Just the start on road to Beijing

KINGSCLIFF swimmers have taken their first steps towards the 2007 Beijing Olympics, with the small club finishing eighth overall in the National Short Course championships in Melbourne last week.

The highlight of the team's performance second-place in the 4x100m women's freestyle relay against some of the stars of the sport in this country.

The Kingscliff team, boasting regular Australian team members Sophie Edington, Tay Zimmer and Lara Davenport and emerging teenager Jess Henshaw finished just behind the powerhouse side from Queensland club St Peters Western which includes Stephanie Rice and Megan Nay.

"This is the best thing that happened to me in swimming," youngster Henshaw said as she stood on the dais surrounded by some of her sporting heroes.

Kingscliff coach Lea Speechley said it was a big performance for the club, which also finished in the top two for NSW clubs in the meet. "It was a particularly good meet considering many members of the club have only been back in the water for about three weeks (after competing in Europe in May) while many other top swimmers have been training for months," she said.

Speechley said Tay Zimmer had dominated the backstroke events and could have made the Australian team but had made herself unavailable.

She said the club needed to compete in the short course event to qualify for the World Cup meets, to be held in Singapore, Durban and Sydney next month.

She said these events would be the main focus of the club's elite group, trained as part of the NSWIS satellite program by Greg Salter.

As well as the World Cup meets, Salter is also hoping to fit in altitude training in South Africa.

Speechley said Salter's ultimate aim had always been Beijing and getting all five of his elite swimmers, Edington, Zimmer, Davenport and male swimmers Ethan Rolff and Hayden Stoekel onto the team for the Games.

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