Hurst lines up for second Olympics

source: www.theaustralian.com.au

FORMER ironman champion Ky Hurst has become the great survivor of open-water racing, after qualifying for his second Olympic Games at the world championships yesterday, 13 years after he won his first world medal.

Hurst, 30, finished fifth in the men's 10km event in Shanghai, and will join teammate Melissa Gorman, who finished fourth in the women's event a day earlier, as the first athletes picked in the Australian Olympic team.

The top 10 finishers in the event qualified automatically to swim the 10km in London next year.

In the extreme conditions, at the top end of the sport's safety limits with 30C water and 35C air at Jinshan City Beach, Hurst called on all of his experience to equal his best 10km result at the world titles.

"It was extremely hot and today was about being smart -- experience played a huge role," he said.

"I have been doing this since 1998 and I was the only one in the field who's been at it that long."

Hurst won the silver medal in the 5km event in Perth in 1998, then turned to the surf and won four national ironman titles before returning to open-water swimming when it was admitted to the Olympics. He finished 11th in Beijing in 2008, but will be looking for a medal on his second appearance, in Hyde Park's Serpentine lake.

"China put on an awesome Olympics but I think London will be even better," he said.

The Gold Coast surf and swimming star began yesterday's race conservatively because of the hot conditions, but powered home over the last quarter to move into the top five at the finish (1hr 54min 33sec).

"I knew not to panic at any stage because it's 10km and you don't have to lead for the first 7.5km," he said.

"I made sure the first two (2.5km) laps were about being comfortable and then I tried to get myself in a good spot for the fourth lap."

He finished 9sec behind Greek winner Spyros Gianniotis (1:54.24), who beat German favourite Thomas Lurz (1:54.27), but the Australian was disappointed he fell short of a medal.

"I have been swimming really well and I never get in there looking to place top five or top 10," he said.

His teammate Rhys Mainstone finished 30th in 1:55.51.

Hurst and Gorman will now be Australia's only representatives in the open-water events in London, under the international qualifying system. Only countries who had two finishers in the top 10 in Shanghai will be able to field two entries in London.

The two Australians will go to London next month to compete in the Olympic test event.

"It's going to be very different from here -- the water will be about 17 or 18 degrees, which

will be a huge shock to the system, but it's about acclimatising,"

Hurst said.