Last Man Standing: Aussie Kai Edwards’ Olympic Open Water Journey To Tokyo A Marathon To Savor

Kai feedingpg
FLAGGED FOR SUCCESS: Kai Edwards marathon story is one to behold. Photo Courtesy Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

It is a marathon swimming story of Olympic proportions which will now become an Olympic story of marathon proportions – one that Kai Edwards will savor for the rest of his swimming career after the 22-year-old secured the final berth on the Australian Swim Team for Tokyo.

Edwards is the last and 37th member of the Dolphins team – joining fellow 10km marathon open water combatant, Noosa’s Kareena Lee – who was nominated off the 2019 World Championships and the 35-strong pool team named after last week’s six-day Australian Trials in Adelaide

Kai and Kareena

TOKYO TOGETHER: Marathon pair Kareena Lee and Kai Edwards Photo Courtesy: Swimming Australia.

Edwards, from Queensland Gold Coast’s TSS Aquatic Swim Club, joins club mates – Cameron McEvoy (4x100m freestyle relay) who will be going to his third Games, David Morgan (Rio medley relay bronze medallist) and fellow Games rookies, fellow members of coach Chris Nesbit‘s distance lanes, Maddy Gough (1500m) and Kiah Melverton (800, 1500m).

He had narrowly missed qualification last year for the 2020 Olympic 10km Marathon swimming Trial and was one of six Australians contesting the Fina World Cup in Doha and he missed by just 0.10 – with the first two home staying alive in the cut-throat qualification process – beaten a touch by champion lifesaver and open water swimmer, runner-up in the Australian open surf race Bailey Armstrong.

Armstrong and another champion lifesaver and current Australian Open Belt Race champion Hayden Cotter had landed the right to swim off for Tokyo in the Olympic qualifier in Fukuoka.

Edwards, who had paid his own way to Doha after missing the official Australian team (swimming the Australian Trial after being released from hospital with a viral infection) saw his Olympic dreams seemingly quashed.

He had failed to qualify into the final race to secure Australia’s open water competitor for Tokyo 2020.

But Covid-19 raised its ugly head and the world as we knew it came to a crashing holt –and everything was postponed.

The results from Doha were declared null ‘n void; Fukuoka was postponed as was the Olympics; the Tokyo process would start all over again – the fickle open water swimming gods had shone down on Edwards – giving him one of them a lifeline to Tokyo.

Edwards seized the moment and in the next race it was Edwards and Noosa’s 24-year-old open water and surf race champion Nick Sloman who finished in first and second places in the Australian 10km Championship on the Sunshine Coast in January to step into the next qualification phase.

The pair who had their Olympic dreams shattered last year at the Doha World Cup had lived to swim another day.

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

Kai Edwards buoy

BUOYED: Kai Edwards stroked to be heading to Tokyo. Photo Courtesy: Swimming Australia.

Edwards and Sloman IN Cotter and Armstrong OUT.

It was now onto to the Fina Qualifying race in Setubal, Portugal last weekend – a wetsuit swim in freezing conditions – yet another chapter, with a treasured Olympic blazer the ultimate reward.

Edwards mixed it with a field desperate to make it to Tokyo, giving himself the best possible chance knowing if he finished top nine and beat Sloman his dream would come true – and it did –  securing the final ticket to Tokyo, finishing fifth, with Sloman 15th.

The boy from TSS Aquatic  finished the race just over nine seconds behind race winner Hector Pardoe (GBR), completing the 10km in 2:02:17.30. Meanwhile, Sloman crossed the line with a 2:03:03.60.

Unlike the warm conditions expected in Japan, the race took place in testing cooler conditions with swimmers swapping their traditional racing suits for wetsuits to combat the cold temperatures off the shores of Portugal.

Despite training specifically for this occasion, Edwards described the qualifying event as one of the most strenuous races he has contested with wetsuits in the mix.

“It was so congested the whole way,” Edwards said. “That’s what I expected with a wetsuit swim, and that’s what I trained for. 

“It’s one of the toughest races I’ve ever done, but again, tat’s what I train to do – and I had an army of support all week, so I knew I could get in and get it done.

“The goal was always to be up the front and put myself in a good position from the start of the race, and yeah just swim smart, keep to the game plan, and come home strong.”

Olympic Team Shootout awaits boys

Aussie Open Water Dog Fight

Lessons Learnt As Nick Sloman Turns Tables on Kai Edwards

Competitive Mateship

Getting A Taste Of Tokyo

Edwards now joins Lee as 10km marathon swimmers bound for their debut Olympic Games in Japan.

The two swimmers join the 35 pool swimmers who qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games at last week’s 2021 Australian Swimming Trials at the SA Aquatic & Leisure Centre in Adelaide.

The pair will join previous Olympic 10km marathon swimmers Ky Hurst and Melissa Gorman (Beijing, 2008 and London, 2012) and Jarrod Poort and Chelsea Gubecka (Rio 2016) as the fifth and sixth Olympic marathon swimmers -with anotherbchapter to play out in Tokyo on August 5. The Olympic Games  will be conducted from July 23 to August 2021, with Marathon swimming scheduled for August 4 and 5.

Ky Hurst

KING KY: Australia’s open water an surf racing king, two-time Olympian Ky Hurst. Photo Courtesy: Harvie Allison

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.