Former world silver medallist and three-time Australian champion Trent Grimsey will lead an international field heading to Mount Maunganui next month for the State Sand to Surf ocean swim.
Grimsey leads a trio of Australians flying across the Tasman for the penultimate round of the State New Zealand Ocean swim series, still with a chance to pip Rotorua's Kane Radford for the overall honours if he can win at Mount Maunganui and the final round in Auckland.
Joining him are proven Australian open water swimmers Tash Harrison and Michael Sheil, all from the successful Lawnton club, north of Brisbane.
Ocean swim series organiser Scott Rice said the addition of the Australian trio would add real international class to the event at Mount Maunganui on Saturday, March 10.
"One of our over-riding objectives is to help raise the standard of open water, which is now an Olympic sport," Rice said. "Attracting top quality international swimmers provides important competition for our leading swimmers like Kane, who is preparing for the Olympic qualifier in a couple of months.
"We are attracting more and more swimmers from Australia which is encouraging for our series, which is now held in some respect across the Tasman."
Grimsey has just returned from two major swims in Argentina, finishing fifth in the 57km Santa Fe-Coronado Grand Prix but not even dipping a toe in the water at the 88km Herandarias-Parana Grand Prix, which was cancelled because of the weather conditions.
However the Australian won both 1.5km lead-up swims and the replacement 5km swim in the Fina world grand prix series.
An exhausted Grimsey returned home, and within two days headed to Perth for the Australian championships, finishing second in the 5km race.
"I was feeling very run down and swimming our nationals was honestly the last thing I felt like doing. My body was screaming at me for a rest but I had nothing to lose anyway as there were no big teams being picked this year.
"But after a break I have freshened up and I'm looking forward to coming back to New Zealand to race."
Grimsey finished second to Radford in the opening round of the NZ Ocean swim series in Auckland before Christmas.
Harrison, 20, finished third in the Australian 10km championships behind former world champion Melissa Gorman and runner-up in the 5km race, while Sheil was a top-10 finisher in both events.
Rice said he was still finalising the key New Zealand competitors with the Olympic pool trials later next week but was hopeful Radford, Philip Ryan and Lauren Boyle would compete.
Entries are still open for any of the four swims - State Oceankids 200m, Give it Go 300m, Step It Up 1000m and the I'm Going Long 2.6km swim around Rabbit and Moturiki Islands.