Superman Larkin set for new heights: coach

Laine Clark
Swimming coach Dean Boxall reckons Mitch Larkin will be Australia's Superman at the Tokyo Olympics

He looks like Clark Kent.

But leading coach Dean Boxall hopes Mitch Larkin becomes Australian swimming's Superman at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

The mild-mannered, bespectacled Larkin may as well have donned a cape five years ago.

Back then Larkin was flying high, becoming the first male swimmer in a decade to claim the 100m and 200m backstroke double at a world titles.

He capped a stunning year with a 200m backstroke short-course world record.

It led to Larkin becoming the first Australian to be crowned world body FINA's Male Swimmer of the Year.

Then suddenly, Larkin appeared to have found his Kryptonite - American backstroker Ryan Murphy.

Larkin went through two coaches in the space of 12 months after a frustrating run at the Rio Olympics where Murphy dominated.

Then there was Larkin's very public break-up with Dolphins teammate Emily Seebohm in mid-2018.

Now under Boxall's wing at Brisbane club St Peters Western, Larkin appears primed to again reach great heights at his third Olympics.

"We just need to slightly tinker a few things and that puts him where he needs to be. He's like Superman," Boxall told AAP.

"Superman needs a proper suit to fly because he is going so fast it can just break up on him.

"With Mitch there are just a few things we need to give him at training so he can have that proper suit. Once we give him that, he will just go."

The 26-year-old Larkin's work ethic ahead of Tokyo also reminded Boxall of a certain son of Krypton.

In fact, Boxall said Larkin would relish an extended training stint due to the Tokyo Games postponement thanks to his club's young squad.

"The younger guys in the group challenge him but he loves it. It's like Superman and the sun which gives him his power, the young guns are like the sun for him," Boxall said.

"He looks like Clark Kent and it's like he puts the cape on when he gets in the water.

"The younger guys are hungry and are pushing him. You can see it rejuvenates him and gives him energy."

It has convinced Boxall that Larkin can recapture his 2015 career best form at Tokyo.

"I think so," Boxall said.

"He changed backstroke during that era (five years ago). No one has gone faster than him in the 200m backstroke.

"His time of 1min:53sec (to win 2015 gold) - no one has beaten it for coming up to five years.

"And for me his 200m backstroke short-course world record is one of the greatest ever, it's phenomenal.

"No one has gone near that, but he could do it again the way he is applying himself.

"We just need to bring that confidence out."

But it seems gaining self belief won't be a problem for Larkin with the animated Boxall around.

Since linking with the pony-tailed, affable mentor in late 2017, Larkin swept the backstroke events on his way to claiming five gold at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

He then announced himself as a 200m individual medley threat by earning Pan Pacs silver later that year.

And at the 2019 world titles, Larkin grabbed 100m backstroke bronze along with 4x100m mixed medley gold.

Boxall is convinced the highlight is yet to come.

"I thought Mitch was doing the best preparation I have ever seen him do (for Tokyo), I think he was at his fittest," he said.

"This will be his third Olympics. He will have everything in place (for Tokyo).

"He knows what he wants, so he is going for it."

And if all goes to plan, Boxall's Man of Steel won't be showing signs of rust again any time soon.

"You could see the guy swimming for another eight years," Boxall said.

"He's got a magnificent physique and engine so he can handle it.

"He is a world-class athlete. Not just a swimmer, he's a world-class athlete."