London Olympics the carrot for Australia's open-water swimmers in Shanghai

source: www.theaustralian.com.au

A PRIZE greater than the world championship will be on offer for Australia's open-water swimmers when they contest the 10km event in Shanghai this week.

Anyone who finishes in the top 10 will automatically earn a spot in the field for the London Olympics.

That carrot will ensure that the Olympic distance event will be more hard-fought than ever.

"It's the only chance for us to qualify four athletes for London," national head coach Greg Towle said.

"We need to finish all four (Melissa Gorman, Danielle DeFrancesco, Ky Hurst and Rhys Mainstone) in the top 10. We think we can do it but we will have to swim well and have a bit of luck."

Beijing Olympian Gorman, who took the bronze in last year's world 10km title race, is the Australian team spearhead.

"I definitely think it's going to be a tough race, it will be a fast pace from the beginning and I will have to expect a few knocks around the head," she said of tomorrow's race.

"I think a lot of people are capable of winning on the day so it's about sticking with them, and trying to outsprint them at the end." The men's race is on Wednesday.