We’ve all been there. Relaxing on the beach in sunny climes, nothing could be further from your mind than work. But when you’re an elite marathon swimmer, and the beach you’re lying on is 50 metres from the start line of the 5km Australian Open Water Swimming Championship, it probably pays to be a little bit less chilled out.
As the 99 starters in the race made their way from Mooloolaba Beach to the deep water start, Team GB’s Jack Burnell was still sitting in the announcer’s tent. The starting signal was sounded as Burnell was still swimming towards the start line, some 20 metres behind the rest of the field.
“I think I was a little too relaxed today,” said Burnell, who qualified for the Rio Olympics at the 2015 World Championships in Kazan.
“I was still swimming towards the start line when the field set off but I knew I had time to catch up…”
And catch up he did. The lead was initially shared between Burnell’s teammate Caleb Hughes and Australians Rhys Mainstone and Jarrod Poort before Burnell, Richard Weinberger (Canada) and Yasunari Hirai (Japan) broke away from the pack for a three-man sprint finish. Burnell touched first in 56.01.03, Hirai second in 56:01.37 and Weinberger third in 56.01.51. Mainstone was the first Australian and national champion in 56.04.39.
In the women’s race the Chelsea Gubecka took gold and Kareena Lee silver. The podium was completed by Kiah Melverton.
Burnell also competed in the 10km Open Water Australian Swimming Championships, held the previous day. As well as assembling a strong international field, the Championships were also a qualifier for the Australian national squad for the final Olympic qualifying race in Setúbal, Portugal, in June.
In the men’s race Burnell finished second to Jordan Wilimovsky (USA), while Jarrod Poort (Australia) took bronze and secured his place at Setúbal.
“It was so good having all the internationals here, adding a touch of class to this race and with the Australians providing a race within the race,” said Poort.
In the women’s race, Australians Chelsea Gubecka and Kareena Lee took bronze and silver while Japan’s Yumi Kida completed the podium. Gubecka and Lee will now both compete in Setúbal.