By Ian Hanson
LAKE ORR, Gold Coast, Australia, April 21. AUSTRALIA'S
premier open water swimmer, Mark Saliba, has his eyes set firmly on a world championship medal after a convincing 10,000 metre win at the Telstra Australian Open Water Championships at Lake Orr on the Gold Coast today.
Saliba, 22, showed all his experience and guile to set up his victory with a "feeding frenzy" on the third lap of the 2.5km course in perfect millpond conditions, near Bond University.
At the 6.5km mark Saliba dropped off the back of the seven-swimmer leading pack to give himself a quick "carbo boost" but the squeeze pack didn’t open and his planned instant energy intake was cut by half.
Unperturbed, the veteran of three world championship campaigns, quickly swam himself from the back of the pack back to the front as the field headed towards the final 2.5km turning buoy, where his father and mentor, John waited in the shallows for another "quick carbo hit."
"I was little bit worried when I dropped off and couldn’t get the most out of my ‘carbo hit’ but it was always planned for dad to be waiting for the next drink at the 7.5km mark and it really made a difference on the final lap," said Saliba.
"There is no doubt that these races are won and lost over the final stages and I knew if I fed at the right times and stayed in touch, it would really help me in the end.
"I felt great coming home over the final 2.5km and I knew after I swam so well in the 5km yesterday (he finished a close-up second to Grant Cleland) that my 10km would be right-on song.
"I am now really looking forward to the up-coming World Cup meets in China, the Pan Pacs in Canada and the World Championships in Egypt.
"My ultimate goal this year is win a world championship medal in Egypt and with the experience I have gained over the last couple of years and probably the best training base I have ever had at the Sydney Aquatic Centre, it is not beyond me."
In the end it was Saliba who won the gold medal in a time of 2 hours 01 minutes 28 seconds with Western Australian Jarred Nederpelt (City of Perth, WA) taking silver in (2:01.58) and five-km winner Cleland (The Hills, NSW) the bronze in 2:02.31.
The final lap saw Nederpelt, sixth in yesterday’s five-km event, swim away from the more experienced swimmers Josh Santacaterina (Brothers, Qld) and Leigh Bool (Ipswich Vikings, Qld) who led for the first half of the race.
In the women’s event, 17-year-old New Zealander Kate Brooks Peterson from Auckland, who has moved to the Gold Coast to train with Olympic coach Denis Cotterell, stole a march on her Australian opposition.
Brooks Peterson powered on the final lap to record a narrow win in a time of 2 hours 14 minutes 24 seconds from Redcliffe Leagues Lawnton pair Trudee Hutchinson (2:14.28) and Lauren Arndt (2:14.32) with Melbourne Vicentre’s Marisa Oppedisano (2:14.36) the third placed Australian.
Hutchinson, who won the 5km Australian championship yesterday, also has her sights set on a world championship medal in Egypt where she will again meet up with Brooks Peterson.
"I came here prepared for the 10km – to win the 5km on the first day was a real bonus," Hutchinson said.
"My main aim this year is to shoot for a medal at the world championships and I can see no reason why I can’t mix it with the best European girls."
While Brooks Peterson will train in Australia she will continue to swim for the Kiwis, although, through lack of funding she will have to finance her own way to the World Championships and Pan Pacific Championships.
Hutchinson capped off what has been a successful weekend’s racing for the Redcliffe Leagues Lawnton team with Aleshia Yet Foy’s victory in the women’s Multi Disability 5km event on Saturday giving the Ken Wood trained troops three gold and one silver medal.
The Telstra Dolphins Australian team for this year’s World Championships already has three automatic qualifiers in Grant Cleland (The Hills, NSW), Mark Saliba (Campbelltown, NSW) and Trudee Hutchinson (Redcliffe Leagues Lawnton, Qld) with the 25-km to be swam at Lake Orr tomorrow, starting at 8.30am.
2002 TELSTRA AUSTRALIAN OPEN WATER SWIMMING CHAMPIONSHIPS, Lake Orr, Gold Coast:
5000m: G Cleland (The Hills, NSW) 59 mins 23 secs 1, M Saliba (Campbelltown, NSW) 2, L Bool (Ipswich, Vikings, Qld) 3.
10,000m: M Saliba (Campbelltown, NSW) 2hrs 01 mins 28 secs 1, J Nederpelt (Sity of Perth, WA) 2, G Cleland (The Hills, NSW) 3.
5000m Multi-Disability: M Palfrey (AJS Swimming, Qld) 1:11.21, 1.
5000m: T Hutchinson (Redcliffe Leagues Lawnton, Qld) 1:04.02 1, N Benson (City of Perth, WA) 2, K Canning (Miami, Qld) 3.
10,000m: K Brooks Peterson (Auckland, NZ) 2:14.24 1, T Hutchinson (Redcliffe Leagues Lawnton, Qld) 2:14.28 1st Aust; L Arndt (Redcliffe Leagues Lawnton, Qld) 2, M Oppedisano (Melb Vicentre, Vic) 3.
5000m Multi Disability: A Yet Foy (Redcliffe Leagues Lawnton, Qld) 1, S Paton (Telopea, NSW) 2.