Olympic qualifier Kareena Lee. Picture: Stewart McLean
Olympic qualifier Kareena Lee. Picture: Stewart McLean

‘We are the best’: Rodgers confident of championship success

Two years on from his shock open heart surgery, Australian swimming coach John Rodgers is doing all he can to ensure his athletes secure a spot at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Rodgers underwent major open-heart surgery in 2019 and was in a coma for a further five days after hospital staff discovered a 10cm tear in his aorta.

Two years on he’s made a full recovery and said he always knew he would make his way back to coaching.

“Even when I was still in the hospital, I was sending programs and messages to my athletes to do everything I could to help them,” Rodgers said.

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“I knew once I was on the mend, I wouldn’t have to find a way back, but instead I would just come back.”

His two main athletes, Kareena Lee and Nick Sloman, will be competing at the Open Water National Championships in Coolum next month.

Lee has already been selected to represent Australia at the Olympics and Sloman is looking to win the event for the second time running and guarantee his spot to Tokyo.

Rodgers said he was highly confident his athletes could perform well.

“We are the best and they’re competing against us,” Rodgers said.

“Nick’s the Australian champion for the last three or four years and Kareena is on the Olympic team so they’ll have to swim against us, we don’t have to swim against them.”

He said it would be a good test in the lead up to the Olympics in July.

“It’ll be a true test because the water will be warm, no wetsuits and it’s an even playing field,” he said.

“It’ll be good for them to see how they’re travelling and for Nick it’s an Olympic qualifying race.

“It’s a stepping stone for him with the top two placings going to Japan but he’s looking great and swimming well in all forms at the moment.”

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Rodgers was excited for what this year had in store and said his athletes were a joy to coach.

“Kareena is no trouble to coach because she’s totally committed, she’s very dedicated and she’s a very highly motivated swimmer,” Rodgers said.

“It’s the exact same with Nick and he’s still got a long way to go in terms of his career.

“He’s only 23 years old and is ranking against guys that are 27, 28 that have been around a while and are in their prime.”

Rodgers said they made a great pair and knew the accolades would come.

“They run off each other and make an excellent team,” Rodgers said.

“The success will come, they’re committed, and they’ve put a lot of hard work in which will all come to fruition in a few weeks.”