A transtasman battle of the sexes will resume tomorrow in round three of the State Ocean Swim Series in Wellington, dubbed the Capital Classic.
In round two at the Bay of Islands, the 2009 world champion Melissa Gorman was the overall winner of the race, becoming the first female in the history of the series to beat all the men home.
The Australian Gorman is back again in an effort to repeat the feat as she continues with her preparations for the London Olympics, having qualified after finishing fourth in last year's world championships in the 10km open water swim.
However, this time the remarkable Queenslander will be met with a sterner challenge from a strengthened men's field that includes Rotorua's Kane Radford, who is fresh off qualifying for the final Olympic qualifier in Portugal when he won the New Zealand open water title in Taupo last week.
There's also a strong group of Kiwi men and a top-rated Australian, George O'Brien.
Gorman is under no illusions that it will be a tougher task in Wellington on Sunday.
"Kane is a world-class open water swimmer so he will definitely be tough to beat," said Gorman.
"My money's on him to take out the race but, in saying that, on a good day I can mix it with the boys, so I'd never count myself out."
Radford rates Gorman highly but remains confident of crossing the line ahead of his female counterpart.
"Mel's definitely a classy swimmer; she's always up there with the boys in these kinds of races, but I should be able to finish before her," he said.
It won't only be Gorman who will provide the challenge for Radford.
The Swimming New Zealand High Performance Centre swimmer, coached by Mark Regan, will face all of the leading Kiwis who tested him at the national championships last weekend.
Leading that challenge will be Australian George O'Brien, 21, who set the open water community alight when he set a race record on his way to winning the famed Waikiki Roughwater Challenge in Honolulu last September.
Leading the Kiwi charge is Auckland-based Jonathan Pullon (Waterhole) who finished strongly in Taupo to secure the second Kiwi spot to the Olympic qualifier in Portugal.
Others likely to be threats include the 2011 national 10km open water winner Phillip Ryan (Waterhole) and the 2010 national 10km title winner Casey Glover (Capital).
Olympic pool aspirants Daniel Bell and Steven Kent will also spice up the talented field.
The main focus for Radford is the Olympic qualifier in June so he is using the Capital Classic as an important part of his preparation for that.
He believes the strong opposition will offer further important race practice.
"I've got a chance to get out there and swim in the open water and have a good race," Radford said.
"You're always learning new stuff in every open water swim you do."
Gorman, chasing her third straight win in New Zealand this summer, is using these events as a competitive method of training towards her goal of a medal at the London Olympics.
"Getting in some good race practice gives you that extra little bit of confidence and a chance to fine-tune your skills," she said.
"It's really about finding the right balance between training and racing so that come race day you know you're 100 per cent prepared."
She and Radford are no strangers in top open water events. They were the respective winners in last year's celebrated and lucrative Tiburon Mile in San Francisco.
The State Capital Classic is not only for elite athletes. It will host more than 900 swimmers of a vast range of ages and abilities who will each compete in one of four available distances at the event.
Amongst the splashing will be broadcaster Kerre Woodham and some Hurricanes Super 15 rugby players led by former All Black Jason Eaton, who will use the event as a pre-season hit out.
Swimming key to health and happiness
Among the 900 swimmers plunging into Wellington Harbour tomorrow in the State Capital Classic Swim is an Aucklander who has changed his life by taking up serious swim training less than a year ago.
Gerard Elwell, a university lecturer from Mt Eden, has lost more than 25kg by swimming and says his asthma has also improved dramatically with his increased fitness.
"Looking down the barrel of 40, I wanted to shift some serious kilos and increase my fitness and swimming has been the perfect thing," he said.
"I feel so much healthier and happier."
Elwell is still basking in the glory of a silver medal win in his age group (40-49yrs) at the State Epic Swim in Taupo on January 15.
Ocean swim series event director Scott Rice has been impressed by his dedication and determination. "It's no secret swimming is a great way to keep fit and lose a few stubborn kilos.
"What many people aren't aware of is the far-reaching general health benefits of which Gerard's a prime example."
Kevin Hughes, general manager of State Personal Insurance, said: "Gerard's achievement is outstanding and we'll be cheering for him on Sunday along with all the swimmers taking part in the State Capital Swim."
Elwell will rub shoulders in the 3.3km event with some of Australasia's top ocean swimmers, including race favourites Queenslander Melissa Gorman who has already secured a spot in the Australian Olympic team and Kiwi Kane Radford.
State Capital Classic
"I'm Going Long" 3.3km - 9am
State OceanKids 200m - 11am
"Give It A Go" 300m - 11.25am
"Step It Up" 1000m - 11.30am