By Caelie Jones
The Australian Synchronised Swimming team has qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics and will field five WA representatives — the most from any state — as they look to secure the highest Olympic ranking in Australian Synchronised Swimming history.
The team of eight girls defeated arch-rivals New Zealand in July and again in the qualifying event in Russia to qualify for the Rio Games.
The five WA girls, Amber-Rose Stackpole, Amie Thompson, Danielle Kettlewell, Danielle ten Vaanholt and Deborah Tsai, also helped WA take first place in the Synchronised Swimming Australian Open and Age Group Championships in Sydney in April.
Tsai said that while competition for spots on the Olympic team was healthy, all WA girls were good friends, with the long training sessions over the years bringing them closer.
“We’ve learnt a lot about each other,” Tsai said. “As teammates, we swim and work together all the time whilst competing for a spot [on the Olympic team].”
The WA team, West Coast Splash, was rewarded for its winning streak at the past three national competitions, with podium finishes in each event they competed in. Head coach Briana Preiss said she couldn’t have been happier with the success.
The free-age combination team, home to all five WA Olympic prospects, on deck before beginning their routine which won them first place in their event at the National Competition in Sydney on April 24. Photo by Wilco van Amersfoort.
“I got to watch the girls take victory in pretty much every event that we entered,” Preiss said. “The victory was just incredible.”
Preiss said the girls grew a lot over the course of the season and developed a hard-working mindset, which contributed to the team’s success.
“At nationals we were able to see that they realised this is what I want to do and this is how I want to do it, and I can do this and do other things at the same time,” Preiss said.
“The combination of older and younger girls swimming together allowed the younger girls to understand what it takes to get to the elite level. Everyone had the same focus and everyone was going in the same direction.”
The national competition was sponsored by Hancock Prospecting and company chairperson Gina Rinehart made an appearance to raise awareness for the sport. The mother of state swimmer Celeste Johns said she was impressed with Rinehart’s show of support.
“Gina is behind us and what a fantastic thing for her to come over and watch the girls in Sydney,” Ms Johns said. “Wow, what an amazing woman.”