BYRON BAY Winter Whales Ocean Swim Classic organisers believe their fun-filled 2.2km event is also earning a reputation as a haven for elite competitors after the male and female winners from the May event claimed medals at the World Swimming Championships in Rome in the past few days.
This year's open male winner Trent Grimsey finished second in the 25km World Championships event at the weekend while the open female winner Melissa Gorman won the 5km World Championships event.
Grimsey and Gorman are multiple winners of the Byron event.
“First of all we'd like to offer our congratulations from the Winter Whales, that's a fantastic result,” Ocean Classic organiser Syl Reid said.
“Obviously, to start off with the Ocean Swim was about participation and the idea was to raise money for the surf club and the hospital.
“Over the years we've had some great swimmers like Ky Hurst, Grant Hackett and Daniel Kowalski and they are continuing to come.”
The results of Gorman and Grimsey have topped off a terrific 2009 event which had record participation levels of more than 2000 swimmers and raised $61,000 for local charities.
Indeed, the Byron Bay event could take some pride in the fact that Grimsey said he started to concentrate more on open water swimming after his first Ocean Classic victory.
Before his 2008 Byron victory he was considered more of a pool swimmer suited to the 800m and 1500m distances.
“A lot has changed in the past 12 months,” he said to The Northern Star after winning at Byron.
“I'm concentrating more on the open water than the pool these days.
“It was crystal clear out there today. It's a great swim to be involved in and I will definitely be back next year.”
Only former lifesaving champion and Olympian Ky Hurst has won three men's titles in the 30 year history of the event.
Meanwhile, the Winter Whales are also looking at sending their best wishes to 2008 women's winner Meagan Nay whose brother Amos died in a car accident at the weekend on the Gold Coast while she was in Rome with the Australian team.
Nay also lost her father Robert, a 1972 Olympic swimmer, in a car accident 16 years ago.
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