Australia's resurgence in freestyle events once dominated by former world record holders Michelle Ford and Tracey Wickham is the tonic feeding Perth medal hope Blair Evans, who is thriving on the growing competition.
The 19-year-old returned to Perth this week from the Australian short-course championships with three medals - two silvers and a bronze - knowing some of her fiercest competition for the looming Commonwealth Games will come from within the national team's own ranks.
Eastern States swimmers Bronte Barratt, Katie Goldman and Kylie Palmer have posted world top-10 times alongside Evans in freestyle events in the past 12 months, with several of the trio pipping her at the championships in Brisbane.
Evans said she had benefited from the competition and the chance to train alongside Olympian Jessica Pengelly at her home base in Perth.
"Every swim I do has to be basically the best I can do," Evans said.
"Technically, it has to be perfect to basically keep up with these girls because they do train over east and they have access to a lot more (resources) and they see each other a lot more."
Evans heads to California next month for the Pan Pacific Championships but has indentified the Games in New Delhi in October as her meet of the year.
The teenager could race in up to five events in a jam-packed schedule, with the possibility of adding the 400m freestyle and 400m individual medley, having already qualified for her favoured 200m and 800m freestyle events as well as the women's 4x200m relay team.
Her stunning victory in the 200m freestyle at the national selection trials in March, in which she upstaged Barratt, Palmer and triple Olympic gold medallist Stephanie Rice, made her the first Australian swimmer to qualify for the Games.
"To be honest, I thought I'd come last," Evans said of the race. "I touched the wall and … I had to double-take at the actual board to see No.1 next to my name.
"I think it was just excitement, relief. To have that kind of pressure off you the first night was amazing."
Britain's dual Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington will be the major challenger, particularly for the 800m freestyle crown.
Evans has flagged more room for improvement, with her heavy training schedule geared towards her peaking in India, where her focus remains on personal-bests."It's determination basically that gets you through that last 50m when you're hurting so bad," she said.
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