It’s An Aussie Open Water Dog Fight As Kai Edwards and Nick Sloman Go Head-To-Head For Olympic Spot

Men's finish Nicvk Sloman and Kai Edwards
TOUCH AND GO: Kai Edwards (top) out-touches Nick Sloman (yellow cap) in a frantic finish to today's Australian 10km Championship at the Oz Ski Resort, Coolum. Photo Courtesy Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

It’s An Aussie Open Water Dog Fight As Kai Edwards and Nick Sloman Go Head-To-Head For Olympic Spot

One of the most dramatic and drawn out roads to Tokyo now has one last stop before the lone Australian is finally confirmed in what has been a true open water marathon, in every sense of the word.

Twenty-three-year-old Gold Coaster Kai Edwards and Noosa’s 24-year-old Nick Sloman will swim off for Australia’s only Olympic open water berth in Fukuoka (May 29,30) after today’s 1-2 finish in the Australian 10km Championship on the Sunshine Coast.

Open 10k podium Hayden Coitter, Kai Edwards, Nick Sloman

KAI TIME: Australian 10k champion Kai Edwards (centre) alongside silver medallist Nick Sloman (right) and bronze medallist Hayden Cotter. Photo Courtesy Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

The pair had their Olympic dreams shattered last year at the Doha World Cup, failing to qualify for the final Tokyo Trial in Fukuoka – but in a favourable COVID twist of fate the Trial was eventually cancelled – making the selection process null ‘n void – and giving them a second chance.

But in a shattering twist last year’s two Fukuoka qualifiers Hayden Cotter and Bailey Armstrong saw their dreams washed away – Cotter finishing third and Armstrong sixth in a helter-skelter race.

Edwards and Sloman will now go head-to-head in Fukuoka with a treasured Olympic blazer the prize.

To book a ticket to Tokyo either Edwards and Sloman have to be the first Australian home in the top nine in Fukuoka or the first Oceania competitor home and that blazer is finally theirs.

After almost two hours swimming around the Sunshine Coast’s Oz Ski Resort, Coolum and after live timing initially recorded a dead-heat between Edwards and Sloman, Swimming Australia confirmed Edwards (TSS Aquatic) the winner in 1:56:11.44 with Sloman (Noosa) second in 1:56:11.86 and Cotter (Belgravia) 1:56:23.16 third.

WA rising stars, 20-year-old Byron Kimber (UWSC) 1:56:23.66 and 19-year-old Kyle Lee (North Coast 1:56:23.65 were fourth and fifth respectively ahead of Kawana’s Armstrong (1:56.28.24) who was sixth home.

The way the race unfolded Edwards and Sloman spent the first nine kilometres preparing their ambush, putting themselves in the box seat.

Nick Sloman ahead of the pack

LEADER OF THE PACK: Noosa’s Nick Sloman leads the men’s pack. Photo Courtesy Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

With one km to swim four or five swimmers broke away before Sloman hit the front, triggering Edwards to make his move and the boy from TSS swam up next to Sloman and the pair went stroke for stroke.

Cotter missed his opportunity with 400m to go when Sloman and Edwards moved to the side of the pack, missing their feet and the opportunity to ride on their wash

At around 150 metres out Sloman put on a spurt and it looked like it was his race but with around 20 metres to go Edwards came back and got his hand on the wall first.

Swimming Australia’s Performance Manager Open Water Greg Shaw was full of praise for Edwards, saying “Kai did a great job; He sat back, bided his time and raced the perfect race.

“He certainly has (some) mongrel in him that’s for sure and that’s one of his strengths; he’s not as fast as a Nick Sloman in the pool but put him in a fight and he’s a different swimmer.

“There is no doubt he is a talented open water swimmer; just four years ago he was off to World Juniors and now he is swimming off for a spot on the Olympic team.

“Kai has done a great job of preparing under coach Chris Nesbit and the guys at TSS.”

And Edwards admitted he knew he had to be ready for a dog fight.

“You train for a nine kilometre event and that last kilometre is always a dog fight,” said Edwards.

