Boys To Brighton Up Australia Day 10k En Route to Tokyo

OPEN WATER FEEDING FRENZY GWANGJU
FEEDING FRENZY: Smorgasbord of swimming talent on a busy Brighton SA menu on this Australia Day weekend. Photo: Courtesy Swimming Australia (Delly Carr)

The road to Tokyo hots for Australia’s open water marathon men at the Australian 10km Championships off Brighton Beach in Adelaide on Saturday.

There is one remaining spot on the 2020 Olympic team for open water – an event that was introduced back in 2008 – the year legendary waterman Ky Hurst joined Melissa Gorman for the open water 10km marathon debut in Beijing.

KREEN LEE JR AND NICK SLOMAN PAN PACS

NOOSA-DOERS: Kareena Lee, coach John “JR” Rodgers and Nick Sloman. Photo Courtesy: Hanson Media.

The lone male will join Queensland’s Kareena Lee (Noosa), who qualified automatically for Tokyo 2020 with her top ten finish at last year’s World 10km Championships in South Korea.

The men’s spot will be determined at the 2020 Marathon Swimming Olympic Qualification event in Fukuoka on May 30/31.

The first Australian in the top nine or the first Oceania swimmer to finish will join Hurst, Gorman (2008 and 2012), Jarrod Poort and Chelsea Gubecka (2016) and Lee as Australia’s next open water Olympian.

Saturday will be the first of two more 10km events on the horizon as Australia’s vastly improving multi-talented men battle it out for the final prestigious position in a race that will see live timing introduced for the first time, with swimmers all wearing GPS trackers.

The first four Australians across the line at Brighton Beach from the 37-strong field will earn selection to contest the FINA World Series 10km event in Doha on February 15 with the top two chosen for Fukuoka.

And Australia’s big four Nick Sloman (Noosa), Kai Edwards (TSS Aquatic), Hayden Cotter (Belgravia, Caboolture) and Bailey Armstrong (Kawana) will lead the fight for the ultimate place on the Australian Olympic team.

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OPEN WATER DOLPHINS:  Mackenzie Brazier (Noosa), Chelsea Gubecka (Yeronga Park), Nick Sloman (Noosa), Chloe Gubecka (Kawana Waters),Bailey Armstrong (Kawana Waters), Hayden Cotter (Lawnton), Kareena Lee (Noosa), Kai Edwards (TSS Aquatics) Photo Courtesy: Swimming Australia.

And throw in Perth City trio, led by experienced Australian open water and surf swimmer Simon Huitenga (back from a shoulder injury) and his fellow Matt McGee trained team mates Reilly Kennedy and Nicholas Rollo and the standard will be as high as its been for many years.

Sloman, coached by legendary Olympic coach John Rodgers, certainly looked the goods at the 2018 Pan Pacs in Tokyo where he finished with the bronze medal behind World Champion Jordan Wilimovsky (USA) and Eric Hedlin (Canada) but disappointed at last year’s World’s where he mis-calculated his race, finishing 21st.

Sloman’s 1500m time of 15:05.82 at the Queensland State Championships is a strong indication that he is very much on track – lifting the bar against a quality field and one of the pre-race favourites Wilimovsky, like Lee having the luxury of already qualifiying for his seond Olympic team.

The World Championship 10km was a race that saw Edwards, coached by Chris Nesbit at TSS on the Gold Coast, stake his claim as a boy most likely, following up with arguably the toughest swim of his career, finishing a close up fifth in the 25km event, swum in atrocious conditions.

Cotter (coached by Harley Connolly), now 18, was a top 10 finisher over 5km at the World’s in Yeosu, also represented the Australian Surf Life Saving team in South Africa and wrapped up his third Lorne Pier to Pub, beating Mack Horton.

While Armstrong (under experienced open water coach Michael Sage) was also a top 10 finisher in the World’s 5km, with his seventh place finish and is as tough as they come – one of the most accomplished surf swimmers in the business with World and Australian champions Northcliffe.

The men’s 10k has also attracted a top class international field with defending Olympic champion, Ferry Weertman (NED) and 2015 World and 2018 Pan Pac champion Wilimovsky topping the bill alongside swimmers from Great Britain, New Zealand, Canada and Japan – so the pace will be on!

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Zsolt Szigetvary/EPA/Shutterstock (8964486t) Ferry Weertman FINA Swimming World Championships 2017, Balatonfured, Hungary - 18 Jul 2017 Gold medal winning Ferry Weertman of the Netherlands poses on the podium during the medal ceremony of the men's open water 10km final at the FINA Swimming World Championships 2017 in Balatonfured, southwest of Budapest, Hungary, 18 July 2017.

FAST FERRY: Dutch 10km Olympic champion Ferry Weertman Photo Courtesy: Fina

The women’s field will be headed by Australia’s own Kareena Lee, who has already secured her Olympic berth but will be going all out to secure the victory and a slice of the prizemoney on offer.

Swimming Australia will be awarding $2,500 for first place, $1,500 for second place and $1,000 for third place in the 10km race and 5km time trial in both men’s and women’s categories.

Lee will be joined by Rio Olympian Chelsea Gubecka (Yeronga Park) and her sister, rising star Chloe Gubecka (Kawana Waters) in the 18/19s as well as her team mate Mackenzie Brazier (Kawana Waters). The US girls, 2012 Olympic silver medallist Hayley Anderson and Ashley Twichell are both former world champions over 5km – Anderson in 2013 and Twichell in 2011 and both qualified for Tokyo last year, with Anderson winning silver and Twichell finishing sixth, one place ahead of Lee in Korea.

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MODEL PERFORMER: US Olympic silver medallist Hayley Anderson. Photo: Courtesy USOC.

Japan also has a strong team while former US world 5km champion from 2010, Eva Fabian will again swim for Israel after wearing the Israeli cap at last year’s Fina World Championships in Gwangju.

Australia’s Performance Manager Open Water, Greg Shaw is excited about what’s in store over three days of top class international racing with an Olympic berth on offer down the track for Australia’s top male.

“I couldn’t be happier with the calibre of the men at the moment,” said Shaw.

“By not qualifying automatically, it has forced the boys to go up to another level in their swimming prowess – Saturday’s race – with our boys and some of the best internationals will make for a great spectacle – I honestly cant’ wait.”

Shaw said the interest in open water swimming in Australia was certainly on the rise and the inclusion of the prizemoney was part of the reward they have worked on for the open water swimmers and coaches.

“It is important for the open water swimmers and their coaches to earn some rewards for their efforts and it is a start and I have to thank Swimming Australia for the support and the events team for putting this event on in Brighton,” said Shaw.

“Open water swimming holds a special place in Australian swimming and Brighton is an iconic venue which we want to showcase to the world.

“Having again attracted international swimmers, who have always supported us, is a huge plus – there can be no better place to come to than South Australia and to locations like Brighton Beach at this time of the year.

“It can only build and get bigger and better.”

As Australia’s pinnacle open water swimming meet, male and female athletes will compete in 21 events between January 25 and 27, including the Men’s and Women’s Open 10km, Boys and Girls 18 & 19 years 10km and Boys and Girls 16 & 17 years 7.5km. Monday will also see the 5km Time Trial for Men and Women.

In addition to the Olympic process, Swimming Australia will also select eight young athletes based on performances in Adelaide to pull on the green and gold for the World Junior Open Water Championships. The team, which will travel to the Seychelles in August, will consist of the top two male and female athletes in the 18 & 19 years 10km and 16 & 17 years 7.5km.

To access live race results during the competition, click here.