A Kiwi link more than 5000kms away is the key to the reinvigorated open water swim hopes of Rotorua’s Kane Radford.
The 23 year old swimmer is back from his training base in Western Australia to chase his third straight national title at the State New Zealand Open Water Championship in Taupo this weekend.
Radford is bringing good form with him for the championships with the added incentive of the Oceania Open Water title also up for grabs in the crystal clear waters of Lake Taupo.
It is a stepping stone for the Rotorua swimmer, who is pushing hard to get with the in-crowd on FINA’s 10km World Cup circuit this year, and also wants to swim well in August’s Pan Pacific Championships on the Gold Coast.
Radford missed out on qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics and he sees the World Cup circuit as crucial to his chances of making it to Rio.
That’s why he jumped at the opportunity to move to Perth to train under New Zealand-born coach Mel Tantrum at the acclaimed Uniswim club in Perth.
Tantrum trains a raft of leading open water swimmers including current Australian No 1 Rhys Maidstone while Japan’s top ranked Yusunari Hirai, who is competing in Taupo, is in her squad.
”There are us three guys and a young girl Sacha Downing who has made her first Australian team,” Radford said.
“It’s pretty unique to have four international open water swimmers in one group. I have not been in a better training environment where I am able to pit myself against world class open water swimmers every day of the week.”
Radford had met Tantrum several times in regular trips to compete across the Tasman.
“When the opportunity came to join her group I jumped at it. It is the same type of culture as New Zealand so it’s been easy to fit in.”
Radford faces some tough competition at the weekend in Australia’s Ridge Grimsey, the third of the famed Australian brothers who have all fought many battles with the New Zealander.
Hirai, Australia’s Josh Richardson and Samoa’s Brandon Schuster complete the international competition, while Radford’s fellow New Zealand teammates in the Oceania battle, Philip Ryan (Waterhole, Auckland) and Troy Balvert (St Peters, Cambridge) will also be chasing top spot.
“It is always difficult with our nationals so close to Christmas because you want to take time out with family and friends. So it’s sometimes challenging to get the training in but I am coming in good form and ready to have a really good hit out,” Radford said.
While he is chasing his third straight victory at Taupo, his main focus is making the World Cup circuit.
“That is an absolute must for me to be able to race the best in the world on a regular basis. The top five guys in the world were all on this circuit. To race them six or seven times in a year is going to be a vital part of my development if I want to qualify and compete strongly at the Rio Olympics.”
That aside his pinnacle event will be the Pan Pacific Championships on the Gold Coast in August.
Downing, fellow Australians Leah Cutting, Elizabeth Bellis and Alice Whiley along with South Africa’s Sasha-Lee Nordengen will provide a stern test for the Kiwis in the women’s race.
New Zealand’s Oceania team is led by the experienced Charlotte Webby (AquaBladz, Taranaki) along with Bridget Maher (Waterhole, Auckland) and Courtney Carson (Swim Zone, Wellington) who will have their hands full with the classy international competition.
The 10km State New Zealand Championship is on Saturday morning along with a range of recreational swims from 100m to 10km, with the 5km national championship and a masters race on Sunday.