Noosa’s open water superfish, Kareena Lee, has secured seventh spot in the Women’s 10km event at the 2019 World Swimming Championships in South Korea.
Recording a time of 1:54:50.50 on Sunday morning, Lee’s top-ten finish will see Swimming Australia nominate her for a place on the Australian 2020 Olympic team – the first Dolphin to be nominated for next year’s Games.
After meeting the Marathon Swimming qualification process, the 25-year-old’s ticket to Tokyo will be made official once the Australian Olympic Committee ratifies her spot on the team.
In a tight tussle to the finish line, there was only 3.30 seconds between China’s first place Xin Xin (1:54.47.20) and Lee who touched for seventh.
Speaking after the race, an ecstatic Lee was still letting the result sink in.
“I really just can’t believe it, I’m feeling so many mixed emotions at the moment, but I’m just so happy,” she said.
Sticking with the leading swimmers throughout the race, Lee’s plan to stay close to the front of the pack paid off.
“The plan was to just keep up there, keep my sights on the top people and stay in the mix the whole way to give myself the best chance I could at the finish,” she said.
“It was very brutal at the end but I just kept telling myself ‘I’ve got this chance and you’ve got to do it’, and I had ‘JR’ in my head the whole time, so I just put my head down at the end and gave it my all and tried to get my hand on that touch pad as fast as I could.”
“It’s an amazing feeling (to be nominated) it’s been a long time coming and lots of ups and downs in my career and...finally,” she sighed.
With her coach John Rodgers (JR) recovering from an operation in Australia, Lee’s performance was made all the more special.
“Nothing really changed except that he wasn’t here, and I just wanted to do it for him. Ringing him today after the race and hearing how proud he was just makes it special,” she said.
Lee’s teammate Chelsea Gubecka (Yeronga Park), who is competing in her fourth world championships, also battled out in Sunday morning’s race at Yeosu EXPO Ocean Park.
The 20-year-old recorded a time of 1:55.45.20 – only 58 seconds behind the gold medallist – to place 29th position. Speaking post-race Gubecka was quick to congratulate her teammate on her nomination for the Olympic team.
“It was pretty fast from the start and for me I couldn’t really find my place, but I’m really happy for Kareena. Getting a nomination for the Olympic team is pretty special – only two women have done it before, she’s the third person, so it’s pretty exciting for her,” Gubecka said.
“There was a lot of people around, there was a pack of about 40 of us, so there was a lot of rough and tumble around the turning buoys, but I’m happy with what I did. I put myself in the best position with what I had and for me it just didn’t pay off in the end but that happens, it’s open water swimming.”
Looking ahead to her next events – the 5km relay and 25km – Gubecka said she’s looking forward to both, for different reasons.
“Both are a bit different. I love the idea of a relay; I’ve done it with my team before at Yeronga Park but it’s exciting to do it with the Australian team and show off a bit of my speed,” she said.
“I’ve been working really hard on that (speed), it didn’t really show in the 10km but I look forward to giving it a good crack in the relay and the 25km is just a good chance to test your endurance and that’s what I like to think I’m best at, but I guess we’ll see in a week’s time.”
Yesterday (Saturday) marked the first day of racing, which saw Bailey Armstrong and Hayden Cotter both secure a top-ten finishes in the Men’s 5km race. Read more here.
With tomorrow (Monday) being a rest day, Tuesday is the next time our open water Dolphins will dive back in, with Nick Sloman and Kai Edwards to compete in the Men’s 10km race.