Webby retains title, debut win for Scott in open water swimming

Taranaki swimmer Charlotte Webby retained her honours in the New Zealand Open Water Championships in Taupo.

Webby claimed victory in the women’s 10km championship while Swimming New Zealand High Performance squad member Matthew Scott (Enterprise, Gisborne) took out the men’s title.

The championship was the first step for swimmers who hope to qualify for the FINA World Championships and World University Games later this year, with the top five now heading to the second stage of qualifying at the Australian Open Water Championships later this month.

Webby was well ahead in the women’s field, finishing in 2:10.18 ahead of Sammy Winward (Waterhole, Auckland) in 2:19.48 and Stefannie Gillespie (Zenith, Dunedin) in 2:20.34.

The 28 year old was happy to take the win and to race in wetsuits, a rule introduced by FINA for open water at the start of the year, based on water temperature.

“The aim was just to go out there and see how I’d handle a 10km in a wetsuit, try and lead from the front and just keep going really,” Webby said.

“I’m feeling pretty good, it chopped up during the swim so it made it a little bit harder but it’s fun to swim in a wetsuit and just get out there and race.

“We go to Adelaide in a couple of weeks for the Australian Championships which will a be non-wetsuit so it’s good to trial it today.”

It was a closer battle in the men’s 10km race with the top three clearing out from early on before a sprint finish to decide the placings, with just seven seconds covering the trio.

Scott proved best in the sprint to win in 2:00.21 over Aquabladz New Plymouth swimmer Troy Balvert (2:00.27) and Waterhole’s Sebastien Priscott (2:00.28).

“It feels pretty good to be honest,” said Scott. “I went out just sitting on the hip but we’ve been doing a bit of speed work at training so I knew I could do the last 200m so I wanted to leave it down to that and leave a bit left for Australian Open Water in a couple of weeks.

“The goal was to win it and to do it as comfortably as I could so as soon as we got that group of three I was happy just to sit there and not do much until the end.”

Scott gave credit to his fellow lead-pack swimmers saying Balvert led most of the way and put up a good battle while Priscott was a great young fellow with a bright future.

The 19 year-old will now be hoping to make either the World University Games team with a top 10 finish at the Australia Open Water Championships or the World Championship team with a top six finish.

Webby is back tomorrow to defend her title in the 5km national championships while Scott heads home to taper before racing in Australia.

The New Zealand Championships form part of the successful annual Epic Swim which has attracted over 700 swimmers including internationals, competing in a range of open water swims from 100m for children to the 17.5km event.

Sunday’s racing is from 9am with the Masters 2.5km Classic and the national 5km championships.


Men: Matthew Scott (Enterprise) 2:00.21, 1; Troy Balvert (Aquabladz New Plymouth) 2:00.27, 2; Sebastien Priscott (Waterhole) 2:00.28, 3; David Boles (Rotorua) 2:03.23, 4; Ben Ruback (Capital) 2:03.49, 5. 

Women: Charlotte Webby (Aquabladz New Plymouth) 2:10.18, 1; Sammy Winward (Waterhole) 2:19.48, 2; Stefannie Gillespie (Zenith) 2:20.34, 3; Talya Harwood (Tasman) 2:20.39, 4; Hannah Blackwood (St Peter’s) 2:21.41, 5.

CAPTIONS: Matthew Scott in action in the 10km national open water championships in Taupo. (Credit: BW Media)

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