Australia’s open water Dolphins have placed fifth in 5km Team Relay at the 2019 World Swimming Championships in South Korea, recording a commendable time of 54:36.80 on Thursday morning.
The team, comprising of Chelsea Gubecka (Yeronga Park), Hayden Cotter (Lawnton), Kareena Lee (Noosa) and Nick Sloman (Noosa), all completed one lap of the 1.25km course at Yeosu EXPO Ocean Park.
With light rain falling and conditions describes as “less than ideal” by the commentary team, Gubecka got the Aussie quartet off to a good start, maintaining sixth position for the majority of her swim.
Rob Van Der Zant, coach of the relay team, said every country was strategic with their order of swimmers and encouraged Gubecka to use her experience in that first leg.
“We knew that there was going to be a few different orders with the different teams in the top sort of nations; realistically we knew there was ten teams that would be in the mix, so we sort of gambled with the girl-boy, girl-boy and I think it paid off,” he said.
“Chelsea has a wealth of experience and we just told her to draw from that experience, stay with the pack and the top couple, and fight fire with fire. We knew there were a couple of boys in that first group and Chels did a great job to stay just behind them.”
Cotter was next in the water, followed by Lee and then Sloman, who fought until the end to secure fifth, touching narrowly ahead of France and the Netherlands.
“Kareena was our key leg, she had the toughest leg out of all the guys, she was among a majority of male swimmers and she was up against it the whole time. She had a few little clashes, but she came out on top and did Australia really proud,” Van Der Zant said.
“It came down to a battle for fifth, sixth and seventh and Nick was just amazing, bouncing back from a bit of disappointment earlier in the week, to get his hand up on the wall for Australia and finish fifth.”
In a field of 21 teams, the bright gold cap was never too far from the main pack, ultimately finishing 38.1 seconds behind gold medallists, Germany.
Sloman, who competed in the Men’s 10km race on Tuesday, echoed Van Der Zant’s sentiments, saying it was terrific to hit the water again and represent Australia.
“It was good to have another hit-out and sort of redeem myself after my 10km effort,” he said post-race.
“It was also good to wear the green and gold again and especially with the team situation, I think we all had a good crack and had a good result.”
While swimming is an individual sport, Sloman said he thoroughly enjoyed taking part in his first relay on the international stage – with team spirit at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
“I guess the difference between individual swims and relays is the comradery, everyone is trying to do the best for the team. I just saw Marc-Antoine (France) and Ferry (Netherlands) next to me and I just had to put my hand on the board first, so I really enjoyed the race and would love to do it again.”
Lee, who had the “toughest leg” according to the coach, was delighted with the team’s efforts.
“It was an amazing race, I think everyone put in their absolute all,” she said.
“It’s such a different event and it’s so crazy, the positions are changing all the time, girls are racing the guys and the guys are racing the girls, it just such a difference race, but so much fun.”
After placing in the top ten in the Women’s 10km race on Sunday, Lee will be nominated by Swimming Australia for a spot on the 2020 Australian Olympic team. Her goal from now until next year is getting in as much race practice as possible.
“I’m just trying to get as much racing in because the more racing, the more experience you can get, and I keep learning off every race that I do. I’ll obviously also be training hard and doing some world cups in there too.”
The final open water event takes place tomorrow with Chelsea Gubecka, Bailey Armstrong and Kai Edwards set to compete in the 25km, which kicks off at 9am (EST).
More results from the week:
Men’s 5km – Bailey Armstrong 7th and Hayden Cotter 9th
Women’s 10km – Kareena Lee 7th and Chelsea Gubecka 29th
Men’s 10km – Kai Edwards 14th and Nick Sloman 21st
Women’s 5km – Chloe Gubecka 30th and Mackenzie Brazier 33rd