The Australian Lifesaving Team will launch its attack to recapture the World Teams Championship in Adelaide with a Kiwi at the helm.
Kurt Wilson, who cut his lifesaving teeth in Papamoa on New Zealand’s North Island, has seen the Black Fins conquer the world at the last three World Championships in 2012, 2014 and 2016. But now his fins are squarely on green and gold feet as Wilson prepares to bring back the coveted Teams crown to his adopted Australian shores.
Wilson was appointed as the Surf Sports Director at Currumbin Beach Vikings on the Gold Coast in 2014 before being appointed as the Australian head coach at the start of 2017– a role he had desired for some time.
“I believe Australia is the best country in the world in lifesaving surf sports and to be at the helm of that is a pretty big thing,” said Wilson. “Taking on the head coach role was always on my mind and when the opening came up I said ‘absolutely.’“And I can honestly say in the two-year- time frame I’m really proud of the team we have put together”.
“We talk about being unique and wanting to grow and change; we talk a lot about pursuit of excellence. It was important to map out exactly what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it and building a team that really maximised what I felt was my best performance platform”.
“So for me it was about people who had a long standing culture and literacy with the Australian team – so people like pool rescue swimmer Andrew Bowden as my pool assistant coach and (Ironman) Shannon Eckstein as my assistant surf coach while Kristy Ellis (Munro) is assistant team manager and Jenny Parry is a key selector; all athletes who can stand up in their Australian Blazers and say they have raced for Australia…ex-athletes who are grossly engaged in the organisation”.
“I can build a team around them, maximising my weaknesses and ensuring we’ve got all the touch points covered across the campaign. In the lead up I really wanted to expose my guys to as much international competition as possible”.
“We missed out on taking out the World Games by 14 points from Italy…. at the 2016 World Championships we came out of the pool events in fifth and then 12 months later to be going head to head with Italy shows where we have come from…and we went to the New Zealand Pool Championships and had a real good showing there…and then to German Cup and came away with top male, top female, top overall team, top pointscore and Currumbin pair Prue Davies and Matt Davis set world records”.
“So 2017 for our pool rescue guys was huge…it was around digging deep and bridging that gap and becoming world leaders. So we set some pretty chunky targets about becoming best in the world and creating a framework that would be long standing”.
Wilson knows he has the armour to match it with the world’s best in the pool starting with Davis who has come from a young kid in Bundaberg to becoming one of the best lifesaving athletes on the planet.
“To go to his National Championships and take nine gold medals from nine events is pretty phenomenal and setting five Australian records is pretty amazing,” said Wilson.
“He is the only guy who is really giving it to the German guys in the carry events in the 50m carry and the 100m medley (which he holds the world record in) and it’s pretty exciting for an Australasian athlete to be mixing it in that space.
“Chelsea Gillett is a class act, the 200m obstacles and the rescue medley is looking very exciting from that perspective and Prue Davies (Australian Open surf Race champion) is similar to Matt”. She just keeps growing and growing…her ‘200m Super Lifesaver’ is scary good”.
“Prue is the only girl who has been 2.21 in the history of the sport so to be doing that is pretty exciting and her 100m carry at German Cup was purely world standard; she sets a new Australian record every time she does it”.
“So there’s some pretty exciting armory we’ve got going on there.”
The Australians also showed their talents in the surf at the International Challenge in the taking the clean sweep of the three Tests and winning the Trans Tasman Tri Nations.
This is where reigning Nutri-Grain Ironman champion Matt Bevilacqua and reigning Australian Ironman champion Kendrick Louis and Ironwoman and Australian board champion, team captain Harriett Brown and Coolangatta Gold champion and two-time Australian open surf race winner Georgia Miller come into their own.
But the most important thing says Wilson is the building of team camaraderie and culture “they all ‘hand on heart’ love racing for Australia and love being part of that landscape”.
“We will rock up in Adelaide this week knowing we have done everything we can and the athletes have done everything they can,”he says.
“They have prepared very well, every one of them, every sprinter, every board paddler, every Iron athlete to every pool rescue athlete, it is pretty exciting”.
Competition gets under way tomorrow with the first of the Pool Rescue events the Simulated Emergency Response Competition (SERC) at the South Australian Aquatic and Leisure Centre and which will extend into Thursday and Friday with the pool rescue events before the Open teams move to the beach at Glenelg for Saturday and Sunday.
The Youth Teams will start in the ocean on Thursday and Friday and move to pool rescue events on the weekend.
The 2018 Australian Open Life Saving Team: Sam Bell (Maroochydore SLSC, Queensland RLS), Matt Bevilacqua (Kurrawa SLSC), Harriet Brown, (BMD Northcliffe captain), Prue Davies (Currumbin SLSC, Queensland RLS), Matt Davis (Currumbin SLSC), Elizabeth Forsyth, (Currumbin SLSC), Chelsea Gillett (Currumbin SLSC, Queensland RLS), Mariah Jones (Tweed Heads & Coolangatta SLSC, Queensland RLS), Kendrick Louis (Manly SLSC), Georgia Miller (BMD Northcliffe SLSC), Jake Smith (Trigg Island SLSC), Jackson Symonds (Sorrento SLSC (WA).
Team Coaches & Management: Kurt Wilson (Coach), Shannon Eckstein (Assistant Coach), Martin Lynch (Assistant Coach), Andrew Bowden (Assistant Coach), Garry Mensforth (Team Manager), Kristy Ellis (Assistant Team Manager), Nick Marshall (Medical Advisor).
The 2018 Australian Youth Life Saving Team (AYLT): Keeley Booth (Avoca Beach), Mitchell Coombes (BMD Northcliffe), Jacob Loughnan (Currumbin), Michael Hanna (Elouera), Ky Kinsella (Currumbin), Tiarnee Massie (Maroochydore), Lani Pallister (Alexandra Headland), Bailey Proud (Redhead), Leah Rampoldi (North Cronulla), Naomi Scott (Manly), Brendon Smith (Half Moon-Bay), Anthea Warne (Cudgen Headland)
Team Coaches & Management: Brett Dowker (Coach), Craig Holden (Assistant Coach), Samuel Dick (Assistant Coach) Rachelle King (Assistant Coach); Max Gonzalez (Team Manager).