Noosa teammates Kareena Lee and Nick Sloman have claimed back-to-back titles and gold medals in the Women’s and Men’s 10km Open events at Brighton Beach on the first day of the Australian Open Water Swimming Championships.
Clocking a time of 2:02:28.35, the victory marks Lee’s second consecutive national title, while for Sloman (1:55:49.63) it represents his third in a row – reinforcing the duo’s dominance in Australia’s open water swimming scene.
Kicking off the opening events of the day was the Men’s 10km Open and Boys 18-19-year race. In a hot field, around 60 competitors from around Australia and the world took to the water.
Although Sloman took the national title as the fastest Australian, he placed third overall, with reigning Olympic champion, Ferry Weertman from the
Netherlands, crossing the line first in a time of 1:55:45.24, while America’s Jordan Wilimovsky placed second in 1:55:49.46.
With international competitors unable to secure titles at the national event, Perth City’s Nicholas Rollo (seventh overall) claimed silver in 1:57:20.90 as the second fastest local and TSS Aquatic’s Riley Clout (eighth overall) snared bronze in 1:57:41.57 as the third fastest Australian in the Open race.
At the halfway mark of the 10km races tactics were in full swing as Hayden Cotter (Belgravia), Bailey Armstrong (Kawana Waters) and reigning world champion Wilimovsky, led the pack. However, as the finish line crept closer Weertman and Sloman made their move and powered home to finish top three.
In the Boys 19-year-old 10km race it was Cotter who rose to the occasion in 1:55:58.93 to prevail with the national title. Cotter, who made his Dolphins debut at last year’s World Championships in South Korea, placed ahead of surprise packet Jack Wilson (North Coast WA) who touched for silver in 1:57:13.62 and Matthew Galea (SOPAC) who recorded 1:58:07.06 to secure bronze.
Hong Kong’s William Thorley clocked a time of 1:58:09.78 in the Boys 18-year-old 10km race to place first, however Manly’s Logan Kaye – as the first fastest Australian in 2:01:18.45 – took home the top honour. Bunbury’s Kyle Lee received silver in 2:02:35.37 while Nicholas Middleton from Revesby Workers took bronze in 2:03:34.53.
There was plenty at stake in the men’s 10km races with four athletes selected by Swimming Australia to advance in the Olympic selection process. As the four fastest Australians across both Open and 18-19-year categories, Sloman, Cotter, Wilson and Rollo will progress to the next qualifying event – the Marathon Swim World Series in Doha which takes place in three weeks.
It was a nail-biting finish in the Women’s 10km Open, with just under two seconds separating the top three finishers. Similarly to the men’s race, while Lee received the coveted national title, the 26-year-old Olympic qualifier placed second overall, touching milliseconds behind rival US Olympic qualifier, Haley Anderson (2:02:28.05). Anderson’s teammate Ashley Twichell, who will also represent America in Tokyo, placed third in 2:02:29.88. Yeronga Park’s Chelsea Gubecka (2:02:31.17), who pulled on the green and gold at the World Championships last year and narrowly missing the Olympic qualification, took the silver as the second fastest Australian, while TSS Aquatic’s Bianca Crisp (2:02:35:83) bagged bronze as the third fastest Australian across the line.
Gubecka’s sister Chloe (Kawana Waters) competed in the Girls 18-year-old race and took the spoils in 2:04:41.34, ahead of New Zealand’s Ashleigh Allred (2:08:19.25) and Pelican Waters’ Ella Wassing (2:13:56.74). Gubecka’s Kawana Waters’ teammate Chloe Johnson received bronze as the third fastest Australian to finish the line, touching in 2:14:50.20.
In the Girls 19-year-old race Mackenzie Brazier (2:02:35.19) from Kawana Waters charged home to beat out Sydney Uni’s Frances Shires (2:07:51.95) who finished second and Nudgee College’s Jessica Mouatt (2:11:09.81).
The final two events of the day were the Girls and Boys 16-17-years 7.5km races.
Miami’s Ruben Rees won the 17-year-old category in 1:28:48.61 to edge out Nudgee College’s Thomas Raymond who clocked 1:28:50.85 for silver and Kawana Waters’ Kolby Gubecka – the brother of Chelsea and Chloe – who touched for bronze in 1:31:48.80. Meanwhile in the 16-year-old category, it was Carlile’s Robert Thorpe who raced home for gold in a time of 1:31:50.91. Caleb Dryer from Trinity Grammar grabbed silver in 1:32:11.14 and Bunbury’s Kaiden Richings placed third for bronze in 1:33:54.32.
Miami also took the spoils in the Girls 17-year-old event, with Sara Tazaki – who won the 16-year-old category last year – placing on top of the podium in a dramatic finish. Clocking a time of 1:39:32.61 saw her narrowly touch ahead of Belgravia’s Piper Sanderson (1:39:34.57) and New Zealand’s Naia Anderson (1:39:40.46). As the third fastest Australian, Revesby Workers’ Hayley Rowlands won bronze (1:39:53.84). In the 16-year-old category Noosa’s Finella Gibbs-Beal showed her class to claim gold in 1:35:00.66, more than three seconds ahead of Narrabeen’s Tiffany Walsh 1:38:49.25 and Yeronga Park’s Jacqueline Davison-McGovern (1:38:56.19), who received silver and bronze respectively.
As the first and second placegetters in the Boys and Girls 18-19 10km event, Cotter, Wilson, Brazier and Chloe Gubecka have qualified to represent Australia at the World Junior Open Water Championships this August in the Seychelles. Joining the eight-athlete team is also Rees, Raymond, Gibbs-Beal and Walsh who all finished top two in the Boys and Girls 16-17-year 7.5km races.
Swimming Australia Selection Summary:
Next stage of Olympic Qualification to attend Marathon Swim Series in Doha:
Nick Sloman (Noosa)
Hayden Cotter (Belgravia)
Jack Wilson (North Coast WA)
Nicholas Rollo (Perth City)
World Junior Open Water Qualifiers:
Hayden Cotter (Belgravia)*
Jack Wilson (North Coast WA)*
Chloe Gubecka (Kawana Waters)
Mackenzie Brazier (Kawana Waters)
Ruben Rees (Miami)
Thomas Raymond (Nudgee College)
Finella Gibbs-Beal (Noosa)
Tiffany Walsh (Narrabeen)
*The opportunity to make the Olympic team may impact their selection for the World Junior Open Water Championships, this will be determined pending results from Doha.
Day two action kicks off at Brighton Beach in Adelaide tomorrow morning at 7:30am. To access live race results during the competition, click here for open results and here for age results, while you can view the program here.