Perth schoolgirl Sacha Downing has conquered her fear of open- water swimming to become one of the nation's best prospects.
Downing had focused on competing in the 800m and 1500m in the pool, but her coach Mel Tantrum always believed she would be a great distance swimmer.
"She always pushed me to do open water but I was scared to do it just from what people said and I wasn't very good at swimming in the ocean," Downing said.
"But I tried my first one last year at Rockingham and I just absolutely fell in love with it and I have been doing it ever since."
The 15-year-old's rapid improvement was evident when she won two gold medals in her age group at the Australian open-water championships in Lake Macquarie last month. She finished 13th in the open category.
Downing is leading the WA open-water series, which wraps up today at Mullaloo.
The Year 11 Churchlands student will take on closest rival and London Olympian Heidi Gan in the 2.5km race in her bid to win the series.
She said she hoped to finish inside the top 10 in the open-age 10km at the nationals next year. Her long-term goal was to represent Australia at the Olympics.
Downing will compete in the 800m and 1500m in the pool at the Australian age championships in Adelaide next month, but said the open-water events were her focus.In the men's WA open-water series, Downing's training partner Paul Laver holds a big lead over Simon Huitenga, who will not compete today.
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