By Brooke Hanson
HAZELWOOD PONDAGE, Australia. October 8. AT
9:30 am today, six competitors, three male and three female, began a gruelling 25km selection event for the the first FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships to be held in Hawaii later this month.
The first lap of the five-lap course saw the men separate from the women, with open water specialist, Campbelltown's Mark Saliba and Josh Santacanterina (Brothers, Qld) establish an early lead over NSW's Adam Schulz.
The conditions were extremely choppy with intermittent showers, making the 25 km marathon swim even harder for the competitors.
The women's event saw Shelley Clark (Stingrays NSW) and Melissa Irwin (Redcliffe Leagues, Lawnton Qld) pull away from Yeronga Park's Becki Shill.
Throughout the event the lead changed several times with both girls making sure they would finish in the top two positions.
Saliba and Santacanterina swam stroke for stroke throughout the first 10km. However, Saliba then took a decisive lead over the Queenslander, pushing himself to a 10 minute lead, to dominate the rest of the race.
After a gruelling swim, Saliba touched the finishing gate in 5 hours 26 minutes 20 seconds in first position, extremely happy with his swims over the weekend, which saw him finish third in the 5km, second in the 10km, first in the 25km.
Saliba will now swim in the 10km and 25km events for Australia in the world championships.
"The conditions were tough but it was amusing to see that my dad (John) was freeezing during the whole race," Mark quipped later. "It is good to know dad will be with me in Hawaii but we are hoping the conditions will be a lot warmer.
Santacanterina finished second in his first ever 25-km event, completing the course in 5 hours 39 mins and 50 seconds, ensuring he would have a seat on the plane to Hawaii.
"On the third lap I hit the wall and my legs were numb. I pushed myself through the pain barrier and I'm really happy to have made the team," said Josh, who revealed "It's tattoo time," to his handler John Young who made a pact to get Australian flag tattoos when they made the team.
In the women's event Shelley Clark finished in first place in 5 hours 56 minutes 45 seconds after her handler, Peter Clark, wore an Hawaiian shirt and a lei for the final lap of her swim, giving Shelley the inspiration she needed to complete the course.
Shelley said: "The conditions were tough but Melissa made me race the whole way, I'm very happy to be on the Australian team and now my mum and dad have an excuse to come with me."
Melissa Irwin finished second in 5 hours 58 minutes 10 seconds, joining her teammates and training partners Sarah Bowd (5km) and Trudee Hutchinson (10km) on the Australian team for Hawaii.
Becki Shill finished third in 6 hours 8 minutes 21 seconds.
The first FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships will be held at Waikki Beach in Hawaii from October 29 to November 4 and the Australian swimmers who have currently reached selection criteria to make the Telstra Dolphins Australian team include:
Hayley Lewis (Commerical QLD)
Ky Hurst (Miami QLD)
Stephen Penfold (Miami QLD)
Sarah Bowd (Redcliffe Leagues Lawton QLD)
Leigh Bool (Ipswich Vikings, QLD)
Mark Saliba (Campbelltown (NSW)
Trudee Hutchinson (Redcliffe Leagues Lawton QLD)
Brooke Townsend (Wilkinson, NSW)
Mark Saliba (Campbelltown, NSW)
Josh Santacanterina (Brothers, Qld)
Shelley Clark (Stingrays, NSW)
Melissa Irwin (Redcliffe Leagues, Lawnton, Qld)