WITH the 2017 Nutri-Grain Series and six Queensland State titles gold medals under her belt, Harriet Brown is laying claim to Australian Open Ironwoman championship at North Kirra this Sunday.
A win in the premier event would top off what has been an outstanding season for the 26-year-old, who is still chasing her first individual gold medal at the Aussies.
Looking ahead to a packed program across the next five days, Brown has her sights on a host of team events for Northcliffe, but is also keen to make the breakthrough as an individual competitor.
“I’ve come second or third before but haven’t won any individual gold medals or an age group one,” Brown said.
“As a junior I was up there but never a superstar. I was just stoked to be on the podium when I was a junior.
“It didn’t ever worry me if I didn’t win, whereas now with some second and thirds, I’d really love to win an individual event but I know everyone is training really hard.
“I try not to focus too hard on just the result, more the process, getting through and enjoying the ride – it’s Aussies!”
But while Brown has the sport’s pinnacle in sight, over her shoulder is an impressive group of young stars who would also like to see their names in lights.
Lizzie Welborn (North Bondi), Jemma Smith (Umina), Naomi Scott (Manly) and Brielle Cooper (North Burleigh) have graduated from a last year’s golden generation of Under-17 athletes and will be challenging Brown and the sport’s other big names during the Aussies.
Welborn is probably the best known of the sport’s Generation Next, having already won rounds of the Nutri-Grain Series – and is looking to match the historic achievement of Grant Kenny in 1980, winning the Under-19 and Open Ironwoman titles on the same day.
“You don’t have your whole life to do it so I’m running out of time,” she said.
“The double is definitely something I’ve been wanting to do.
“I won the under-17 Ironwoman last year and tried to back up and do the open so I almost got there and I’ll try again this year.
“It’s an amazing goal to have to put yourself up there with Grant Kenny, but it’s a hard thing to do.”
Smith was the Aussies 2016 competitor of the carnival, winning six titles, and already has one for this year’s championships after taking out the Under-19 Champion Lifesaver event on Monday.
Like Welborn, she will contest both the Under-19 and Open Ironwoman races, but is wary of trying to do too much in a busy carnival.
“We sat down after State, where we had a pretty big program, and we’re trying to get the balance where we don’t overload on too many events,” she said.
“Come the end of the week you’re taxed, and that’s when you’ve got to be performing at your best.
“I’ll be looking to target a few events, not do too many, but the Ironwoman will be one I will be trying for.
“There are also some team races I’m looking forward to. We won the Taplin relay at State, which was really exciting for us.”
Scott is still only 17 years old and will compete again in the Under-17 events, but the strong swimmer who won the last round of the Nutri-Grain finals, is also targeting the Open Ironwoman, after making a surprise appearance in last year’s final.
“I’ll be giving it a crack,” she said.
“It’s not one of my targets but I want to be in it.
“Winning the Nutri-Grain round was very exciting because I wasn’t expecting it, so it was a bonus for me and makes me more confident coming into the Aussies.”
Cooper, who turned 18 last Saturday, has set her sights a little lower this week, concentrating on Under-19 events where she and her North Burleigh teammates have high hopes of success.
“I’ve got a lot of open years ahead of me so I’m definitely going to focus on the 19 years Ironwoman,” she said.
“There are a lot of girls in the 19s, so there will be a lot of racing.”
Cooper was a late call-up to the Nutri-Grain finals and hopes to use the experience of racing against the likes of Brown, Courtney Hancock and Rebecca Creedy to her advantage at Aussies.
“That experience is definitely something we have above the other girls who haven’t got to race the open girls,” she said.
“You can’t afford to be making any mistakes at that level, everyone is so talented.
“It comes down to one wave, one runner, one second, one tiny mistake could cost you everything.”