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Open water swimmers deserve a chance

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 21/06/2016 Cathy Walshe

Former Commonwealth Games gold medallist Jaynie Hudgell believes open water swimmers Kane Radford and Charlotte Webby deserve a chance to surprise at the Rio Olympics later this year.

The pair fell short at the final qualification event in Portugal last week, and Swimming NZ selectors haven't nominated them for NZ Olympic Committee consideration.

Radford and Webby have indicated they intend to appeal their omission.

As 17-year-old Jaynie Parkhouse, Hudgell won 1974 Commonwealth Games gold over 800m in Christchurch, slicing nearly half a minute off her personal best and beating world record holder Jenny Turrall of Australia.

She also took 400m freestyle bronze, and made the 100m and 200m finals.

Hudgell says as last pick for the New Zealand team, she was determined to justify the selectors' faith in her.

"When I was selected, if they'd said 'you have to be in the top 16', I would have been sitting at home watching on TV," Hudgell told NZ Newswire.

"When someone showed belief in me, I got belief back in myself and I was really determined to prove them right."

Hudgell has signed on on-line petition, one of more than 3200 signatures calling for Radford and Webby's inclusion in Rio nominations.

Radford finished 19th over 10km in the final qualification event last weekend, 20 seconds off the final direct qualifying spot, while Webby was 31st in the women's race.

The NZOC's nomination criteria is that athletes must be capable of a top 16 finish, with the potential for top eight.

Hudgell believes open water swimming warrants more flexibility.

"The times in the pool swimming events are extremely tough - if you hit them, you're in and if you miss them, you're out.

"Some people miss by tiny margins and it always seems harsh, but they have those standards.

"But in open water swimming, it's a very subjective thing ... it's a different sort of event, it's not a time-standard event."

Hudgell said it would be worth including Radford and Webby at Rio, given their experience.

"Our history in swimming is littered with people that have come from relatively nowhere and astounded on the world stage.

"I'm all for giving people a chance, but they have to be competitive, and I believe these two are."

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