Nick Sloman Headlines Dolphins Six-Pack For Doha – The Next Olympic Stop To Tokyo

Nick Sloman swimming
NICK IN TIME: Noosa's Nick Sloman, one of six Australians heading to Doha as Olympic selection hots up. Photo Courtesy: Swimming Australia (Delly Carr)

Noosa’s three-time Australian 10km open water champion Nick Sloman will headline a six-strong group of Australians to Doha next month.

They will contest the 2020 Marathon Swim World Series Event on February 15 –the next stop on the road to Tokyo Olympic selection.

It’s a big deal – the top two from Doha make it to Fukuoka in May to swim for the lone spot for the Games and to become only the third Australian man (joining legendary waterman Ky Hurst 2008 and 2012 and the man who captivated a nation with his front-running tactics in 2016), Jarrod Poort to represent in the marathon swim introduced in Beijing in 2008 – and to join Noosa’s Kareena Lee in the Olympic Class of 2020.

Sloman showed he could mix it with the best of the best in Brighton, SA on Saturday, Sloman finishing third behind Olympic champion Ferry Weertman (NED) and former World Champion Jordan Wilimovsky (USA) in the helter-skelter Australian Championships.

Nick Sloman before race

FOCUSED: Nick Sloman before the Australian 10km Championship. Photo Courtesy: Swimming Australia (Delly Carr).

It earnt Sloman and three other youngsters 21-year-old Nicholas Rollo (Perth City) and 19-year-olds Hayden Cotter (Belgravia) and Jack Wilson (West Coast WA) selection on the Australian team.

Cotter, now a three-time Pier-to-Pub winner and top 10 finisher from last year’s World’s over 5km, was fifth home, with WA boys Wilson seventh and Rollo ninth putting their hands up to herald in some new names in the mix.

They clocked the four fastest times of the day from the Open and 18/19 years Age events that attracted 62 starters for the eight x 1.25km laps off the Brighton Jetty.

But they will also now be joined by two members of the Australian World Championship team from Korea, last year, Queensland lads most likely, in Bailey Armstrong (Kawana) and Kai Edwards (TSS Aquatic) who didn’t have the best of outings but who will live to keep their Olympic dreams alive – at their own expense.

The pair will self fund their trips to contest the Doha race where the first two Australians will earn that right to swim for a place on the Australian Olympic Team for Tokyo at the Olympic qualifier in Fukuoka on May 30/31.

Edwards and Armstrong were top 10 finishers in the Worlds last year over 25km and 5km respectively with Edwards the top placed Australian in the 10km but they were outside the automatic top four qualification for Australians on Saturday.

For Edwards, it was touch and go whether he would even race the event after falling ill just three days earlier in Adelaide, his coach Chris Nesbit revealing to Swimming World that he was quite concerned for his young charge.

“Under the circumstances he did pretty well actually…I was proud of the way he swam…so he will look to self fund and we’ll prepare him for Doha, so all is not lost…he’s a tough kid..one of the toughest I’ve ever coached,” said Nesbit, who will now withdraw Edwards from the Swimming Australia Distance Camp in Brisbane, starting Wednesday.

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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.

Swimming Australia’s Performance Manager for Open Water, Greg Shaw said: “In open water you have good races and not so good races and both Bailey and Kai didn’t have the races they wanted to so they will get another chance to race by self funding to the Doha race.

“That means we will have six fighting for those two positions which is a healthy position to be in.

“That pressure makes everyone better and the swimmer who eventually gets the spot, whether it be finishing in the top nine or qualifying through Oceania (that we hope they will be able to secure in the Fukuoka race), it will mean that that athlete is truly world class; it’s not going to be an easy process.

“It is good to see someone like Nichloas Rollo who has been chipping away in Perth for a little while to step up and fight for that position and for young Jack Wilson, also from WA to step up into a senior role.

“Jack still has a lot of development to go as a 19-year-old and he’s not the same 19-year-old as Hayden Cotter is for example but he definitely has the potential and he and his coach Ian Mills have done a terrific job in his development.”

For Sloman and his coach John Rodgers, who suffered a serious heart attack on the eve of last year’s World Championships, they have unfinished business.

Things are very much on track and “JR” is too after making a remarkable recovery and is back on deck coaching and guiding both Lee (on the Tokyo team) and Sloman who has revealed to Swimming World he wasn’t really fully prepared for his crack at the World’s and the automatic Olympic nomination race in Yeosu, Korea – with lessons learnt.

“JR wasn’t there, I didn’t really have the feeding that I should have, it was a really fast race so I wanted to make sure I was in contention and I missed a couple of feeds and that probably wasn’t the right decision, so I made sure this time, I got my nutrition in,” said Sloman, who fed on the early laps.

“Especially going the distance from the buoy to the pontoon I wanted to make sure I fed early rather than later especially as Jordan (Wilimovsky) was putting so much pace on, I had to make sure I was in contention still, but also getting that nutrition into me.

“I talked to my nutritionist to make sure I had the right in-take for that last feed (and a super-mix) at the 5km mark.

“You can really tell, at World’s I missed that feed and it cost me the race really so I had to make sure I got that nutrition in today.

“I also know that the likes of World 1500 and 10km Champion Florian Wellbrock and Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri can swim in the 14:30s for 1500 so I have to make sure I can compete with them.

“My speed in the pool is going to have to increase and that’s what I’m working on while but also making sure open water is my focus.

“I love racing the big fellas and I know I’m capable of keeping up with them and it’s more of a challenge.”

OPEN WATER FEEDING FRENZY GWANGJU

FEEDING FRENZY: The 10km feeding factor becoming more and more important and playing a key tactical role in race outcomes.Photo Courtesy: Swimming Australia (Delly Carr).

Shaw, himself the Sports Nutrition lead with Swimming Australia and Sports Dietician with the AIS for 10 years, says the feeding factor was becoming more and more important and playing a key tactical role in race outcomes.

“We always thought it would be important and we always thought it would be important from a tactical perspective, “said Shaw.

“It’s not so much a specific product or a specific ingredient that is going to be the tactical difference or the difference between winning and losing, but it definitely seems to be whether you feed on the course or have the ability to feed on the course or from the pontoon can be a tactical difference now.

“We have seen the French use it as a weapon at certain times within the race; to push the pace as people feed.

“In the men’s 10km race from a course setting perspective the buoys were a bit further away from the feed pontoon and that then makes people make decisions whether they are going to go in for a feed or not because you have to swim a little bit further to make the decision.

“It’s good to see that people like Nick have matured in a way they approach a race and are ready for any eventuation in the race.

“So if they come back with three gels still on board and they have been able to feed off the pontoon that’s great having that up your sleeve.

“To be able to be adaptable and maintain your race plan within other people’s race tactics, that’s very important so it’s good to see those guys embracing that, being proactive with identifying opportunities.

“It’s easy for me to talk about it but until people experience it and kind of embrace it it’s just words.”

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