A teary Simon Huitenga said his late friend Matthew Glucina was on his mind as he swam the elite 10km open water race in the Swan River in front of the Bell Tower yesterday.
Huitenga finished second in just under 1hr. 55min., close behind New South Welshman Jarrod Poort and ahead of fellow West Australian Rhys Mainstone.
The result means the 25-year-old has qualified for selection in the Australian team for the Pan Pacific Championships on the Gold Coast in August.
And while delighted with the outcome, Huitenga took a few moments to remember Glucina, who lost his battle with lymphoma last month.
Huitenga wore a cap with Glucina's name on it as a tribute.
"We were close," he said.
"We trained together for about three years.
"We didn't have to wear it (the Australian cap) today so I took the opportunity, he was a great friend."
Huitenga said he had been able to execute his race plan in the choppy conditions.
"The race was tricky but that was our plan," he said. "Just sit, swim smart and be up at that top two at the end.
"It's been a lot of hard work and smart preparation.
"The last 12 months and the next three years leading into Rio, I can't wait to see what is going to happen."
Huitenga said he would compete in surf lifesaving events over the next few months, before beginning his build-up to the Pan Pacific titles.
"Ky Hurst did it (surf lifesaving and open water) and he went to two Olympics so I think I can do it as well," he said.
"The training is really similar. Rio is the main goal so just little stepping stones from now until then.
"Making the Pan Pacs team next year, going to Russia and then getting that top-10 position to qualify for Rio."
In the women's event, 15-year-old Chelsea Gubecka successfully defended her national 10km open water title, hitting the gate just behind American duo Ashley Twichell (2:03.51.27) and Haley Anderson. WA youngster Sacha Downing was the fourth Australian and seventh overall in a time of 2:08:07.03.