The Australian Dolphins Swim Team has finished off its’ Pan Pacs campaign in flying colours at Hojo Beach, Tateyama today with Noosa duo Kareena Lee and Nick Sloman adding silver and bronze medals respectively in the 10km open water marathon.
It bolstered Australia’s overall medal tally to 29 – eight gold, 13 silver and eight bronze medals after a successful four-day pool campaign.
Lee, fresh from her fourth place in the 1500m in the pool on Sunday night, and Rio Olympian Chelsea Gubecka were quick to mix it with the best in the world from the US, Canada, Brazil and Japan through the five lap two-kilometre course.
The two girls took it to the field throughout the first nine kilometres – always in and around the front pack before the moves started to come – in a race that wasn’t as quick as predicted through the early stages.
US Olympic silver medallist from London and two-time Fina World Champion over 5km, Hayley Anderson (2:08.24.8) proved too quick over the final kilometre and it was Lee (2:08.26.0) who also stormed home for her best ever international performance to take the silver with celebrated Brazilian Ana Marce Cunha the bronze in 2:08.27) and Gubecka (2:08.38.3) a brave and close up seventh.
“It means a lot…it’s my first major international open water medal apart from the World Cup (bronze),” said Lee, who has blossomed under the coaching of master mentor John “JR” Rodgers at Noosa Aquatic Centre.
“I’m really happy and just shows that the training is paying off and that’s what’s really important.
“There is no doubt you have to be always thinking on your feet (during the race); it’s very tactical and you have to stick to what you know you can do.
“The pace wasn’t (quite as fast) as it usually is, that’s why I put myself up the front, to keep the arms rolling over and not to get into too much of a slow pace.
“I was able to conserve enough energy to bring it home in the end, that’s something that I haven’t be able to do in the past and that’s really exciting to do that today….and I was happy to get as close as I did to Hayley (Anderson) today – she’s noted as one of the best in the world.”
Another Rodgers squad member, Sloman, made his debut in the Australian cap and was in the hunt all day but in the end former World Champion and Rio Olympian Jordan Wilimovsky and Canada’s No 1 Eric Hedlin, a former World Championship silver medallist over 5km, turned it into a two horse race for the major medals – until Wilimovsky showed all his class in the end.
And 20-year-old Sloman, only inducted into the Dolphins squad for the first time last week – receiving Australian Pin No 799, slugged it out with South American pair Salgad Endrica (Equador) and Allan Do Carmo (Brazil) to take the bronze in a frantic finish.
Wilimovsky, who won the 1500m freestyle in the pool in the opening day of the pool events in Tokyo, added his second gold in 1 hour 58 mins 50secs from Hedlin (1:58.56) and Sloman (1:59.20).
Sloman has his sights on returning to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics – joining Ky Hurst and Jarrod Poort as the only two men to represent Australia in Open Water since it was introduced in Beijing in 2008.
Sloman, the 2018 Australian 10km and Open National surf race and 2km champion, said he was “really proud to get the bronze.”
“Such nice conditions out there; a little choppy and that’s exactly what I’m used to,” said Sloman.
“It started out pretty cruisey and it was really building up towards the end there.
“I’m racing the best in the world like Jordan who is so good in the pool so he’s got good pace and Eric Hedlin who really showed what he was capable of at the Australian open water Championships this year – it’s a good stepping stone for me towards 20-20.
“I’m really looking forward to the future…it’s been a really hard, tough journey, especially these last 12 months – it’s good to show my coach JR and mum and dad who are both here supporting me…it means the world them being here…I really appreciate it.”
It is another major triumph for 80-year-old Rodgers who first represented Australia as a coach over 40 years ago – attending the 1972 Munich Games before producing a string of Olympians including Graeme Brewer, Ron McKeon and Max Metzker, amongst others out of the Maroubra Swim Club at Heffron Park.
And in typical “JR” fashion there will be no rest for both Lee and Sloman who will line up in the Queensland State Short Course Championships at the Sleeman Aquatic Centre – Lee in the 400, 800 and 1500m freestyle and Sloman in the 400 and 1500m.