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Swimming - 30. April 2008.

BRITAIN'S OPEN WATER SWIMMERS FIGHT FOR OLYMPIC PLACES




Britain's long distance swimmers aiming for a place on the starting line of the inaugural Olympic 10km swim this summer in Beijing will be looking to guarantee their spot at this weekend's 5th World Open Water Championships in Seville.

The six-strong squad, which includes World Championship silver medallist Cassandra Patten and Olympic medallist David Davies, will see two British athletes competing in the male and female 10km races and athletes will need to finish in the top 10 to guarantee their place at the inaugural Olympic marathon swimming event. The other squad members will compete in the 5km event.

If the country's top ranked swimmer fails to make it into the top 10 in the 10km but their fellow Britain does then their dreams of competing in Beijing will have been ended. If neither of them makes it into the top 10 then only the top ranked British swimmer will have a second chance at qualification at the Olympic test event in Beijing.

Head Coach Sean Kelly will lead the team into the competition after training together at Loughborough University for the past week.

"It is currently about 29 Celsius in Seville which will mean we will have warm water," Kelly said. "This will be quite similar to what the swimmers will face in Beijing so will give us a great chance to acclimatise to the conditions before the Olympics.

"There should be no problems for the swimmers as they have swum the course before, apart from David Davies but he should find it similar to South Africa.

"We have a great depth of talent in our squad - we have a world silver medallist, an Olympic medallist and a European short-course Champion - I believe they should deal with this competition well.

"They know what they need to do and I don't think the pressure of the situation will phase them."

Since the 10km event's inclusion on the Olympic programme, many pool-based distance swimmers have tested the waters of the endurance swim as they eye the possibility of competing in Beijing.

"What will be tough is the amount of competitors in the field. We will have about 55 swimmers competing for a total of 25 places for Beijing, so in these terms it will be physically harder than the Olympics will be but I know they all have the strength to deal with this.

"It is the highest quality field in the history of Open Water swimming and with the likes of Grant Hackett competing I believe it will be remembered as the toughest race in history."

Stockport Metro's Patten will take to the competition with some of the pressure of Olympic qualification off her shoulders as she made it onto the pool-based Olympic team earlier this month, but the World medallist will be looking to prove her strength against the tough field.

"I am really looking forward to this competition," Patten said. "I have competed in Seville before and I like the course, it will be choppy but that is perfect for me. I don't like it if the water is too smooth.

"It will be a tough competition with more competitors than I have ever competed against but I am looking forward to this challenge. We have a really strong team going out there and I know that everyone will deal with the pressure of this event well."

Davies (City of Cardiff) competed at his first open water competition just two months ago and is relishing the challenge of competing against the best open water swimmers in the world.

"I really enjoyed competing in South Africa and I am really looking forward to the challenge of competing in a completely different environment," Davies said. "I love racing outdoors and I think the conditions in Seville will be great.

"The hardest part about switching from the pool to open water for me was adapting to the conditions, obviously the water is a lot colder and this was hard to get used to. I am also racing against athletes that have a lot more experience than me and while that means I have less pressure than them it is tough because they have more knowledge than me."
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