Twelve “Mighty Blues” To Watch at this week’s NSW State Open Championships

09 March 2023

On the eve of the 2023 NSW State Open Championships, Swimming NSW Coaching Director Jon Shaw has run his expert eyes over some of the “Mighty Blues” to keep an eye on over the next three days of racing at the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre.

All the action starts at 9am tomorrow (Friday) with the first session of heats  getting under way with finals to follow at 6pm, continuing at the same times on Saturday with Sunday’s heats again at 9am with finals at 5.30pm.

Competition for spots in the finals will be red hot with a host of Olympians and Paralympians in action and here Shaw lists his Top 12 from NSW to look out for:

Shaun Champion (Abbotsleigh): Coached by Amanda Isaac, Shaun will line up in the men’s 100m butterfly. Was knocking on the door for the last Olympics and earned selection on the Australia A team that toured the US and won the US Nationals  - the only gold medal that Australia won. Shaun is swimming into form and looked good in last week’s Metropolitan Championships in the 50 and 100m butterfly. A boy on the move.

Timothy Hodge (ACU Blacktown) A Paralympic medallist and World Championship and Commonwealth Games gold medallist – is just an outstanding athlete coached by Misha Payne, who broke his own world record at the Para World Series event in Melbourne earlier in the year. Finished third in the Metropolitan Championships able-bodied event in the 400 IM. Timmy is really starting to push some of the Multi Class records. Trains in a squad that’s really moving forward with a host of up-and-coming age groupers as well. A program to watch.

Olivia Wunsch (Carlile, NSW):  This girl is motoring in the 50 (25.09) and 100m freestyle (54.50) as well as the butterfly events and the 200IM. Olivia has always been a stand-out in her age. A great coach in Michaela Pattinson at Carlile overseen by head coach Chris Nesbit.  She is a delightful young lady and certainly on the way up. A revitalised program that includes Olympians Kai Edwards and Maddy Gough.

Marcus Da Silva (Cranbrook): One of those guys with an “X-factor” about him – has been 50.21 in the 100m freestyle and 1:50.20 as a 15-year-old in the 200m, who’s not that far away from another drop. A strong lad who has grown a little and that power to weight ratio is about to kick in. A member of the Junior Pan Pac Team, coached by Rebecca Wheatley.

Angus Menzies (Knox Pymble): A young breaststroke boy who I think could be in the mix in 12 months time – at 20 years of age he finished fourth in the Australian Championships and made the NSW Team that toured the US. Has been 1:02.30 in the 100m and 2:12.20 over 200m. Definitely one to keep an eye on under Head Coach Nick Dobson in one of the strongest programs in the State.

Abbey Connor (Revesby Workers): Abbey had a break after making her senior Australian team debut at the World Championships and Commonwealth Games, who is back and firing and great to see her churning up the pool again and as committed as ever. Swam at the Metropolitan Championships and returned a 2:10 in the 200m butterfly which is most encouraging. A hard worker who has been 2:08.36 and is in the capable hands of coach Alex Clarke. As tough as teak who has got a great team around her.

Hayden Hoang (SOPAC): A talented 100 and 200m backstroker, a big lump of a lad, under coach Matt Brown, who only swam the 100m butterfly at the Metrops and clocked 57 secs after swimming a heart-rate set that morning in training. But the backstroke is his go and looks to be his best event. He’s been 57.33 so is knocking on the 56s door. Has also been 2:05.92 for the 200m backstroke.

James Koch (Sydney University):  One of the real stars of the Australian Surf Life Saving team, crowned world champions in Italy last year, who won a swag of gold medals. A late bloomer and a humble lad who excels over 200 and 400m freestyle under the coaching of Paul Bruce at Sydney Uni. Has been 1:48 three times for 200m freestyle with a PB of 1:48.58 and 3:51.40 over 400m.  He’s looking for a break through that may come here at the NSW State’s but I’d like to think later in the season. But it will be interesting to see where he is here.

Bella Grant (Trinity Grammar):  A multi-talented 17-year-old under the coaching of Ben Tuxford who has been 2:09.98 for 200m butterfly and 2:13.07 in the 200m backstroke.  I think 200m fly will be her go and under 2:10 puts her in the game over the next couple of years.

Ashleigh Oberekar (Valley Aquatic): A budding breaststroker from Maitland who has been 2:26.89 for 200m breaststroke, who toured the US with the NSW team and is one of our latest country products on the way up under coach Sam Frame.

Jaimie De Lutiis (Wests Illawarra): Jamie is one of several Wests Illawarra swimmers, under new coach Pat Stellino, who are all continuing to turn heads.  At 17 she will swim the 100m butterfly and 50m freestyle at this meet but is also a good 100m freestyler and 200 IMer. Has been 25.99 for the 50m freestyle.

Josh Kerr (Manly): Talented 16-year-old who spent three-months out of the water with COVID related issues but has resumed training at Andrew “Boy” Charlton Pool at Manly under Justin Rothwell and has clocked a 2:04.71 in the 200IM. Will also swim the 400IM and the 100m freestyle. But great to see him back in the water.

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