TSS Aquatic’s Kai Edwards and Noosa’s Nick Sloman will progress to the next stage of the Tokyo Olympic qualifying process after finishing first and second respectively in the Men’s 10km Open race at the 2021 Australian Open Water Swimming Championships in Coolum.
Spectators at the Ozi Ski Resort witnessed a truly epic finish as the duo pulled away from the lead pack and went stroke for stroke with 300 metres to go. Putting it all on the line – and pushing through gruelling pain – it was Edwards who managed to narrowly edge out Sloman to claim the gold and his first 10km Australian title – 1:56:11.44 to 1:56:11.86. Belgravia’s Hayden Cotter secured bronze in 1:56:21.16.
Edwards and Sloman will now travel to Fukuoka in Japan to contest at the qualifying event on 30 May in the hope of joining Kareena Lee on the Australian Olympic Team.
Speaking after the race, an elated Edwards said he was pleased to get the win in such a tough field of competitors.
“I’m really stoked to get my first national title in the year of the Olympics – it’s pretty special with the year we had last year and to bounce back and be stronger than ever, it’s a good feeling,” Edwards said.
“The start of the race was pretty slow, so I knew it was going to be strong in the second half – you train for nine kilometres and then the last kilometre is a dog fight.
“I knew I had done the work and it was just a matter of pulling it all together on the day.”
While Sloman’s aim was to defend his Australian 10km title, the 23-year-old was satisfied with securing his seat to Japan.
“Obviously no one likes to lose and I did come second, but at the end of the day I’m just trying to get to Fukuoka and I managed to do that,” he said.
“The strategy wasn’t quite 100 per cent right but we’ll learn from that and hopefully come Fukuoka I can be the first Australian across the line.”
In the Women’s 10km Open race Lee (Noosa) once again asserted her dominance to achieve her third consecutive Australian title, claiming gold in 2:05:06.90. Placing second and nabbing the silver medal was TSS Aquatic’s Bianca Crisp (2:05:12.23), while Yeronga Park’s Chelsea Gubecka received bronze (2:05:43.71).
Lee said this event will likely be the only 10km contest she’ll race before the Tokyo Olympics, so she wanted to make the most of the experience.
“I knew that the girls would make it quite a tough race, but my goal was to go out there and try and stay in the pack a little bit more because that’s what I need to practise going into Tokyo,” Lee said.
“I still felt it was a pretty fast race so I didn’t have to hold myself back too much but I did have enough in the end to sprint, so I was happy I was able to do that in the end.”
North Coast’s Kyle Lee took the spoils in the Boys 19-year 10km event with a time of 1:56:23.65 to beat out Hong Kong’s William Thorley (1:57:22.85) and Nicholas Middleton from Revesby Workers (1:59:47.82). As Thorley is classified as a visitor, Middleton received silver as the second fastest Australian, while Manly’s Logan Kaye jumped up to received bronze in 2:00:35.31.
In the Boys 18-year 10km race it was WCA’s Max Coten who claimed gold in 2:00:33.79 ahead of Ringwood’s Harvey Lanigan who clocked 2:08:41.57, and Randwick City’s Jake Andrews who touched in 2:09:16.30.
Chloe Gubecka from Yeronga Park posted a time of 2:12:25.58 to take home the Australian title for the Girls 19-year 10km race. Revesby Workers’ Hannah Higgins snared silver in 2:26:15.38 while Rockingham’s Fiona Cullinane completed the podium with bronze in 2:28:24.50.
ABTO’s Taylah Ozdemir took out the Girls 18-year 10km event in 2:24:52.41 ahead of Chelsea Harkins (2:29:51.66) from Loreto Normanhusrt and ABTO teammate Olivia Towle (2:34:57.78) who received silver and bronze medals respectively.
Revesby Workers’ teammates Charlie Gray (1:35:52.38) and Kai Robertson (1:36:53.13) went head-to-head in the Boys 16-year 7.5km race to take out the top two spots. Cotton Tree’s Dylan Thompson rounded out the medals taking home bronze in 1:38:05.64.
In the Boys 17-year 7.5km event it was St Peters Western’s Robert Thorpe who came out on top in 1:28:09.65 ahead of Knox Pymble’s Euan Liney (1:35:00.73) and Bunbury’s Kaiden Richings (1:35:26.66). Although being the first 17-year-old across the line, Thorpe finished third behind fellow competitors and 18-year-olds, Nudgee College’s Thomas Raymond (1:28:08.24) and Miami’s Ruben Rees (1:28:08.88), who with this result, secured selection for the open water junior worlds team.
Continuing Noosa’s successful day in the water, Finella Gibbs-Beal clocked 1:36:02.02 to be crowned champion in the Girls 17-year 7.5km. Auburn’s Bianca Walton secured silver in 1:36:25.20 while Warringah Aquatic’s Kimberley Dolye received bronze in 1:42:18.33.
Revesby Workers’ Abbey Connor showed her talent in the Girls 16-year 7.5km event, taking out the Australian title in 1:40:49.59 ahead of TSS Aquatic’s Caitlin Allred (1:47.40.98) and Hunter’s Heidi Schneider (1:53:07.78). With Allred (NZ) classified as a visitor, Schneider claimed the silver medal as the second fastest Australian and Caitlin Parkinson (2:02:42.22) from Revesby Workers received bronze as the third fastest Australian.
As the fastest finishers in their age group for the Boys and Girls 19-20 year race Cotter, Lee, Jessica Mouatt and Kara Svenson are eligible to be selected on the World Junior Open Water Championships team. Joining them is also Raymond, Rees, Gibbs-Beal and Walton who were the fastest in their age category in the Boys and Girls 16-17 year 7.5km events.
Swimming Australia selection summary:
Next stage of Olympic Qualification to attend Fukuoka selection event:
Kai Edwards (TSS Aquatic)
Nicholas Sloman (Noosa)
World Junior Open Water Qualifiers to be ratified next week:
Hayden Cotter (Belgravia)
Kyle Lee (North Coast)
Jessica Mouatt (Nudgee College)
Kara Svenson (Bunbury)
Thomas Raymond (Nudgee College)
Ruben Rees (Miami)
Finella Gibbs-Beal (Noosa)
Bianca Walton (Auburn)
Day final day kicks off at the Oz Ski Resort in Coolum tomorrow morning at 7:30am. To access live race results during the competition, click here.
Swimming Australia reminds those attending the 2021 Australian Open Water Swimming Championships in Coolum to check the latest information on Covid-19 hotspots issued by Queensland Health following the announcement by the Premier on Saturday morning.