Australian Para Trials Attract Who’s Who And A Host Of New Faces With Their Sights On Tokyo

Ahmed Kelly
IN FULL FLIGHT: Rio Paralympian Ahmed Kelly will be one of the stars on show at the Para Trials in Adelaide. Photo Courtesy Delly Carr.

This year’s 2021 Australian Swimming Trials at Adelaide’s SA Aquatic And Leisure Centre (June 12-17) which kicks off today in Adelaide will feature the country’s best Multi-Class swimmers – old and young – vying for selection for this year’s Paralympic Games in Tokyo (August 24-September 5).

The Trials will feature some of Australia’s best ever Para swimmers like Ellie Cole, Brenden Hall, Ricky Pendleton, Blake Cochrane and Matthew Levy who have been the mainstays of Australia’s Para Team since Beijing in 2008 – faces of one of the most successful Paralympic programs in the world – sharing no less than 17 Games between them.

Pendleton and Levy will be vying for a remarkable fifth Games team; with Cole, Cochrane and Hall gunning for their fourth teams.

Lakeisha Patterson 2

LUCKY LASTS: This preparation has been five years in the making for Australia’s Paralympic hopes, including defending champion Lakeisha “Lucky” Patterson. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Then there are today’s stars from Rio in 216, including Tiffany Thomas-Kane, Lakeisha Patterson, Rachael Watson, Timmy Disken and Katja Dedekind who will be joined by a host of rookies vying for their first teams – swimmers like Benjamin Hance, Timothy Hodge, Jake Michel, Ricky Betar and William Martin, Madeleine McTernan and Kirralee Hayes.

And coaches including Nathan Doyle, Andrew “Herbie’ Herbert, Nick Dobson, Yuriy Vdovychenko, Clinton Camilleri, Harley Connolly who have plotted and planned these athletes to greater heights – overcoming the odds to create dreams for their teams.

These Trials will be like no other, with COVID, lockdowns, lockouts and quarantines all adding to the pressures that go hand in hand with a Trials meet – offering the perfect opportunity to rehearse only the events available at a Paralympic Games so the athletes are focusing on the events they can be selected in.

Australia’s Paralympic selection times are tough and are based on the top three times in the world, plus 1.6 percent – so to make the Australian team you are often in the top four to six in the world.

If you are making times based on Swimming Australia’s criteria then you are going to be close to making the podium.

“That has been our goal for the Paralympics – not just to make the team but to be a red hot chance for a medal,” says Adam Pine – SAL’s Paralympic Program Manager, who also gives an overview of some of the selection points.

“Because we race Multi Class we can also select off heats and B finals – so if a swimmer clock a time in a heat or B final they can make the team.

“Times (are converted) to pointscores (that) feed the finals – the eight fastest pointscores make it to finals not the eight fastest times…so it’s a nuance for Para swimming where you can select from heats and finals.

Tom Gallagher 2

TURBO TOM: Paralympic newcomer Tom Gallagher, a former surf lifesaving ironman who has made the transition to the pool under Olympic 2000 hero Ashley Callus  Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia)

“If you are in a low class and get low points you may not make an A final so we can select those swimmers off the heats – the time in the heat might be ranked internationally competitive but not internationally competitive on the pointscore.”

And not all classes are designated for every event.

“As an example the 400m freestyle is available for Classes from S6 to S13 while the 200m freestyle is for S4, S5 an d S14,” explains Pine.

With input from Adam Pine here is a detailed insight into the selection events at this year’s Trials with the 2021 Australian Paralympic Swimming Team to be announced in Adelaide on Wednesday, June 16.

Patterson, the defending Paralympic 400m freestyle champion, flew into Adelaide on Wednesday and said: “Coming into the Centre again and seeing the whole set up and seeing everyone here it is so exhillirating and the atmosphere really is unlike anything else.

“The last time we experienced this was back in 2019 so it has been a little but of a wait to get here and there were a few nerves in the tummy seeing it all again but its really exciting with those butterflies and the aim is to channel that into fast swimming and for me that’s really exciting.”

And on any doubts about the challenges that lay ahead?

“I have trained my whole life for this and especially the last five years and I myself know I’m not ready to give that dream up so I’m going to do what ever it takes to make sure that happens,” said Patterson.

“I have put my full faith in our Australian Paralympic and Olympic Committee and the Tokyo Organising Committee. Everyone is doing everything they can and I have received my (COVID19) Vaccine so that’s another layer of protection heading into the Games – it’s the pinnacle of sport for us and I’m ready to give it everything that I’ve got.”

Patterson (S9) will be in action today in the 400m freestyle, featuring three other members of the 2016 Rio Paralympic team, with Monique Murphy (S10), Ellie Cole (S9) and Katja Dedekind (S13) across the S6 to S13 classifications.

