Swimming Australia has unearthed a group of rising open water stars who have all set their sights on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and beyond, writes Ian Hanson.
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 – 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 (Poort is serving an anti-doping ban not for a positive test but for not being where he said he would be at the appointed hour testers came-a-calling).
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.
Green reckons her dad, world champion boxer Danny Green, could possibly beat her over 50 metres freestyle in the pool but certainly no further.
Just one lap and he would have to throw the towel in says Chloe, a 16-year-old Perth City distance swimmer with dreams of one day going to the Olympics, who has bagged two Australian Open Water titles in Adelaide this weekend.
Chloe started out on Australia Day with the 16 years National crown over 7.5km and backed up today to take out the five kilometre championship in an all-star field, beating Kawana Waters pair Chloe Gubecka and Mackenzie Brazier.
Asked what kind of swimmer her dad was, Chloe was quick to say: “I reckon he could beat me over 50 metres but don’t ask him to turn around and come back…that would probably stop him,” said Chloe.
“And there is no way he would consider 7.5km or 5km in the open water.”
Chloe, who is now training under notable Perth City Olympic coach Matt McGee, has her sights set one day on going to the Olympic Games.
“It would be a dream to go to the Olympics for both pool and open water swimming,” said Green.
Chloe will be back in the water again tomorrow in the Mixed Open 4 x1.25km team relay with her Perth City team mates – trying to defend the title they won last year.
Meanwhile, Gubecka (58:16) was back to winning ways again today as the first Australian home in the five-kilometre Time Trial behind Japan’s Runa Kasahara (57:49). Gubecka opened her campaign with a 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 big more; I think it will continue to grow; it’s a very big sport in Europe but it’s still growing in Australia.”
On Saturday, Green was well supported by fellow Perth City pair Reilly Kennedy and Nicholas Rollo who both won their respective National 5km titles.
Kennedy the 18 years National 5km title in 56:55 from Melbourne Vicentre’s Lachlan Schwartz (57:27) and Somerset Gold Coast’s Riley Clout (57:37) while Rollo won the 19 years in 56:53 from Robbie Dilissen (Melbourne Vicentre) 1:00.35 and University of NSW’s Erwan Le Pechoux (1:00.49).
To cap a great day for WA, Bunbury’s Kyle Lee won the 16 years 5km boys title in 56:51 from William Thorley (Hong Kong) in 56:54 ad Logan Kaye (Carlile) 57:04.
Paralympic golden boy Brenden Hall from Lawnton continued his love affair with the ocean when the 24-year-old Caloundra lifesaver won the 5km Multi-Class in 58:28 while Yeronga Park’s Jacquie Davison-McGovern won the 14-years girls in 1:03:16.90 and TSS Aquatics Madisyn Armstrong won the 15 years girls from Yeronga Park’s Laura Brosnan (1:02.03) and Miami’s Jade Slee (1:02.07).
NSW clubs also had a strong day with multi-talented Newcastle schoolgirl Cassandra Fayers (Hunter Swim Club) producing one of the swims of the day to win the 15-years girls 5km in 1:02.55 from Naia Anderson (Toowoomba Grammar) 1:04.25 and Ashley Finegan (University of NSW) 1:04.27.
Fayers is also the NSW State All-Schools Cross Country running champion who is destined for a bright future in whatever sport she chooses.
Then Matthew Galea (Blacktown City) won his first National title producing a strong finish in the 17 years boys to grab the win in 56.50.00 in a blanket finish from University of NSW swimmer Robbie Beal (56:50.97) with Byron Kimber (Breakers WA) third in 56:54.
There was a quinella for the Blues in the 14 years boys with Henri Carrera (Revesby Workers) grabbing the gold in 1:01.31 with Carlile’s Robert Thorpe (Carlile) just pouncing for the silver in 1:03.08 a touch ahead of Miami’s Bailey Wellham who took the bronze in 1:03;08.01.
And in the Mixed 2.5km Non Championship event it was 13-year-old Breahna Burgess from the City of Orange who grabbed the win ahead of the boys, taking the win in 33:13 from Charlie Gray (Campbelltown) 33:14 and Logan Fowler (Aquablitz Toongabbie) 33:16.
Australian Open Water Swimming Championships, Brighton Beach, SA, Day 2, FINALS:
- 14 years H Carrera (Revesby Workers) 1:01.31 R Thorpe (Carlile) 1:03.08 B Wellam (Miami) 1:3.08.01
- 15 years T Raymond (Nudgee College) 58:28 J Clarke (Southside Aquatics) 58.37 K Gubecka (Kawana Waters) 58.38
- 16 years K Lee (Bunbury) 56.51 W Thorley (Hong Kong) 56.54 L Kaye (Carlile) 57.04
- 17 years M Galea (Blacktown) 56.50 R Beale (University of NSW) 56.50.97 B Kimber (Breakers WA) 56.54
- 18 years R Kennedy (Perth City) 56.55 L Schwarz (Melbourne Vicentre) 57.27 R Clout (Somerset GC) 57:37
- 19 years N Rollo (Perth City) 56.53 R Dilissen (Melbourne Vicentre) 1:00.35 E Le Pechoux (University of NSW) 1:00.49
- Multi-Class B Hall (Lawnton) 58:28
- 14 years J Davison-McGovern (Yeronga Park) 1:03.16 A Hamilton-Moss (Mt Creek Mooloolaba) 1:04.28 E Fry (South Shore) 1:05.56
- 15 years C Fayers (Hunter) 1:02.55 N Anderson (Toowoomba Grammar) 1:04.25 A Finegan (University of NSW) 1:04.27
- 16 years C Green (Perth City) 1:00.44 C Gubecka (Kawana Waters) 1:01.04 E Wassing (Pelican Waters Caloundra) 1:01.16
- 17 years M Brazier (Kawana Waters) 1:01.07 F Shires (University of NSW) 1:01.07 K Svenson (Indooroopilly) 1:01.41
- 18 years M Armstrong (TSS Aquatics) 1:01.50 L Brosnan (Yeronga Park) 1:02.03 J Slee (Miami) 1:02.07
- 19 years T Martin (Carlile) 1:02.08 I Foley (Aquablitz Toongabbie) 1:02.18 H Ryan (Aquablitz Toongabbie) 1:02.31
- 12-14 years JX (Non Championship) Breahna Burgess (City of Orange) 33:13 Charlie Gray (Campbelltown) 33:14 Logan Fowler (Aquablitz Toongabbie) 33:16.44