By JARROD POTTER
Athletes set their sights on Rio medals…
APRIL has been a red-letter month for City of Casey athletes as three locals earned their Olympic Games debuts alongside a long-serving champion.
Joshua Beaver, Laetisha Scanlan and Jason Whateley have made their maiden Olympic campaigns across swimming, shooting and boxing.
From Tooradin all the way to Rio de Janeiro, backstroke swimmer Beaver touched the pool-wall on Tuesday night, 12 April, and changed his life forever.
Beaver, 23, from Tooradin took to the water this week for his best chance at the 2016 Hancock Prospecting Australian Championships – the 200m backstroke.
More than 10 years of hard work in the pool boiled down to one race at the South Australia Aquatic and Leisure Centre as Beaver rested his hopes of qualifying for the Rio Olympic Games on his pet event.
Needing a first or second place finish and to beat the Olympic Games A qualifying time of 1.57.12 to re-join the Australian team for another international campaign, Beaver did more than enough to qualify.
He touched in at 1.56.17 to clinch his spot on the Australian Dolphins Swimming Team and add an Olympic Games campaign to his swimming resume.
After just missing out on a spot at the 2012 London Olympic Games team, Beaver couldn’t believe just how quickly it all happened as he became an Olympian in the blink of an eye.
“To be honest with you, I don’t even know what was going on,” Beaver said.
“I finished and looked up at the times – was 1.56.1 and it was my best and I knew it was enough and it all just sort of clicked.
“It all clicked in a moment of a second that, wow, I’m going to the Olympics.”
Scanlan, 25 from, Berwick, had to go through the wringer just to make the team.
She endured a brutal end to her Olympic Games shotgun shooting qualifying but she pushed through the pain to book her ticket to Rio.
“I’ve been really ramping up my fitness and from that I got a niggling back injury, then my best friend was getting married and we did a surprise hen’s party in Bali and on the way back from Bali I was in a car crash,” Scanlan said.
“I got severe whiplash and I think I had nine or 10 days before my last Olympic trial – so I couldn’t train in that time because I couldn’t move my neck left or right.
“I didn’t do as well as I hoped but, obviously, it was enough to get me over the line and I think my past performances in the last 12 months did help the selection panel see who was the best medal chance for Rio.”
While she’s thrilled to make the team, Scanlan admits the announcement is only the start of the hard work and it will only get tougher from here.
For the Commonwealth Games gold medallist – earning her accolades at both Delhi 2010 and Glasgow 2014 – she can look back without regret about 2012.
While she wasn’t ready for the London Olympic Games, Scanlan believes just missing out focused her Rio ambitions and pushed her even harder.
Jason Whateley, who has lived on and off in Berwick, rounds out the current selections for the Olympic Games as the 91kg heavyweight punched his way to success in the Oceania/Asia qualifying tournament last week.
Joining Scanlan on the shooting team is another Berwick-based shooter – six-time Olympian Lalita Yauhleuskaya, who earned her place in the Rio pistol competition.