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Open water swimmers vie for Rio spots

23 July 2015

SWIMMING: Australia’s National Open Water swim coach Ron McKeon will deliver a clear message to his charges in the countdown to the start of this weekend’s FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia: “Swim smart and position, position, position.”

The men’s and women five kilometre events will kick start the championships on Saturday followed by the 10km Olympic qualification races, the five kilometre teams event and the traditional 25km marathon.
The Australians have been preparing in the Spanish seaside town of Calella, a small tourist village 40min north of Barcelona, where Australian teams and squads have been coming for a number of years.
“We have had quality training facilities at the Crol Centre Calella, located in Costa de Barcelona only 100m from the beach,” said McKeon, after the team arrived in Kazan yesterday.
“They used the camp to narrow the focus of their training in a relaxed environment, ready to further focus on the tasks ahead in Kazan.
“All credit goes to their home coaches who have prepared them to this point with the team coaches Matt Magee and Michael Sage continuing to bring the best out of these athletes daily.
“We have done a number of open water swims, generally working through some strategies for the 5km teams event.
“The athletes really appreciated the warm and clear waters of the Mediterranean as well as knowing and understanding that the ocean is their playground but also their work place.
“They have really come into their own which is great to see. Our biggest challenge was for the coaches to stay upright in the kayaks as swimmers went through their paces!”
Australia has a team of eight open water swimmers in Kazan – the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan which lies at the confluence of the Volga and Kazanka Rivers in European Russia.
The team is: Women – Melissa Gorman (QLD), Chelsea Gubecka (QLD), Kareena Lee (QLD), Jess Walker (QLD); Men – Simon Huitenga (WA), Jarrod Poort (NSW), George O’Brien (QLD), Sam Shepherd (VIC).
The open water venue will be the Kazanka River embankment with the water area near the historic Kazan Kremlin.
McKeon is a two-time Olympian and former Australian surf lifesaving champion who knows he has a team willing to put it all on the line.
“Our four 5km swimmers, 2009 World Champion Mel Gorman, is a highly experienced and a dual Olympian; Jarrod Poort, fifth in 2015, along with team debutants Sam Sheppard (World Uni Games) and Jess Walker (World Uni Games) will open the competition on Day One,” said McKeon.
“This race will be fast and will go down to who is willing to take the biggest risk. The pace will be quick and all athletes will have limited chances to position themselves to go with the pace. When that opportunity presents, they will need to take it.
“There is no doubt that all eyes are focused on our 10km athletes. WA surf swimmer Simon Huitenga, 12th in 2013 and Chelsea Gubecka 30th in 2013 will along with reigning Australian Open Surf race champion George O’Brien & Kareena Lee (both first time at the world Championships) have their eyes firmly focused on a top 10 finish and automatic Olympic nomination.
“All are capable of achieving that but will need to swim smart races.
“The course is a long out and back race with each length over 1000m with one open 350m turn and one tighter 150m turn.
“All have had experience over a variety of courses over the last two years which should go a long way to embedding their maturing competitive intelligence for any circumstance in the ever changing conditions and strategic options in open water racing.
“When the pack is ready to move at the backend of the race, they will need to go with it. As this is the first qualifier for Rio 2016, the race for top 10 will be fought all the way.
“Whilst all are capable, there is an incredible amount of depth across the field in both the men’s and women’s events.
“Several 10km international events with quality fields over the past two years have the top three within one and two seconds and the top 10 finish within 15sec and tighter.
“Position, Position, Position’ is the key at all stages of the race to ensure you have any chance of getting your hand on the touch pad clean and in the top 10.”

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


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