One star, one discipline: Trent Grimsey
Australia and open water swimming are deeply connected. The reasons are many: the first, and most obvious, is the fact that the enormous country is surrounded by water; the second is the passion of Australians for swimming, a discipline in which they share world supremacy with the United States; the third is a reason that will remain forever a part of FINA’s history: the first open water swimming event contested at a FINA World Championships was held in the 1991 edition of the competition in… Perth, along the Swan River in Western Australia.
Since the beginning of the 1990s, Australia was always privileged enough to have inspirational and pioneering long-distance swimmers. And Trent Grimsey, silver medallist in the men’s 25km event at the 2009 Worlds in Rome, is the latest in a long dynasty of talented competitors.
For supporters of open water swimming, the first big star from Australia was certainly Shelley Taylor-Smith. Winner of the 25km event (the only race contested at the time – currently, there is also a 5km and 10km race in the World Championships’ programme) in 1991, Taylor-Smith soon became one of the best in her discipline. Almost two decades on, she is a member of the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee and was one of the leading personalities in the campaign to have the swim marathon included in the Olympic Games. When, on October 2005, the IOC announced the good news that a 10km race for both men and women would be held in Beijing, she was one of the first to react – with tears in her eyes!
Still in the women’s field, Taylor-Smith’s successor was Melissa Cunningham – winner of the 25km event in 1994 – while Australia had to wait until 2004 to see not one but two of its men win world titles. Since 2000, FINA also organises the FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships in even years, and in the third edition of the event, in Dubai (UAE), Grant Cleland won the 5km and Brendan Capell was first in the 25km, confirmation that the longest distance is the one best-associated with success in Australia. Josh Santacaterina also got the gold in this event, in 2006.
In 2009, at the FINA World Championships in Rome (ITA), Australia was once more among the best: Melissa Gorman won the 5km and there was a silver for Trent Grimsey in the ... 25km! At 21 (he was born in 1988), this newly revealed talent opened the account of what looks set to be a most successful career. Proving his versatility (he is a 1,500m swimmer in the pool and swam the three events at world titles, finishing 8th in the 10km and 16th in the 5km!), he also competed in the 2009 FINA 10km Marathon Swimming World Cup, winning the last race of the season, in Sharjah (UAE).
When it comes to 10km, thoughts inevitably stray to the marathon at the 2012 Olympic Games in London (GBR). Grimsey did not qualify for Beijng 2008. In three years time, the Australian will perhaps be one of the few able to “break” European dominance in this discipline. We put that, and much more, to Trent Grimsey.
After your silver medal at the Worlds in Rome, you are one of the rising stars of Australian open water swimming (along, for example, with Melissa Gorman). Do you agree with that?
It’s a very exciting time to be on the Australian open water team. Australia had a very good world Championships in 2009, we have so many great up-and-coming open water swimmers. I’m very honoured to be a part of the team and think the Australian open water team will only get better from here.
I believe to be a good open water swimmer you need commitment, determination and you need to be easily motivated
How did you start in open water?
I started swimming open water just for fun when I was 11 or 12 but started to take it a lot more seriously in 2008 when I started to win a few big races.
What motivates you to swim 25km and to spend more than five hours in the water?
This is a tough question. I guess the only reason I swam the 25km at the World Championships was because there was a spot that would have been unfilled if I didn’t swim it and I thought if I swim all three races I would have three chances at a medal.
Australia has been strong in open water for many years. How do you explain that? Is it a natural consequence of Australia's passion for swimming (in the pool)?
That’s right. Australia has always been a strong open water country. I think it is a mixture of a few reasons. Like you said, Australia’s passion for swimming, all the beaches we have, I also find our experienced open water swimmers provide a lot of advice to newcomers to the sport, which I think is very helpful.
Can you describe your training routine (number of km per day, per week, dry land work, swimming pool sessions...)?
I don’t like to swim under 85km a week. I train 11 times a week in the pool, two weights sessions a week, two Pilates sessions a week, I also do core strength every night.
Do you have idols in this discipline?
David Davies has always been my idol ever since I watched him in the 1,500m final at the 2004 Athens Olympics [where he finished third]. I have a lot of respect for him, especially for the way he swam the 10km in the 2008 Beijing Olympics [silver medal], it was a very gutsy effort!
What qualities are essential to an open water swimmer?
I believe to be a good open water swimmer you need commitment, determination and you need to be easily motivated. If you have these things everything else should just fall into place.
You have also participated in the FINA 10km Marathon Swimming World Cup and you won the last race in Sharjah. What do you think of this circuit of 10km races?
Yes, I think these races are great. I hope to do a lot more of these in the next few years as a lead up to London. However living in Australia we are so far away from any of the World Cup/Grand Pix races, which makes them hard and really expensive to get to.
You were not in the Beijing 2008 inaugural marathon swimming race. Do you believe you will represent Australia in 2012 in London? And do you aspire to an Olympic medal?
To win a medal in London 2012 Olympics is my goal. I think if I can keep doing what I’m doing (training wise) and get as much international racing in as I can over the next couple of years I will have a very good chance.
What are your competitive plans for 2010?
Australian Nationals – OW & Pool [best time in 1500m free: 15:12.36]; Open Water World Championships; Pan Pacs – OW & Pool. I would also like to do a few Grand Prix and World Cup Races but am unsure what ones they will be. There are a few races with big prize money at the end of the year that I will also compete in.
2006: Australian Nationals – 7th 1500m free
2007: Australian Nationals – 5th 1500m free; QLD State – 2nd 10km; VIC State – 2nd 10km; NSW State – 1st 10km
2008: Australian Nationals (Olympic Trials) – 3rd 1500m free; Oceania Open Water Champs – 1st 5km, 1st 10km
2009: FINA World Championships – 2nd 25km, 8th 10km, 16th 5km; FINA 10km Marathon Swimming World Cup (last race in Sharjah, UAE) – 1st; Australian Open Water Nationals – 1st 5km, 1st 10km