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Officials Diary - 2024 Australian Open Water

Reflections from our NZ Technical Officials from the 2024 Australian Open Water Championships

As part of our ongoing support for technical officials, we were pleased to assist with having two New Zealand officials part of the 2024 Australian Open Water Championships held in Busselton, Western Australia, from 25 - 28 January. Whilst both officials are on the World Aquatics Lists for Open Water, with limited opportunities to officiate open water in New Zealand, the Australian event has been identified as an important development opportunity to be well placed for upcoming international events with World Aquatics.

The two officials were:

  • Paul Matson (Wellington)

  • Celia Honiss (Northland)

Both Paul and Celia have taken the time to share their experiences from the Australia.

Paul Matson (Wellington)

Paul was one of over 40 officials on duty for events that run over four days, which included a community event (recreational swim) on Australia Day (26 January). With 18 events over those four days, there were plenty of opportunities as an official. Paul had the opportunity across a range of different positions, including referee, chief finish judge, turn judge, feeding platform and was given the opportunity as chief referee for the final event.

The championships were again held in Busselton, which is approximately a 2.5-hour drive south of Perth. The course was based around the Busselton Jetty, which provided great options and facilities for running open water swimming events. The photos below show the finishing area for timing, finish judges and timekeepers (left photo) and the feeding platform (right photo), which were located on either side of the jetty.

Not surprisingly, the number of swimmers competing is on another level to our New Zealand champs. While some of the top Australian Open Water swimmers did not attend, the 10km and 7.5km events had over 120 entries and the 5km events across different age groups totalled almost 300 entries. The event ran very smoothly even though it was full on and of course working alongside our Australian colleagues is great fun. 

“A learning for more is that no two open water events are the same so there is always something to learn. I have certainly taken a lot from this event that I hope we can take on board in our own open water champs and what can be done to provide more opportunities in New Zealand for more officials to experience open water swimming.”

Paul's favourite moment of the event was being a feeding platform judge during the community swim, with distances up to 10km. Whilst many participants were taking it seriously as the last chance to qualify for the renowned Rottnest Island swim, there were many surprised when they arrived at registration to learn they would require a feeding pole or something to get feeds to the swimmers as there was a 2 metre drop from the jetty to the water surface. Whilst sharing of poles was a common feature, many people turned creative. This included the use of a retractable dog lead, surfboard ankle strap, electrical tape, pool noodles and torn-up t-shirts tied into strips. However, the best of the lot was a feeder repurposing her bikini top with the drink tied on the end of the strap (photo above).

Paul has been fortunate to officiate at multiple international open water events over the years and has loved every one of them.

"I feel privileged to have been given this opportunity. Whilst this is not my first Australian Championships I have attended, it is a favourite of mine and I'm thankful to the PM Scholarship, Swimming NZ and Swimming Australia for the opportunity."

Celia Honiss (Northland)

For the second year in a row, Celia was in Busselton for the Australian Open Water Championships. She felt fortunate to be assigned roles of Turn Judge, Referee, Finish Judge and Clerk of Course across the four days of competition.

The course layout was interesting, with the 1.25km rectangle course swum in an anti-clockwise direction through, under and alongside the Busselton jetty. This provided great viewing spots for the public.

On one of the days of competition, all the community swimmers jumped in for their turn. This saw over 500 swimmers dive in to distances ranging from 500m through to 10km. With the vast range of distances starting in different waves, this definitely kept the officials busy. A few factors to monitor included tracking both the leaders and those at the back of the pack, counting the actual laps completed across the various distances, and timing laps to ensure the number of laps were correct.

I’ve really enjoyed my experience working with my fellow counterparts, picking up little pointers from them and learning  from those more experienced who are always will to pass on their knowledge to you."

Celia was grateful for the support from the PM Scholarship, Swimming NZ and Swimming Australia for the opportunity.


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