Gaining on world-beaters
By STEVE SPINKS
IMAGINE having the chance to compete against your sporting heroes . . . That was the scenario for Ballina Indoor Swim Team members Dean Mackay, Kate Johnson and Gemma Johnson.
The trio qualified to compete in the World Cup meet in Melbourne at the weekend against the likes of Olympians Libby Lenton, Jodie Henry, Matt Welsh and South African Ryk Neethling.
However, after careful consideration, the Ballina swimmers did not attend.
They qualified for the World Cup after excelling at the national short-course titles in Brisbane in August.
"They didn't even know they'd qualified until a couple of days after," coach Peter Charlton said.
"I talked to their parents first about whether we would program it into their training.
"But in the end we decided against it, so a couple of days later I told them congratulations you made the World Cup, but bad luck, you're not going."
According to Charlton, the trio were surprised.
"They'd never even thought about competing at that level of competition before," he said.
"Some kids just don't think like that even though they're starting to get to that level."
However, Charlton didn't have any illusions about how they would have fared in Melbourne.
"They wouldn't have made the finals," he said.
"They're not in that shape at this time.
"We're eyeing the New South Wales titles in January."
It's still a good achievement for the group, though, as Mackay is 15, Gemma is only 14 and Kate the eldest at 17.
Meanwhile, Mackay and clubmate Anna Campbell, 19, competed successfully in the NSW State long-course championships at Homebush last weekend.
Mackay picked up a silver in the 800 metres freestyle and a closely fought fourth in the 400 metres individual medley. Only two- tenths of a second separated second and fourth.
Campbell, who is on the comeback trail after an ankle reconstruction, picked up a silver in the 800 metres freestyle and the 400 individual medley.
She bettered her silver medal-winning time of 9 minutes 43 seconds for the 800m by 11 seconds in the 1500m the next day.
An 800m time can be obtained while a swimmer competes in a 1500m event.
Campbell swam 9m32s on her way through to pick up a bronze in an eventual time of 18m06.48s.