Australia's swimmers have jetted off to various destinations around the world on a well-earned break after the Commonwealth Games, but a brutal reality exists behind the happy snaps.
After racking up medals in the last 12 months with powerhouse performances at both the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and the recent Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, many top swimmers have found their calendars all of a sudden jam-packed.
While last Sunday's Duel in the Pool exhibition against the US in Sydney was a success, with the likes of Emma McKeon teaming up with retiring Paralympic gold medallist Ellie Cole in the first mixed para and able-bodied event, several top stars elected to skip the event amid a hectic schedule.
Matters were only made worse during the Commonwealth Games, when it was revealed FINA had scheduled the 2024 World Championships in Qatar in February, leaving very little turnaround between the Paris Olympics later that year.
Some holidays will be short lived, with the Australian Short Course Championships set to take place in Sydney this week.
McKeon and boyfriend Cody Simpson fit a quick trip to Italy in before returning for last weekend's exhibition, however several other big names have opted to remain overseas for a hard-earned break.
Kyle Chalmers skipped the exhibition, while Ariane Titmus posted pictures from a jaunt to France.
Breakout star Mollie O'Callaghan was able to enjoy a quick holiday to France following her impressive Commonwealth Games performance, joined by teammate Chelsea Hodges.
Mack Horton, Kaylee Mckeown, Brendon Smith and Zac Incerti have all been overseas as well, as the US narrowly outpaced Australia 309-284 to win the Duel in the Pool.
Team US too good for Aussies in Duel in the Pool
Australia won the open-water race at Bondi Beach on Friday but the US took charge at the Sydney Aquatic Centre to lead 159-148 heading into the final day Sunday.
Centred around sprint events, Duel in the Pool took place every two years from 2003 to 2015, with points accumulated across individual and relay events.
The United States remain undefeated in seven editions — the first three raced against Australia and the next four against teams drawn from Europe.
Andrew touched first in 59.77 seconds to claim the men's 100m breaststroke, leaving Australian 200m world record holder Zac Stubblety-Cook in his wake.
With Olympic 100m butterfly champion Caeleb Dressel not on the USA team, compatriot Casas took charge with a blistering 50.86 to win ahead of Australia's Matt Temple.
"Pretty happy with that time. Got my job done," said Casas.
Sims, 17, stormed to the women's 200m freestyle in 1:57.75, hitting the wall fractionally ahead of Australia's Lani Pallister.
Meg Harris (24.44) and Madi Wilson led an Australia 1-2 in the 50m freestyle while world champion Mollie O'Callaghan anchored Australia to victory in the 4x100m freestyle relay.
O'Callaghan also joined Emma McKeon to ensure Australia won the mixed 100m medley relay in 3:42.29.
"I haven't raced in front of this many people in Australia for a long time, so awesome," said McKeon, who made Commonwealth Games history this month by winning her 20th medal.
O'Callaghan, the 100m freestyle world champion, added: "Feels pretty sick. Nice to come back after a big few months and do it in front this sort of crowd."
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