Brianna set for Great island challenge

Published 5:00am 3 July 2023

Brianna set for Great island challenge
Words by Nick Crockford

Brianna Thompson will next week head north aiming for another entry in her remarkable list of marathon open water swims.

The Albany Creek Swim Club member is preparing to swim 20kms solo around Great Keppel Island, off the central Queensland coast near Yeppoon.

Thompson travels on July 11 and has a window of July 12-15 for her support boat crew, the right weather conditions and to complete the swim.

The 21-year-old (22 later this month) has lapped Great Keppel Island before as part of an organised event. But this time, she will be on her own.

“It’s a local swim I’ve always wanted to do,” said Thompson, who is coached by Brenden Dowling at Albany Creek, “and the water will be a lot warmer!”

Great Keppel will join an impressive list which includes Port to Pub (North Fremantle to Rottnet Island, 25kms) and Derwent River (New Norfolk Bridge to Tasman Bridge, Hobart, 34kms).

Thompson now just needs Palm to Shelly (South Palm Beach to Shelly Beach, Manly, 24kms) to complete the Australian Triple Crown of long-distance swimming.

She has also done the English Channel – England-France (33kms) and England-France-England (66kms) – and last year swam 22.5kms from Jersey to France in 5 hours 55 minutes (see video).

Days later the Boondall resident started a 53km swim from Guernsey to France, which was her original target on the trip, but called a halt six hours in.

“It wasn’t going so good, so I stopped,” said Thompson, whose swims are self-funded, “but I love these swims and would like to swim (70kms) around Jersey next year.”

She may try to use the Jersey open water swim group in her support team as their boat would enable her to swim closer to shore.

Brianna Thompson adding her name to the Jersey-France swim list at Prince's Bar in St Hellier last year.

Loch Ness (36.3kms), Lake Geneva (73kms) and possibly New Zealand swims, such as Lake Taupo (46kms) are also on the wish list, but cold water training is essential.

“I’d need go Melbourne and Sydney to prepare for those,” Thompson said, “and need at least a year of going up through the k's, co-ordinating travel and a support team.”

It is a far cry from 11 years ago when her love of long distance swimming was first spotted.

At 13, Thompson swam her first 5km open water race and made the national championships. She then progressed to 7.5km events.

An Albany Creek club colleague, Ben Freeman, inspired her love of ultra-marathon events.

“He was 17 and had just swum the English Channel,” said Thompson, “I thought that was incredible and something I want to do one day, when I finish school.”

And she did - in 2018 and again in 2019!

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