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Next generation of open water swimmers aim for Rio

25 July 2015

SWIMMING: Olympic open water swimming nominations will be on the line this week when the next generation of Australian 10km swimmers contest the 2015 World Championships at the spectacular Kazanka River venue in Kazan, Russia.

The men’s 10km race is on Monday with the women to follow on Tuesday and any of the four Australians who finish in the top 10 will receive automatic nomination to the Australian Olympic Team for Rio.

For the last two Olympics in Beijing and London, ironman star Ky Hurst and the unflappable former world champion Mel Gorman have paved the way in the open water.

While Hurst has moved onwards and upwards in surf lifesaving and now as an America’s Cup grinder on Oracle Team USA, Gorman is still very much a part of the Australian Open Water Team and will contest Saturday’s 5km race – the event she won in Rome in 2009.

She will be joined by fellow Queenslander Jess Walker while Queensland-based Victorian Sam Sheppard and Wollongong’s Jarrod Poort will fill the men’s spots while Lee, Walker, Shepherd and Poort will take on the 25 with the 5km team still to be selected.

But there is a new breed on the 10km Olympic distance horizon, led by Hurst’s fellow Kurrawa surf swimmer, 23-year-old George O’Brien, who ended his hero’s reign as the king of the open surf race at this year’s Australian Surf Life Saving Championships.

O’Brien will be joined by fellow surf swimmer from City of Perth in WA, Simon Huitenga while the girls will see Sunshine Coast duo, 21-year-old Kareena Lee from Twin Waters who trains at Mountain Creek and 16-year-old teenage open water dynamo Chelsea Gubecka from Kawana.

Huitenga and Lee both had their first look at the Kazanka River venue, which is not far from the landmark Kazan Kremlin and both were suitably impressed.

“This is quite spectacular with the high diving behind the finish shoot and the grandstands behind the start; it’s quite amazing,” said Huitenga, who was 12th in his 10km FINA World Championship debut two years ago in Barcelona.

“The goal is to lock in a top ten spot for the Games in Rio.

“I have worked (the pressure of) this race into my preparation and I know it’s going to be a bit more pressure than the world’s in Spain two years ago.

“It’s sure to be a lot more intense, everybody has said going off the Shanghai World’s in 2013, the field is going just that little bit harder, they all want that top 10 spot but I’m ready.

“The water was a little bit fresh but it’s not that cold, I’m comfortable, but it’s very dark, you can’t see anything; you are going to have to bring in your skills of looking up and knowing what’s going on around you.

“To be any chance you have to end up at the front using the least amount of energy possible, sitting in that top 5 to 20 position early in the race and making your way through to the leading group on the last lap.”

Lee, who covers over 100km in training under coach Barry Kime, in a heavy week says contesting the 10km on Tuesday means a lot.

“Seeing it’s the first chance we get to make the Olympics; it’s nice to get in there early and try to secure your spot; preparations have been great; I’ve just been doing everything I can; it’s everyone’s dream to make the Olympics,” Lee said.

“It would mean everything, it’s so amazing to represent your country it’s just so special and I just feel so proud to wear the gold cap.

“My goal is to stay up the front, not to lead, not to use up all your energy but stay on the feet of the leaders until the end.”

OPEN WATER PROGRAM

Saturday (July 25):
5km Women: 10am – Melissa Gorman, Jess Walker
5km Men: 1pm – Jarrod Poort, Sam Shepherd

Monday (July 27)
10km Men: Noon – George O’Brien, Simon Huitenga

Tuesday (July 28)
10km Women: Noon – Chelsea Gubecka, Kareena Lee

Thursday (July 30)
5km Teams: (two men and one woman): Noon Team TBA

Saturday (August 1)
25km Men: 8am – Jarrod Poort, Sam Shepherd
25km Women: 8:15am – Jess Walker, Kareena Lee

SWIMMING AUSTRALIA

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