Swimming Australia has unearthed a group of rising open water stars at the 2018 Australian Open Water Swimming Championships, who have all set their sights on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and beyond.
The male ranks have been bolstered by the arrival of Noosa Heads 20-year-old Nick Sloman; Lawnton’s 16-year-old Hayden Cotter and the continued improvement of 18-year-old Bailey Armstrong from Kawana Waters.
Sloman, who won Friday’s Olympic distance 10km Championship swim and Cotter, who won the 7.5km for the 16-17 years age group, have both shown their hands over the last three days of the Australian Open Water Championships in Brighton, SA, which has become the popular racing mecca for open water swimming.
Cotter (52:56.01), coached by Harley Connolly was also the first Australian home behind Canada’s Eric Hedlin (52.42.01) in today’s five-kilometre Time Trial event which saw Hungarian Mark Papp third home overall in 52:58, with the Michael Sage coached Armstrong (53:15) next followed by Sloman (53:17) who has the wily Olympic coach John Rodgers in his corner.
It comes two weeks after Cotter’s shock win over Olympic champions Mack Horton and Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri in the prestigious Pier to Pub ocean swim – announcing that he is serious about attacking a place for Tokyo.
Throw in the revival of experienced Perth City surf lifesaver Simon Huitenga who was a close up second to Sloman; Carlile’s 20-year-old Optus Swims Sydney Harbour winner Ollie Signorini (third Australian home in the 10km) and TSS Aquatics pair Kai Edwards (4th Australian) and Lachlan Colquhoun (5th) and the men’s depth is stronger than ever with Rio Olympian Jarrod Poort, waiting in the wings.
The exciting women’s ranks are led by 19-year-old Rio Olympian Chelsea Gubecka and her brave fellow Sunshine Coaster Kareena Lee who are spearheading a group of young girls including Chelsea’s 15-year-old sister Chloe, their 16-year-old Kawana Waters team mate Mackenzie Brazier and Perth City’s 16-year-old two-time winner over 5km and 7.5km this weekend, Chloe Green.
Gubecka (58:16) was back at it again today, the first Australian home in the five-kilometre Time Trial behind Japan’s Runa Kasahara (57:49) after her convincing win over Lee (Mt Creek Mooloolaba) in the 10km after Lee swam just three weeks after suffering a painful knee injury, which doctors thought would force her out of the race.
Lee pulled out all stops to swim away from Brazier, Chloe Gubecka and Phoebe Hines (Mt Creek, Mooloolaba) over the final 1.25km of the 10km course on Australia Day.
Selection on the Pan Pacific Championship team and Australian Junior teams were on offer with the FINA World Cup circuit another reward for success and future Australian Team selections.
Australia’s 2016 and 2017 Australian Open Water coach of the Year, Kawana Waters Head Coach Michael Sage is excited about the future.
“Chelsea has mastered the skill of open water racing, now we just need to continue to get faster; we are getting closer to taking an international podium but we haven’t got there yet,” said Sage.
“We are trying some different things; we’ve done a bit of learning; it’s been great training with some Europeans this year.
“At Kawana Waters we are using some of the stuff we’ve learnt from them to try and enhance our program and we’ve got a few new swimmers on board who gave bought in and done a fantastic job and they will also relish the international experience they will gain in 2017.
“We all need to keep travelling and competing at this level. These Championships at Brighton Beach have been fantastic.
“Swimming Australia has done a great job and the shorter course (1.25km laps) provide much more of a spectacle.
“They are talking about the Olympic course being similar to this; it gives us a chance to practice tactics.
“And I believe we already need to be a little bit more aggressive in our positioning on these shorter tracks.
“We really do enjoy the salt water racing as well; it’s great chatting to other coaches and other swimmers here and they’ve all had a fantastic time.
“It’s good to see some more pool swimmers coming down and enjoying this kind of racing.
“The standard is getting higher from those swimmers because they are starting to buy in a little bit more; I think it will continue to grow; it’s a very big sport in Europe but it’s still growing in Australia.”
AUSTRALIAN OPEN WATER CHAMPIONSHIPS, Brighton Beach, SA, Day 3, FINALS:
Men: E Hedlin (Canada) 52:42 H Cotter (Lawnton) 52:56 M Papp (Hungary) 52:58 B Armstrong (Kawana Waters) 53:15 N Sloman (Noosa) 53:17
Women: R Kasahara (Japan) 57:49 C Gubecka (Kawana Waters) 58:16 E Blackstone (Yeronga Park) 58:52 Minami Niikura (Japan)_ 59:17.