Sea change yields title for Poort

SWIMMING

Wollongong swimmer Jarrod Poort has his sights set on the international stage after claiming his first national 10-kilometre title in Perth this week.

The 19-year-old beat open-water stars Simon Huitenga and Rhys Mainstone to take out the title and qualify for the Pan-Pacific Championships in August.

The win marked a successful transition from the pool to the ocean for the London Olympian, who is eyeing the 10km event at the Rio Olympics in two years.

"It was probably one of the best swims I've had," Poort said.

"It was against all of Australia's best and had a strong international field with a couple of Olympians from 2012, so I was stoked to get a win."

Poort expects a tougher initiation when he makes the step up to international competition ahead of an Olympic qualifying year in 2015.

"The international open-water scene is a bit different so I really want to make that transition this year," he said.

"I'm heading to Mexico at the end of March to do some 10km World Cups. And a couple of months after that I'll be heading to Portugal for a few more, and then we've got the Pan-Pacific Championships on the Gold Coast.

"You can qualify for Rio in 2015 but it's a pretty tough process.

"You have to win the national title and then go on and get top 10 at the world championships. So this year's about getting a bit more experience and making sure I'm ready for next year."

The former 1500m specialist said he has embraced the tactical side of racing after swapping the lanes for the waves.

"I like to think of it as like cycling in the water with the tactics," he said.

"It's not always the best swimmer who wins - you've got to be smart," he said.

"Every time you go in, it's something different and it's always a new challenge.

"The pace is always different in open water. You get in and it could be quick from the start or it could be slow.

"You can have some chop or different currents - and that's what I like about it."

Though Poort still completes the bulk of his training in the pool under coach Ron McKeon, he said a tilt at both the 1500m and open-water events in Rio is unlikely.

"I'll still do a few 1500s but it's not really my focus," he said.

"People have competed in both but I don't think it's possible to be the best at both.

"It's a completely different ball game."

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