Ten Australians have competed in the first leg of FINA’s Marathon Swim World Series in Doha over the weekend, with two male athletes one step closer to an Olympic berth.
Belgravia’s Hayden Cotter and Kawana Waters’ Bailey Armstrong will progress to the FINA Olympic Marathon Swim Qualifier 2020 in Japan as the top two ranked Australian male athletes after Qatar’s world series event. At the next event in Japan, the competitor who finishes higher in the top nine or first from the Oceania region will secure the coveted Olympic spot alongside women’s qualifier, Kareena Lee.
After making his Dolphins debut last year at the World Championships in South Korea and taking home the Boys 19-year 10km title in Adelaide last month, Cotter swam the race of his life to snare seventh spot overall in the men’s 10km event, powering home in 1:50:01.50.
Being a wetsuit swim always meant the finish was going to be congested, so Cotter positioned himself high throughout the race to avoid the congestion and achieve a clear run at the pad for seventh. The other boys had to fight for their spots and the competitiveness of the race was evident in the closeness of the finish between the next three boys.
It was an extremely nail-biting and astonishing finish between Armstrong and fellow Aussie Kai Edwards (TSS Aquatic), with only ten one hundredths of a second separating the two as they touched the gantry. Armstrong clocked 1:50:07.50, while Edwards recorded 1:50:07.60.
Speaking post race, Cotter said it was a tough race with strong competition.
“It was pretty tough racing and pretty solid pack with a lot of good people. It was then just getting a really good position for most of the race and see how the last lap goes,” Cotter said.
“I usually tend to stick up the front for most of the race and it was just the game plan again, and then just really work the last half of the race.”
In a close race, Noosa’s Nick Sloman – and current Australian 10km champ – finished 25th in 1:50:09.50, Nicholas Rollo (Perth City) placed 43rd in 1:50:21.20, while rising star Jack Wilson (North Coast WA) clocked 1:51:40.60 to finish in 58th position.
Having already secured her ticket to Tokyo, Noosa’s Lee is making the most of every chance to race international competition as she prepares for her Olympic Games debut.
Fresh from her Australian Women’s 10km Open title last month, the 26-year-old fought hard in a “very tight” finish to place seventh overall in 1:56:43.90. After swimming 10km, amazingly, only 2.80 seconds separated the first seven athletes across the line.
Lee said she adapted to the conditions and followed her race plan throughout the swim.
“Definitely when we dove in it was cold, but it actually got quite hot towards the end with the sun on us,” she said.
“It was a good race and a very fast race from the start. It was very tight in the end; I don’t know how many of us were coming into the finish, but it was a crazy finish and I got a bit caught in the middle there.”
Lee’s fellow Australian competitors finished 23rd, 28th and 35th in a stacked field of 53, with Kawana Waters’ Madisyn Armstrong clocking 1:57:50.60, Bianca Crisp from TSS Aquatic recording 1:59:12.50 and Kawana Waters’ Chloe Gubecka coming home in 2:02:33.70.
All images courtesy of the Qatar Swimming Association