Swimming: Kiwis know they must improve to keep pace with Aussies

By Peter Thornton

Photo / Simon Watts
Photo / Simon Watts

New Zealand's best open water swimmers are philosophical after conceding the recent State New Zealand Ocean Swim series to Australians, but still have much to look forward to in 2013.

Australia's double Olympians Ky Hurst and Melissa Gorman proved too classy with each winning three races in the six-race series and claiming the overall winner's prize of $20,000 each, the richest prize in the history of New Zealand swimming.

And there are no excuses from New Zealand men's No1 Kane Radford, who finished second behind Hurst. He realises he still has work to do and isn't blaming a mid-season health scare, when he had his appendix removed.

"It's been a very mixed summer for me," he said. "Overall I can look back and be semi-happy."

Radford, 22, views the season as a rebuilding year, a chance to get re-motivated after failing to qualify for last year's Olympic Games in London.

New Zealand women's No1 Cara Baker, 22, is in a similar mindset after the series. She also failed to qualify for the Olympics, and won just one of the four races she competed in.

After trailing New Plymouth's Charlotte Webby for much of the series, Baker overtook her to finish second behind Gorman, thanks to a solid performance in the last race, the King of the Bays.

"Training has been up and down for quite a while with travelling and racing but I know I am fit from swimming the ocean swim series," Baker said. "I really went from strength to strength and learnt from my mistakes each race."

One event now looms for both Baker and Radford as being crucial for their futures, July's Fina World Championships in Barcelona.

The pair qualified in superb style at January's New Zealand Open Water Championships, both winning the 5km and 10km races on Lake Taupo. Two other New Zealanders Phillip Ryan and Emma Robinson also qualified.

Radford is very keen to make an impression and he's aiming to be at the peak of his form.

"It is the pinnacle event for me this year" he said. "Hopefully I can have a massive hit out there, to increase my world ranking and get some more experience heading into Rio 2016."

Baker admits she also has some hard work ahead of her to prepare for what will be a busy week in Barcelona. She, Radford and Ryan will also swim in a 5km teams race, which will be a first for New Zealand.

So between now and July, both will be training, training, training, readying themselves for what will be the biggest test in their careers.

"Open water is all about tactics, being smart and preparing yourself for a girl fight out in that water," Baker said. "It's all going to come down to the last 1k sprint."

- NZ Herald

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