ORGANISERS of Newcastle’s iconic Australia Day swim have plans to further expand the country’s richest open water race and attract more “big fish” after a record number of swimmers took the plunge into the harbour on Saturday.
Just under 500 people registered to compete in either the 700 metre single crossing or the 1400 metre double crossing of the world’s biggest coal export harbour, an increase of more than 100 people on 2018.
Organisers from Stockton Surf Life Saving Club point to the $3500 prize purse, which was doubled this year “to attract big fish” and which makes it the richest open water race in Australia, the clear skies and social media engagement for the surge in entrants.
One of those big fish, Tristan Hollard, who in November competed in the FINA Swimming World Cup, took out the 1400m event in a scintillating 13 minutes and 34 seconds ahead of Harrison Gellaty (14m08s) and Newcastle Grammar School student Ryan Walker (14m29s). Redhead ironwoman Nicola Owen, 17, was the fastest woman in 14 minutes and 45 seconds followed by Gabi Sainsbury (14m59s) and Sunny Starr-Carusi (15m), who backed up from claiming second place overall in the 700m.
Stockton’s Dylan Danuser, 13, won the 700m in 8 minutes 17 seconds, a second ahead of Starr-Carusi.
Dylan’s dad, event organiser Daniel Danuser, a Stockton Surf Life Saving Club member, said it was a case of mistaken identity and “Stockton pride” that led Dylan to finish so quickly.
“He went all out this time because he thought he had another boy in his age category right on his tail who wasn’t backing off,” Daniel Danuser said of his son. “The two kept hammering away and he absolutely gutted himself.” Over the past 23 years, the event, the surf club’s major annual fundraiser, has become the perfect way to kick off Australia Day celebrations in Newcastle.
And organisers hope that 2020 will be even bigger.
It was a massive weekend for swimming in Newcastle, with the 2 kilometre Nobbys to Newcastle Ocean swim being held on Sunday.