To swim 9km non-stop is a remarkable human achievement, attainable by a select few. Even to complete the distance in relay is a great credit to all participants in this rare event, celebrating the capacity of the human spirit by swimming the entire length, end-to-end of Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin.
There were some phenomenal accomplishments today, including outstanding times from the winning male – Benjamin Freeman’s 1:54:10 barely outside his own course record by 26 seconds – and the winning female – Emma Gillingham’s 1:57:23 within 2 minutes of Jessica Traficante’s 2013 fastest time. Benjamin and Emma were in a class of their own, though only one team followed them in (the winning Mixed Team combination of Haydn Valle and Amanda Tully – “CRUIZ’n’it” – in 2:07:05), before another of the standout finishers of the day, 2nd Solo Male in 2:08:37 from 14-year-old Ned Wieland. Ned is certainly one to watch as he continues to surprise even himself with his astonishing and ever-blossoming capacity.
Course records tumbled in several categories, including Tim Mather’s new over 70 (no wetsuit) time of 3:15:35; Jannion De Tomasio who bettered her last year’s Female 50-59 (wetsuit) record by setting a new best time for Female 60-69 (wetsuit) of 2:37:11 – giving her two current records in separate categories, with the older category the faster time! Geoff Llewellyn (over 80); Lachlan Lewis (over 70) and John Kennedy (over 60) teamed up to set a new Over 60s Male Team best time of 3:27:42.
Solo leg records were broken by Benjamin Freeman (leg 1 in 19:24 and leg 3 in 38:56); and a new fastest time for a female in a team for leg 1 by Nicolee Martin of 24:23.
Notwithstanding all these stellar individual performances, which gave one the feeling at the finish line of rubbing shoulders with giants, the show-stopper which drew a standing ovation from the assembled throng on the beach came from Eli Ball, the final swimmer to finish. His time of 3:39:01 would not normally have turned too many heads, especially in the elite company assembled today. The jaw-dropping factor was the stroke – Eli swam the ENTIRE 9km length of the lake butterfly!
The spirit of aspiration and adventure, of daring to challenge the seemingly absurd and downright improbable – embodied by Eli’s swim, captured everyone’s imagination and admiration. It is always inspiring and thrilling to witness the boundaries of the possible being stretched and transcended with such a dauntless and fearless resolve. Thank you, Eli!
The event was attended by soft cloud cover and a gentle breeze upon a mild lake, boding well for all participants and allowing for all to focus on their own application without having to contend with additional challenges from the elements: a day for all to be grateful.