Patterson (Belgravia Swim, QLD. Coach: Harley Connolly) “Lucky” as she is known affectionately and globally in the Paralympic swimming world, won gold in this event in a stunning WR time in Rio 2016 and is making every post a winner to defend her crown in Tokyo 2021. Along with three-time Paralympian and five-time gold medallist Cole (Knox Pymble Coach Nick Dobson) – these two should lead the way in the S9s. Murphy (Yeronga Park, QLD. Coach Kate Sparkes) won silver in the 400m freestyle S10 in Rio and has become one of the real faces of Paralympic swimming in Australia and will have to be at her best here with a QT of 4:38.20.

South African-born Dedekind (USC Spartans: Coach Nathan Doyle, S13). The 19-year-old started taking her training seriously in 2012 and by 2016, had been selected to represent Australia at her first international event – the Rio Paralympics. On her debut she won bronze medal in the women’s 100m Backstroke (S13) and made it to the final of the 400m freestyle.

 Here is a look at the other Day 1 events:

Men’s 400m freestyle:

Three members of the Rio Paralympic team led by defending Olympic champion Brenden Hall (S9) and joined by USC Spartans pair Braedan Jason (S12) and Jacob Templeton (S13) – under Doyle – will have two newcomers, 21-year-old former WA-now Gold Coast-based Surf Life Saving champion Tom Gallagher (S9 Somerset. Coach: Ashley Callus) and 16-year-old rising star Alexander Tuckfield (SLC Aquadot, Coach Gavin Stewart, S9) in a cracking 400m freestyle for S6s to S13s.

A stand out will be celebrated triple Paralympian Hall (Belgravia Swim; Harley Connolly) an active lifesaver and two-time Paralympic champion over this event (London and Rio) who will be chasing his third straight gold in Tokyo. Since making his international swimming debut at the 2007 Arafura Games.

Newcomer Gallagher, made a name for himself as one of WA’s best young surf lifesavers in ironman, board and swimming and has now made the transition to the Paralympic pool and is on the cusp of making his first Paralympic Team. He collected his first National title at the recent Australian Multi Class Championships, taking home the men’s 400m freestyle Multi-Class event taming the blustery “surf like” conditions in an impressive performance on debut before confirming his S10 Classification in the US after Nationals.

The Australian lifesaving medallist, formerly from City of Perth in WA clocked an eye-catching 4:10.17, improving to a 4:09.76 when he swam in the US. Was one of WA’s best young surf lifesavers in ironman, board and swimming events, even adding the U19 Coolangatta Gold short course Ironman crown after arriving at Currumbin from City of Perth to continue his surf career.

Gallagher has linked up with Somerset coach, Sydney 2000 Olympic relay gold medallist, now coach, Ashley Callus as he pursues a Paralympic career. He could be one of several finds for Australia’s Paralympic ranks.

 Women’s 200m freestyle

An event for S4, S5 and S14s and featuring Australia’s S14 trio – backstroking hopeful Madeleine McTernan (S14 St Hilda’s Aquatic QLD; Coach Ken Malcolm); Ruby Storm (USC Trojans, Qld. Coach: Nathan Doyle and Taylor Corry Nelson Bay. Coach Tom Davis.) Not a strong event individually for Australia but both Ruby and Taylor will be in line for relay events here.

Men’s 200m freestyle

A feature race on the program for Australia’s outstanding S14 field led by the experienced Liam Schluter (Kawana Waters; Michael Sage), who knows how to get his hand on the wall first, who has not had the greatest of preparations – but should make the time of 1:56.57 and make the team. Ricky Betar (Auburn, NSW; coach Clinton Camilleri) has already swum under the time and is looking good. Joining them will be Jack Ireland (University of Queensland Swim Club, QLD Coach: David Heyden) and this could well be an event where all three swimmers will make the team. As a ‘New Kid on the Blocks’, Ireland was one of nine rookies on the 2019 World Para Swimming Championship team in London where he took home a bronze medal in the 200m Freestyle and a top ten finish in five other races. Then there is 32-year-old S3 Grant “Scooter” Patterson (Central Cairns; Coach: Andrew “Herbie’ Herbert) who will be one to watch, although not his main event, but a race he will start his push for selection with both the 50m breaststroke and 50m backstroke, his main events.

TRIALS FAST FACTS

Venue:

SA Aquatic & Leisure Centre Start List can be found here.

Timings: Heats will begin at 10:00am local time, with finals kicking off at 7:00pm local time. Click here for the coaches’ timeline which details the events and what time they take place.

Trials Preview: Courtesy of the Australian Swimming Coaches & Teachers Association, click here for a preview of all events.

Nomination Criteria:  Nomination criteria for the Olympic Program. Nomination criteria for the Paralympic Program.

Results: Click here to access Swimming Australia’s live results.

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