It was a beautiful Saturday morning at Coogee Beach for Round 3 of the WA Open Water Series, which featured all the usual distances from 500m through 5km, but with the added attraction of an elite ‘Eliminator’ race across 5 elimination races of 500m each and a final where $500 in cash was up for grabs. While it was disappointing that the women’s Eliminator race was cancelled ahead of the day, Perth City were absolutely dominant in the men’s Eliminator race taking 5 of the 5 spots up for grabs in the Eliminator final, with 2017 WA Endurance Championship swim winner & 2017 runner-up U/19 Ironman Champion Tom Gallagher recently joining the Perth City stable training under the guidance of Matt Magee. While the Eliminator was running, we also had Olympian and reigning Asian Games and South East Asian Games gold medallist, Heidi Gan taking to the water in the 5km open water race, who was pipped by a couple of young Perth City upstarts, much to the delight of the Perth City President.
The eliminator field was chock-a-block with talent, and there were a couple of very notable casualties in the very first Eliminator round (2 people were eliminated per round). Professional Triathlete, Kenji Nener who represents Australia around the world at Triathlon World Cups as well as Paul Blackbeard, listed as one of the 50 greatest watermen in open water swimming history alongside the likes of Johnny Weismuller and Duke Kahanamoku both fell by the wayside in the first round, a testament to the strength of the field.
As the water churned, one by one other pretenders to the crown were eliminated until new recruit Tommy stood alongside Simon Huitenga, the Rollo brothers and new Perth City captains (Will & Nick), and the affable Indo-Scotsman Andy Donaldson, sans kilt of course which saw him flying through the water. In the final eliminator, ‘Hoots’ raced ahead of the field early, and was never challenged as he showed why he is among the select few in the running for a spot at the Tokyo Olympics, and had the luxury of cantering across the finish line. A battle royal ensued though for the other podium finishes, with Will, Nick and Andy stealing a march on the surf champion. The Rollo brother finally shook loose the flying Scotsman in the final 100m and it was a dash for the number 2 spot which was won by Will, coming in 4 seconds ahead of his sibling! A magnificent domination of the event for City!
The 5km event saw Heidi Gan begin her WA Open water campaign as she sought to blow off the cobwebs after some time out of the water following a successful season earlier in the year which included wins at the Asian Games and South East Asian Games. Taking to the water also were some of the Red Squad young guns, Flynn Mason, Leonardo Rachetti and Rahul Jegatheva. Flynn and Leonardo are gearing up for the Open Water State Championships this weekend followed by Nationals in January in Adelaide, with Rahul targeting the Aquathlon Nationals at Lake Crackenback in NSW in February, followed by the World Championships in Denmark in July. The first half of the race saw a lead pack form early which included the likes of Rottnest Channel veterans, Gareth Evans and Bradley Smith, with Heidi swimming on her own behind the leaders and Leonardo and Rahul about 50-80m adrift. Out of seemingly nowhere in the 2nd half of the race, Leonardo began to absolutely tear through the water with Rahul trying to hang on for dear life. A very brave swim through jellyfish infested waters saw Leonardo pull himself and Rahul alongside Heidi, and both were stunned as they recognised her in the water as they passed their idol on the way to personal bests. Both swimming under 1 hour for the first time and smashing the open water qualifying mark for their age groups by more than 7 minutes. At the final turn to the finish line, Rahul who had been dragged along by Leonardo, found an extra gear, and managed to pip him at the line to claim Silver and Bronze respectively in the U18, 4th and 5th overall, with Flynn Mason just behind. Leonardo had swum the race of his life, with Rahul lucky to be in the right place at the right time.
Heidi took the women’s gold, but no one would have been more delighted than her at how Flynn, Leonardo and Rahul swam.
Bring on the State Championships!