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The start of something extraordinary

Top competition boost for Olympic open water swim qualifier

The appearance of some top rating Australians, led by world champion Melissa Gorman, should ensure international quality racing for this weekend’s crucial Olympic open water swimming qualifier in Taupo.

The State New Zealand Open Water 10km Championship to be staged in Taupo on Saturday doubles as the qualifying event for the London Olympics.

It forms part of the two-day State Epic Swim in Lake Taupo, a range of elite and New Zealand Masters Championship races and recreational events that have attracted approximately 500 entries for the weekend.

The centrepiece is the 10km championship on Saturday where the first two New Zealand swimmers in both men’s and women’s competition will progress to the June’s final Olympic qualifying event in Portugal.

New Zealand’s leading open water swimmers, Cara Baker and Kane Radford, are pleased the Australians are racing which they believe will ensure the pace will be world class.

Leading the way is 2009 open water 5km world champion Melissa Gorman who has already qualified for next year’s Olympic Games with her fourth placing at last year’s world championships.

The 26 year old Queenslander made her debut across the Tasman in last month’s State New Zealand Ocean Swim event in Paihia where she not only beat Baker, but also all the men in that event.

“For me these races play a pretty big part in my preparations for London, said Gorman.

“My focus is primarily on training over the next six months, so these swims will provide the perfect opportunity for me to get in some good race practice.”

There’s added incentive with a $5000 winners-take-all prize purse for both men’s and women’s winners, although Baker is not getting side-tracked in that respect.

“The first thing for me is to get the job done and get in the top two to get to Portugal,” said Baker.

“I don’t want to have a race that is not competitive. What I am trying to learn and put into practice is how to race at a world class level so I don’t want it to be slow and tactical. That won’t be the case with Melissa in the field.

“No doubt Melissa needs a 10km race and it will be part of her assessing her preparations. It is going to be a good strong race and obviously that’s what we need as well. We need international swimmers to come over provide such good competition.”

Baker, along with fellow Queensland-based kiwi Charlotte Webby will be the favourites for the top spots among the New Zealanders, while Radford, who won the Australian 5km title last year, will battle with leading kiwis Casey Glover (Capital, Wellington), Phillip Ryan (Waterhole, Auckland) and Stefan Talbot (Howick Pakuranga) in the men’s race.

They will have plenty of competition in the form of FINA World Cup winner Trent Grimsey and fellow Australian Josh Richardson.

Most of the elites will also contest the 5km championship on the Sunday.