SYDNEY, Australia, December 7. COMMONWEALTH Games silver medalist Melissa Gorman has taken out the women's 10K Australian Open Water Swimming Championship at the Sydney International Regatta Centre in Penrith, Sydney.
Just hours after Grant Hackett won the men's event Gorman struck another blow for swimmers better known for their pool exploits, rather than open water competition, by convincingly defeating a class field to qualify for the FINA World Open Water Championships in Seville next May.
The World Championships are the official Olympic qualifier for Beijing with the top ten finishers guaranteed a start in the inaugural Olympic 10km event.
The Brisbane based university student, who will turn 22 on Tuesday, clocked 1hr 59 mins 50 seconds to beat Gold Coast 18-year-old Brooke Fletcher by two mins and 29 secs, with Fletcher's training partner Lauren Arndt a further 10 seconds back.
Fletcher, who won six gold medals at this year's Australian Surf Life Saving Championships before concentrating on her final high school studies, will now join Gorman, Hackett and men's runner-up Ky Hurst, in Seville as they chase their Olympic dreams.
Gorman made her tactics very clear from the beginning of the race, powering away from the field to lead by 20 seconds at the 2.5km mark, one minute 35 seconds at the halfway point and a massive two minutes 23 seconds at 7.5km.
In fact, so fast was Gorman she went around the 5km turning buoy in just over 58 minutes – only a few seconds slower than the leading male competitors in their race a few hours before.
Afterwards the Ken Wood trained swimmer was asked if she expected the result to be so convincing.
"No, definitely not. I didn't really go into the race with any expectations and I just wanted to just get out there right from the start and see what I could do, so to come a way with a win by that far is exciting," Gorman said.
Gorman was at a career crossroads late last year after failing to make the Telstra Dolphins team for the FINA World Championships just nine months after grabbing Commonwealth Games silver in the 800m in Melbourne.
After consultation with Wood, an out of sorts Gorman visited a lung specialist and discovered she was only using half of her lung capacity, resulting in a career saving change of asthma medication.
"I feel a lot stronger in the water now as well and Ken and I have been working really hard back at home on my strength and trying to improve my swimming and everything," Gorman said.
While Gorman's performance was in a word – dominant – Fletcher's was courageous.
The teenager, who last week represented Australia in Surf Life Saving's Centenary Test Match Series, battled injury several times throughout the year and believed she had little hope of furthering her Olympic aspirations until 2012, especially after spending the last few months concentrating on her studies.
"After my first race at the surf carnival last week I didn't know whether I should come and do this (today) but as the carnival progressed I felt a lot better in the water," Fletcher said. Down that last stretch I said to myself that I've had a tough year, I've had so many things against me and I just really wanted that so I put my head down and tried to go for it."
Kate Brookes-Peterson, third in both the 5 and 10km races at the FINA World Championships this year, was fourth and visibly disturbed after having her Olympic hopes dashed.
Special thanks to David Lyall of Swimming Australia for contributing this report.
Name Age Team Finals Time
1 GORMAN, MELISSA 21 REDCLIFFE LEAGUES LAWNTON 1:59:50.95
2 FLETCHER, BROOKE 18 PRO-MA MIAMI SWIMMING CLU 2:02:19.22
3 ARNDT, LAUREN 22 PRO-MA MIAMI SWIMMING CLU 2:02:29.48
4 BROOKES-PETERSON, KA 23 REDCLIFFE LEAGUES LAWNTON 2:02:41.69
5 HANSFORD, STACEY 17 ALBANY CREEK, QLD 2:02:42.81
6 THOMPSON, AMY 18 MAROOCHYDORE, QLD 2:02:43.53
7 REDGROVE, LUCY 20 SURREY PARK, VIC 2:02:47.52
8 CLARK, SHELLEY (NSWIS 26 HUNTER, NSW 2:02:49.25
9 BAGLEY, ALEXANDRA 18 GARDENS, QLD 2:03:19.21
10 ROWE, LUANE 18 WILLOUGHBY, NSW 2:05:33.32
11 BENSON, MELISSA 24 CITY OF PERTH 2:06:11.96
12 GILLEY, MORGAINE 20 SOPAC SWIM CLUB, NSW 2:07:03.92
13 AUSTIN, JAMIE-LEIGH 16 REDCLIFFE LEAGUES LAWNTON 2:07:24.13
14 HUTCHINSON, TRUDEE 27 ST PETERS WESTERN SWIM CLU 2:08:39.09
15 ZALEWSKI, ELLESE 16 MELBOURNE VICENTRE, VIC 2:09:29.11
16 TRAFICANTE, JESSICA 16 TELOPEA, NSW 2:09:57.41
17 PLESCAN, AMANDA 20 SOPAC SWIM CLUB, NSW 2:11:18.34
18 MANCINI, REBECCA 18 CITY OF PERTH 2:11:29.43
19 WAUGH, KIRSTY 14 NOVOCASTRIAN, NSW 2:11:39.90
20 EVANS, LINA 15 BRISBANE GRAMMAR, QLD 2:11:54.76
21 TUCKER, LAUREN 18 PALM BEACH CURRUMBIN 2:12:17.11
22 STEVENS, TESS 15 SURREY PARK, VIC 2:12:18.91
23 ROGERS, TAKARA 16 CITY OF PERTH 2:14:16.84
24 ARNOLD, TARA 18 ALBURY, NSW 2:16:07.73
25 PHILLIPS, LAURELEE 23 BALLARAT, VIC 2:19:21.52
26 WARD, JENNA 15 ROCKINGHAM SWIMMING CLUB 2:19:34.56
27 ARTIS, YVONNE 15 HENLEY & GRANGE, SA 2:19:36.04 OTL
28 WATTS, SAMANTHA 14 CARLILE, NSW 2:20:32.58 OTL
29 BLAKE, LARISSA 17 WIZARDS, NSW 2:21:55.73 OTL
30 EDWARDS, HANNAH 15 HENLEY & GRANGE, SA 2:21:57.62 OTL
31 GILFORD, SARAH 16 CAMPBELLTOWN, NSW 2:22:09.57 OTL
32 SORENSEN, SONAII 17 ULLADULLA, NSW 2:22:55.92 OTL
33 DOPPLER, DANIELLE 17 KINGSWIM, NSW 2:24:11.40 OTL
34 TUMBERS, LAURA 15 GUNNEDAH, NSW 2:24:25.57 OTL
35 MOUNSEY, JESSICA 16 MELTON, VIC 2:29:56.36 OTL
36 WARK, HANNAH 16 HENLEY & GRANGE, SA 2:40:42.67 OTL
— FAVA, ANNIE 16 RIPPLES ST MARYS, NSW DNF
— BROWNE, LUCINDA 17 MELBOURNE VICENTRE, VIC DNF