It was Talia Field’s first ever attempt at open water swimming and her first time swimming five kilometres but already legendary coach Dick Caine can see similarities between Talia and the great Susie Maroney.
Talia won the 13-year-old girls 5km event at the NSW State Open Water Championships at the Sydney International Regatta Centre, Penrith earlier this month.
The Carss Park Swimming Club member finished in a time of 1 hour, eight minutes and 38 seconds to complete the course more than five minutes ahead of her nearest challenger.
The time was good enough to qualify for the national event in Adelaide in January. Not a bad performance from someone whose only swimming had been done in a pool – and never over that distance.
“I didn’t really know what to expect. I had been told what to expect but it wasn’t reality yet,” Talia said.
“I didn’t know if people were going to grab my legs or pull me back or if it was going to be a smooth, straight swim. I just didn’t really know what was going to happen.
“The river was kind of gross. I couldn’t see the bottom. It was fresh water so it was alright.”
Talia has been under the expert tutelage of Caine at Carss Park for seven years. Caine knows a thing or two about top swimmers, with greats Maroney, Michelle Ford, Janelle Elford and Stacey Gartrell all part of his stable over the years.
And Caine believes Talia has what it takes to get to that level one day.
“You’ve almost got a carbon copy of the Susie Maroney story,” Caine said.
“If she keeps going well in this sort of marathon swimming, you concentrate on that and it will tend to take away your speed in the shorter events. So the big decision after this summer is does she start concentrating on that really long open water swimming or on the pool.”
That comparison was quick to bring a smile to Talia’s face.
“It’s amazing. I know Susie and [for Dick to say that is] just amazing. She’s a record holder for the English Channel which is so many more [kilometres] than five,” she said.
“It’s good [training here], I really like it. I get a challenge here. At some places you get given things you can do but here you get given things you can’t do yet and you have to achieve them in training.
“I don’t know what I’ll do. I just happened to start open water but I kind of want to go still water. It’s just good to have the opportunities.”
Talia, a passionate St George Illawarra Dragons fan, is also a promising surf lifesaving athlete with Cronulla and a state 200m butterfly champion.