Oceania Champs, Day 5; Aussies, Kiwis, Share the Gold

SUVA, Fiji, May 20. A career best and meet record 2:16.92 in the 200m IM by Australian Alice Coutts capped off a stunning showing by the swimmers from Oz on the final evening of pool competition at the Oceania Championships here.

A Brisbane native, Coutts clocked 2:16.92 for the gold, dropping her old pr by more than two seconds. She also knocked off 2.28 seconds from the old Oceania mark by New Zealand's Helen Norfolk from four years ago. Norfolk (2:17.57) was second and Aussie Stephanie Rice (2:19.51) the bronze medal winner.

Coutts' win, her first of the Championships, boosted Australia's meet record total to nine and the fun was just beginning.

Aussie Stephanie Williams next lowered her own 14-under mark in the 200 backstroke with an impressive 2:14.58 to take gold. South Australian Karina Leane stopped the clock in 2:16.22 to take silver.

In the men’s 1500 freestyle final, Josh Krogh — already a triple gold medalist/record-setter in the 200-400 frees and 200 fly — won in 15:37.66, ahead of Brisbane-based 17-year-old Andrew Thompson, with Gold Coaster Ephraim Hannant third.

Australian women’s breaststroke depth continues to impress with fine swims by both Jade Edmistone and Sally Foster in the 100 meter event. Edmistone stopped the clock in an Oceania-record of 1:09.96 to take the win, just ahead of her rival and good friend, Foster (1:10.37). Kelly Bentley of New Zealand was third in 1:16.47.

Edmistone's pr is 1:09.3 from this year's Olympic Trials.

Sixteen-year-old Andrew Lauterstein (AUS) proved too strong in the 100 backstroke, his signature speedy finish bringing him home in 56.86. Sydneysider Andrew Burns was second (57.51) with Ryan Pini of Papua New Guinea rounding out the podium placers in 57.81.

Pini, a World Championship semifinalist last year, went a pr/NR 55.78 in January in Brisbane during the state championships meet, and has also been 53.8 in the 100 fly. He'll likely be his country's sole representative at Athens.

It was a tight battle in the men’s 200 breaststroke with Mark Riley (2:17.80) storming home in the final lap to take the win ahead of Aussie teammate James Beasley (2:18.66). Adam Richards (2:22.95) of New Zealand was third.

An Australian trifecta was the order of the night in the women’s 200 freestyle as Lara Davenport won with her 2:02.78. Consistent Briody Murphy, 400 free champ in a pr and meet record 4:12, fingernail-touched for silver in 2:02.91 with Melbourne teen Haylee Reddaway rounding out the perfect finish.

Brisbane’s Leith Brodie produced a solid swim in the men’s 100 freestyle with a 51.50 effort. Andrew Lauterstein was second from lane one in 51.63. Twenty-eight year-old Fijian Carl Probert was third in 52.03. The latter was also upset winner in the 50 free.

The women’s 50 freestyle victory went to Melbourne teenager Danni Miatke, a rising sprint star for Oz, who clocked 26.37. New Zealander Alison Fitch (26.80) was next, followed by Western Australian Sally Foster taking bronze in 26.90. Foster is more known for her breaststroke exploits and won the 200 earlier.

New Zealander Corney Swanepoel, 100 fly champ, won another gold with his 50 fly triumph. He clocked an Oceaniarecord 24.25.

The Kiwis showed signs of strength with another tight win by their improving women’s team, this one courtesy of 21-year-old Elizabeth Coster. She stroked to No. 1 inthe 100 fly in a pr 1:00.95. Australia took the next two placings with Stephanie Rice (1:01.09) and Miatke (1:01.49).

Renowned Kiwi Olympian Dean Kent kept his team's good run going with a close win in the 200 IM final, with his 2:04.78. Kent holds the New Zealand record at 2:02.25 from the Olympic Trials a couple of months ago.

Aussie Mitchell Bacon was second (2:05.14) with Leith Brodie capping off a busy night in 2:07.08 to grab third.

The respective Aussie men’s and women’s 400 medley relay teams swam brilliantly to finish off the pool competition in golden style.

The Australian team of Karina Leane, Jade Edmistone, Stephanie Rice and Kelly Stubbins won its title in an Oceania record 4:14.35.

The men’s race saw the Aussie side of Andrew Lauterstein, Mark Riley, Josh Krogh and Leith Brodie match their female counterparts with the gold and an Oceania record 3:44.78.

Australia’s Oceania head coach Michael Piper was proud of his team’s commitment and performances in the pool over the last five days, but admitted that the job was not over until the last Australian crosses the line in the finaloOpen water 10km event tomorrow.

“This week’s performances reflect a bright future for Australian swimming with many of these athletes displaying the potential to represent Australia in major international competitions in the future,” Piper said.

“With Australia hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2006 and World Championships in 2007, it’s crucial for these potential stars of the sport to get this kind of international race practice both mentally and physically under their belt.

“I have no doubt that every swimmer will go away from this meet with a new outlook on what it means to represent their country and I have no doubt that we will be watching many of these same kids take to the blocks for a senior Australian team in the near future.”

Coutts, Krogh, Edminstone & Co., will all second that motion.

* * * *

The beautiful beach setting played host to the 10km open-water event that witnessed the Australian pairing of Jarrad Nederpelt and Hayden Jackson break away from the pack early in the men’s event.

(Nederpelt's younger brother, Travis, earned a spot on the Olympic team win runner-up finishes inthe 200 fly and 400 IM.)

With the teammates going stroke-for-stroke for the majority of the race, Nederpelt made his move with 2km to go to take the win with a brilliant final lap to stop the clock in 2 hours 3 minutes 54.45 seconds.

Jackson won silver in 2 hours 7 minutes 7.40 seconds. Benoit Riviere (2:16.22.05) of New Caledonia took the bronze.

Nederpelt, a West Australian 21-year-old, was relieved with the result after watching his fellow teammates compete so well earlier in the week in the pool.

“ Going into the last lap I was two minutes down when my handler, Andrew Burns asked me how badly I wanted it after giving me a drink, I just thought that Hayden wasn’t making any ground on me so I went for it and it paid off,” Nederpelt said.

“I was pretty disappointed about my performance at the national titles after finishing poorly, but today I built my race from start to finish and if I can harness the back half of my race today into my future events it will only make me go faster.”

In the women’s event it was Nicole Hunter who proved too strong for her opposition running out with the win in a time of 2 hours 15 minutes 28.39 seconds. The silver went to Vanessa Clabau of New Caledonia (2:23.31.02).

The gold for Hunter was a just reward for the Tasmanian born Queenslander who finished second in the 5km earlier in the week by a fingernail.

Open water head coach Greg Towle was ecstatic with his troops' performances over both the 5- and 10km distances in Fiji, and is also adamant that the future of Australian open water swimming is heading in the right direction.

“The team showed great commitment and respect to the task at hand,” Towle said.

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