Given Australia’s historic success in the Olympic swimming pool, the nation’s lack of a medal in the marathon swimming was an anomaly. Since the 10km discipline was introduced at the 2008 Olympics, not a single Australian has finished on the podium in the open water event.
But after Australia’s best-ever medal haul at an Olympic swim meet last week, Kareena Lee continued her nation’s success in the water with a bronze medal in the marathon swim on Wednesday. It was a remarkable swim by Lee, moving up through the field in a gritty effort in the latter stages to finish on the podium.
With a finishing time of 1:59:32 at the Odaiba Marine Park, Lee was barely two seconds off the winner, Ana Marcela Cunha.
Lee’s medal success on her Olympic debut is a remarkable achievement after the swimmer narrowly missed out on the 2016 Games. Racing at the 2015 World Aquatic Championships in the hope of a top 10 finish that would have sent her to Rio, Lee was hospitalised with a combination of asthma, dehydration, hypothermia and a facial injury. The withdrawal ended her hopes of a 2016 Olympic appearance, but Lee fought back to qualify for Tokyo.
Lee is coached by legendary swim coach John Rodgers, a three-time Australian swim coach of the year.
Kai Edwards will be aiming to repeat Lee’s success when he takes to the water in the men’s marathon swimming on Thursday.