questioned.
After an extended post-Olympic break, Larkin is not in the shape he would usually be heading into a major championship but says he could take plenty from having to race hard.
"Probably in 2015 I was racing quite easily and winning comfortably and I think I lost that ability to draw on whatever's inside to finish hard in the last 10m," he said of his dual world championship-winning season.
"You compare that to now and it's completely different and it's really good."
Emma McKeon continued her outstanding form at this meet, winning the 200m freestyle to seal a third individual swim at the world championships.
McKeon, who won bronze in the event in Rio last year, was inside world-record pace for the first 100m, finishing in 1:55.68, the second-fastest in the world this year.
"I'm pretty happy with that time, just to get out and do another fast swim and get some high-quality racing in getting ready for a big program in Europe," she said.
"It'll be the biggest program I've ever done but I'm not worried about it, I'm more excited than anything.
"To add that 100m free to the rest of my events will be good.
"All the top girls I looked up to when I was growing up all had massive programs and being a part of all the relays as well.
"It shows it can definitely be done and I'm excited."
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