Not even a four-metre shark could catch Bond Elite Sports Program (BESP) athlete and Law student, Solomon Wright as he broke a 70-year record on his way to winning last year’s prestigious Rottnest Challenge.
The Gold Coast-based distance finished second at the West Australian event in February.
Wright won the NZ Open Water Championship in January but had to withdraw from the Australian Championships two weeks later after aggravating a shoulder injury.
Despite growing up in Perth, Wright is a dual citizen thanks to his Kiwi father and has his sights set on competing for New Zealand at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
“I won the NZ Open Water swim and I had to back that up two weeks later for the Australian titles, and I had to pull out at 4km,” Wright said.
“I knew at the 500 metre mark that it wasn’t going well and I was in quite a bit of pain. I had to think about what else was coming in 2019.
“I knew by pulling out I wouldn’t qualify for the World Championships, but even if I finished the race and did well, I’m not sure how my body would have pulled up and if I would have been able to compete.
“It was a tough call, but I had a chat to Swimming New Zealand and we have made a few decisions on events to target other than world championships.
“The Olympics has to be the focus, but there are other world cup events as well.”
The memory of breaking the four-hour mark lives long in his memory.
Swimmers behind Wright had to be pulled from the water due to a white pointer sighting, something that hadn’t happened in over 40 years.
“It was huge to win in 2018,” he said.
“The 2018 Rottnest result meant I was back. It was a great race, I felt fantastic. I was winning from the start and was never headed.
“But the initial feeling was more just relief. It’s a big race and internationally recognised, and I have the record now. That record hadn’t been touched in 19 years or something. It certainly put me on the radar.
“They did have to pull people from the water, it was a big shark, but it hadn’t happened in 40 years.
“I can’t think about sharks when I’m swimming. If you think about it, the adrenalin kicks in and your race is done.”
Wright admitted he was a little mad to be an open water swimmer. He routinely clocks 60km a week in the pool for training, with three extra gym sessions and yoga for good measure.
It’s the arduous schedule of an elite swimmer, but the dream of the Olympics is never far from his mind.
“Tokyo 2020 is the goal,” he said.
“I do nine sessions of swimming, two hours each, spread across six days of the week. Then usually three gym sessions and perhaps an extra yoga session as well.
“It’s all aimed at getting ready for the Olympics. It’s a two-hour race and the top 15 competitors are within 30 seconds of each other. That’s only really 25 metres separating the best athletes over two hours. Anything can happen in the race.
“There are two world cup events in Canada in July that I can target and the Portugal and Hungary duo in June.
“Making an Olympic team has been my goal since I was five years old. I originally wanted to be a breaststroker. I think my first state competition was when I was six. I’ve been racing forever. It would mean everything to get to the Olympics.”