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Gutsy Gubecka finishes 9th in World Championships 10km

17 July 2017

SWIMMING: On a calm summers day at Lake Balaton for the 17th FINA World Championships, 62 women battled it out for the 10km open water title.

The pace was set early by France’s Aurelie Muller who led from start to finish, creating a game of ‘catch me if you can’ for the rest of the field.

 Australia's Chelsea Gubecka and Kareena Lee hung on tight, keeping up with the lead pack and the speed of the laps for the majority of the race.

It was not the style of race they were used to but that wasn’t going to keep Gubecka and Lee out of contention.

Maintaining a top ten place past each timing gate, Gubecka said she knew she was swimming at threshold pace but was determined to stick with the leaders.

“Yeah it was definitely tough, the pace was just on from the 2.5km mark, so I basically swum 7.5km at a threshold pace which is unheard of in open water swimming,” Gubecka said.

It was Muller who eventually grabbed the gold after leading for the entire race, clocking a time of 2:00:13.7. Ecuador’s Samantha Arevalo (2:00:17.0), a dual Olympian from 2012 and 2016 was a clear second while the fight was on for third, with Arianna Bridi and Ana Marcella Cunha finishing equal third in 2:00:17.2.

With 400 metres to go Gubecka stormed home to finish ninth overall in 2:00:30.0, just 16.3 seconds off the winners pace. 

“I heard the French swimmer that won the race, she lead for the whole way, so she definitely turned on the pace quite early, which strung out the field and separated the pack and I was so excited to not lose them and still be there for the finish,” Gubecka said.

“This is my third worlds and I have improved; I started off at 30th, moved up to 13th and now ninth, so I’ve finally cracked the top ten,” Gubecka said.

Looking towards the future, Gubecka said she knew what she needed do to continue her rise up the ranks.

“Maybe open water is changing a little bit, maybe I need to work on being able to hold a high speed over a longer distance… we don’t get to race these girls often, but when we do we know the pace is on,” Gubecka said.

Gubecka’s coach Michael Sage echoed the swimmers sentiment, that the pace was certainly on.

“I thought that was one of the toughest races that she has raced at an international competition,” Sage said.

"The pace didn’t really change which did surprise us, but we did train for different situations and I think that showed when she was able to keep up with the lead pack and unfortunately we just didn’t have that last gear that would have seen us finish in the medals.”

Lee, who was 19th in today’s race, also improved on her placing from 2015, hitting the timing gate in 2:02:08.1.

“That was one better than two years ago, so I guess I’ve improved,” Lee joked.

“It was a good race, it felt pretty fast the whole way…I would have liked to go a bit better but I can’t be too disappointed with that. I felt from the second lap that everyone just took off, so I was left trying to catch the whole way which was a bit annoying and not normally how that happens.”

Lee will now turn her focus to the 5km event where she expects the speed to once again be on early.

“It’s different tactics for the 5km, you just kind of have to go from the start in that!” Lee said.

On Saturday, Rio 2016 Olympain Jack McLoughlin made his major international debut in open water. In the fast-paced 5km race, the Olympic 1500m swimmer did his best to hold on to the pack and maintained a strong position throughout the race.

The 22 year-old was 23rd overall in a time of 55:05.8, just 34 seconds off the eventual winner, France’s Marc Olivier (54.31.4). Italy’s Mario Sanzullio snuck into second place with 54:32.1 with Timothy Shuttleworth from Great Britain rounding out the top three in 54:42.1 with a fairly evenly placed pack following behind.

McLoughlin said he had hoped to do better but had taken a lot of learnings from that race.

“It was okay, there was a bit of rough and tumble out there, I didn’t go as well as I had hoped, but it is the first one so I’ve got to take what I get – it was good experience and that’s what I’m here for,” McLoughlin said.

“To learn how to swim straight was a main learning. Sometimes I found myself swimming really wide and I was kind of out of the pack and found it hard to catch back up, swerving a lot, and not conserving energy for that sprint back home.

“It was good to test the waters out! I definitely think the pool is the main go, but the open water is always there, and if it takes me that way I’ll give it a go,” he said.

McLoughlin will head into Budapest on July 20, where he will take on the 800 and 1500m freestyle events.

He said he was thrilled with the news the men’s 800m freestyle event, along with mixed relays and the 1500m freestyle event for women, would now be included on the Olympic program for Tokyo 2020.

“I’m really excited that the 800 has been included! Me and my coach Vince were trying to get a second event internationally – that’s why we kind of tested out the water in the 5km event.

“But with that 800 coming in, it really opens the door for me for another pool event so I’m really excited to try and get a second individual event under my belt,” McLoughlin said.

The open water swimmers have a break tomorrow and then Jack Brazier will take to the water on Tuesday for the men’s 10km race.

Swimming Australia

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