“I’m just stoked to get the win; at the end of the day, today was a box I had to tick; I had to focus and prepare and do my best to qualify for the Olympics.

“The start of the race was fairly slow and I knew Nick was going to be strong in that second half.”

Sloman admitted he didn’t get it right.

“At the end of the day the goal was to get to Fukuoka and I managed to do that although I didn’t get it 100 percent right,” said Sloman.

“I’ll learn from that and hopefully come Fukuoka I’ll be first across the line.

“It’s been over 12 months since I’ve raced and I had no idea what anyone else was capable of but obviously this is a good insight into what Australia is capable of coming into an Olympics and a good insight into what we can do; open water swimming is so technical and (so often) it comes down to a fraction of a second.”

Feed time at Kawana Lake

POLE POSITION: Feed stops are a crucial part of open water swimming. Photo Courtesy Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Shaw admitted that it’s unfortunate open water is not as simple and as easy as the pool (Trials).

“But that’s the theatre of open water,” said Shaw, “and why we love watching it – it brings in the tactics and it’s not just about the fastest swimmer.

“(Like Kai) Nick wasn’t going to Tokyo this time last year and with coach John Rodgers they have been able to re-set themselves and take advantage of the opportunity.

Kareena Lee finish

NO LEE  WAY: Olympic qualifier Kareena Lee a clear winner of today’s 10Km women’s Australian Championships. Photo Courtesy Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Meanwhile Rodgers already has his experienced 28-year-old female charge Kareena Lee on the plane for Tokyo after she qualified at the 2019 World Championships and she showed today why she will be a real hope when she lines up for her tilt at the Tokyo 10k.

Lee (Noosa) continued her open water domination – in a reverse of the men’s race with Edwards 22-year-old TSS team mate, rising star Bianca Crisp finishing second ahead of Rio Olympian Chelsea Gubecka (Yeronga Park).

The Tokyo-bound Lee cleared away in the end to defend her title in a time of 2:05.06.90 ahead of Crisp (2:05.12.23) and Gubecka (2:05.43.71).

W 10K Chelsea Gubeck Kareena Leer, Biana Crisp

WINNERS ARE GRINNERS: Women’s 10k winner Kareena Lee (centre) with silver medallist Bianca Crisp (right) and bronze medallist Chelsea Gubecka. Photo Courtesy Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Lee said this event will likely be the only 10km contest she’ll race before the Tokyo Olympics, so she wanted to make the most of the experience.“I knew that the girls would make it quite a tough race, but my goal was to go out there and try and stay in the pack a little bit more because that’s what I need to practise going into Tokyo,” Lee said.

“I still felt it was a pretty fast race so I didn’t have to hold myself back too much but I did have enough in the end to sprint, so I was happy I was able to do that in the end.”

Next Stop World Juniors In Seyshells For Top Juniors

Meanwhile WA’s Kyle Lee (North Coast) showed why he is a talent to watch – w2ith his fifth place finish in the opens and winning the Boys 19-year 10km category with a time of 1:56:23.65 to put himself in the box seat for selection on the Australian Team for this year’s Fina World Junior Championships in the Seyshells. Lee to beat out Hong Kong’s William Thorley (1:57:22.85) and NSW’s Nicholas Middleton (Revesby Workers) (1:59:47.82). As Thorley is classified as a visitor, Middleton received silver as the second fastest Australian, while NSW’s Logan Kaye (Manly) jumped up to receive the bronze in 2:00:35.31.

In the Boys 18-year 10km WA’s Max Coten (Westside Christ Church Aquatic) claimed gold in 2:00:33.79 ahead of NSW’s Harvey Lanigan (Ringwood) who clocked 2:08:41.57, and NSW’s Jake Andrews (Randwick City) who touched in 2:09:16.30.

In the women’s age events, QLD’s Chloe Gubecka (Yeronga Park) posted a time of 2:12:25.58 to take home the Australian title for the Girls 19-year 10km race.

NSW’s Hannah Higgins (Revesby Workers) snared silver in 2:26:15.38 while WA’s Fiona Cullinane (Rockingham) completed the podium with bronze in 2:28:24.50.

NSW’s Taylah Ozdemir (Aquabliss Swim Club) took out the Girls 18-year 10km event in 2:24:52.41 ahead of NSW’s Chelsea Harkins (2:29:51.66) (Loreto Normanhurts) and Olivia Towle (Aquabliss Swim Club) in 2:34:57.78 who received silver and bronze medals respectively.

The Boys 16-year 7.5km Championship saw Revesby Workers’ (NSW) teammates Charlie Gray (1:35:52.38) and Kai Robertson (1:36:53.13) went head-to-head to take out the top two spots. QLD’s Dylan Thompson (Cotton Tree) rounded out the medals taking home bronze in 1:38:05.64.

In the Boys 17-year 7.5km St Peters Western’s Robert Thorpe who came out on top in 1:28:09.65 ahead of Knox Pymble’s Euan Liney (1:35:00.73) and Bunbury’s Kaiden Richings (1:35:26.66). Although being the first 17-year-old across the line, Thorpe finished third behind fellow competitors and 18-year-olds, Nudgee College’s Thomas Raymond (1:28:08.24) and Miami’s Ruben Rees (1:28:08.88), who with this result, secured selection for the open water junior worlds team.

Continuing Noosa’s successful day in the water, Finella Gibbs-Beal clocked 1:36:02.02 to be crowned champion in the Girls 17-year 7.5km. Auburn’s Bianca Walton secured silver in 1:36:25.20 while Warringah Aquatic’s Kimberley Dolye received bronze in 1:42:18.33.Revesby Workers’ Abbey Connor showed her talent in the Girls 16-year 7.5km event, taking out the Australian title in 1:40:49.59 ahead of TSS Aquatic’s Caitlin Allred (1:47.40.98) and Hunter’s Heidi Schneider (1:53:07.78). With Allred (NZ) classified as a visitor, Schneider claimed the silver medal as the second fastest Australian and Caitlin Parkinson (2:02:42.22) from Revesby Workers received bronze as the third fastest Australian.

As the fastest finishers in their age group for the Boys and Girls 19-20 year 10km race Cotter, Lee, Jessica Mouatt and Kara Svenson are eligible to be selected on the World Junior Open Water Championships team. Joining them is also Raymond, Rees, Gibbs-Beal and Walton who were the fastest in their age category in the Boys and Girls 16-17 year 7.5km events.

Swimming Australia selection summary:

Next stage of Olympic Qualification to attend Fukuoka selection event:
Kai Edwards (TSS Aquatic, QLD)
Nicholas Sloman (Noosa, QLD)

World Junior Open Water Qualifiers to be ratified next week:
Hayden Cotter (Belgravia, QLD)
Kyle Lee (North Coast, WA)
Jessica Mouatt (Nudgee College, QLD)
Kara Svenson (Bunbury, WA)
Thomas Raymond (Nudgee College, QLD)
Ruben Rees (Miami, QLD)
Finella Gibbs-Beal (Noosa, QLD)
Bianca Walton (Auburn, NSW)

Day final day kicks off at the Oz Ski Resort in Coolum tomorrow morning at 7:30am. To access live race results during the competition, click here.

Jak Wilson and Bailey Armstrong

BOYS AROUND THE BUOY: Jack Wilson (closest to camera) and Bailey Armstrong negotiate a crucial buoy turn at the Oz Ski Resort, Coolum. Photo Courtesy Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Lee and Crisp

SOMETIMES ALL YOU NEED IS A HUG: Kareena Lee (41) and Bianca Crisp after today’s 10k women’s Australian Championship at the Oz Ski Resort, Coolum. Photo Courtesy Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Feedtime for womens i

BOTTLED UP: “That’s Mine..”says Kareena Lee as she reaches for her bottle in today’s 10k women’s race. Photo Courtesy Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Kareena Lee laugh

FUN TIMES: Swimmers all smiles before the start of their 10k race at the Oz Ski Resort, Coolum. Photo Courtesy Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Moesha Johnson

KEEPING HER HEAD ABOVE WATER: TSS Aquatics Moesha Johnson in action at the Oz Ski Resort, Coolum. Photo Courtesy Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

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