Fab five swimmers take on the world

Published 8:00am 30 May 2022

Fab five swimmers take on the world
Words by Nick Crockford

The world awaits for five swimmers and a coach from the Burpengary-based Belgravia team.

All will fly west in the next four months for staging camps before some of the biggest meets on the international calendar.

Brenden Hall, Lakeisha Patterson and Paige Leonhardt are in the Australian team about to leave for the World Para Championships in Madeira from June 12-18.

Bailey Armstrong and coach Harley Connolly will follow going first to Slovakia and then Hungary for the FINA World Open Water Championships on June 29-30.

Piper Sanderson is in the Australian squad for the World Junior Open Water Championships in the Seychelles on September 1-4, with Connolly again part of the coaching team.

Sandwiched between those are the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham from July 28-August 8 which will feature Hall and Patterson, with Connolly in the coaching team.

Fab five swimmers take on the world

Brenden Hall

Age: 29 years

Events: 400m freestyle S9, 100m freestyle S9, 100m backstroke, 100m butterfly

History: 8 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze medals from World Championships in 2010 Eindhoven, 2013 Montreal, 2015 Glasgow, 2019 London

Brenden Hall had just turned 14 when he was first selected for an Australian team ahead of the 2007 Arafura Games.

Fifteen medal-laden years later the Mango Hill resident is still “loving the opportunity to race for my country That’s what I love most.”

Just turned 29, Hall will be in the 100m and 400m freestyle S9, 100m backstroke and 100m butterfly at the championships in Madeira.

“I’m not too focused on the competition,” he says, “it’s just a matter of going in and having a bit of fun.

“I was very young at the start and am lucky to still be able to get up, put body through the ringer and have fun while doing it.

“I’ve done a lot of work since the trials (in April). It’s going to be a quick turnaround to get ready for the Comm Games.

“But it’s a sprint. 100m backstroke. Just two laps. A good easy back and up for me!”

Hall lost part of his right leg and hearing to complications from chicken pox at the age of six.

Fab five swimmers take on the world

Lakeisha ‘Lucky’ Patterson

Age: 23 years

Events: 50m, 100m 400m freestyle S9; 200m IM SM9, 4x100m mixed freestyle relay

History: 2 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze medals from World Championships in 2013 Montreal, 2015 Glasgow, 2019 London

Lucky, who learned to swim at Bribie and now lives in Caboolture, has a packed program at the World Para Championships including two events she rarely swims.

After one race at the Tokyo Paralympics (gold in the 400m freestyle S9), the Caboolture resident is now preparing for five at the world titles.

She has not regularly competed in the 50m freestyle and mixed relay which has been introduced to the championships.

“It’s a bigger schedule than I’ve had in recent years,” she says, “but it’s really exciting to be able to compete on the world stage again and mix things up a bit.

"This is my fourth world championships, and I know what to expect when racing overseas – though there are always things which happen outside your control.

“It has been a big and tough year so far, coming off the back of the paralympics.

“This will be a tough competition, but I have been training really hard. I’m ready for it … and excited.”

Fab five swimmers take on the world

Paige Leonhardt

Age: 21 years

Events: 100m butterfly, 100m breaststroke, 200m freestyle, 200m IM and medley mixed relay

History: Silver medals at 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

A recent addition to the Belgravia squad, Paige Leonhardt admits training has been “hard” ahead of her five events in Madeira.

“But I feel, going into these champions I’m probably the fittest I have even been and having a big program doesn’t really phase me,” the Redlands resident says.

Leonhardt was thrown from a car at the age of five and took four years to recover. She started swimming aged 12 during therapy and was at the national titles by the time she was 13 years old.

Now 21, she was selected for the 2017 World Para Championships which were initially postponed following an earthquake in Mexico.

This time, she will be more experienced and hungry for success.

“Having won silver in the 100m butterfly at the Comm Games and in Tokyo, my goal for these championships will be to get on the dais multiple times,” she says.

“I have three or four of my main events and this is a good bunch to train with.

“We all have the same goals, which is something I strive for. Everyone here gives 110 per cent all the time.”

Fab five swimmers take on the world

Bailey Armstrong

Age: 23 years

Events: 10km and 25km

History: 7th in 5km and 18th in 25km at 2019 World Open Water Championships

Bailey Armstrong has a daunting challenge at the FINA World Open Water Championships in Hungary with his events on successive days (June 29-30).

“Back-to-back should be a pretty challenging program,” he says, “but I’ve been preparing last year and all this year.

“I was seventh in 2019 and would definitely like to improve on that finish.

“I’m looking forward to it. It’s so good to be back travelling again.”

At this year’s Australian Open Water Championships, Armstrong was second in the 10km and third over 5km, but he said the best preparation is “just hard training”.

“There are times you want to hit in training because you know you will need to hit them in races,” he says.

The world titles will be on a freshwater lake in Budapest which will not give swimmers quite as much floatation as salt water, Armstrong says.

“It should be pretty calm,” he said, “cold, but not too cold, so it is a wet suit event.”

Belgravia coach Harley Connolly will be one of the Australian team coaches travelling to Hungary with the swimmers.

The team goes to Slovakia on June 16 for a staging camp before moving to Budapest for the championships.

Fab five swimmers take on the world

Piper Sanderson

Age: 18 years

Events: 5km and 10km

History: First time at international championships

Sanderson, from Narangba, has longer to wait for her first international debut – and it is time she will put to good use.

The World Junior Open Water Championships are on September 1-4 at Beau Vallon in the Seychelles where she will be in two events and possibly the relay.

“Being later in the year gives me time to mentally prepare, because it is something I haven’t done before,” the 18-year-old says.

“I’ve not been to anything internationally before. I’ve been to Adelaide for nationals, but otherwise not really travelled for swimming.

“Seychelles sounds amazing. I’ve seen photos, the water looks flat and clear. It can get quite warm, but by September, hopefully it will have cooled down a bit.”

In February, Sanderson won the Australian 19 Years 10km by a fraction over five minutes and was third in the 5km less than a second off second spot.

It's quite an achievement for someone who admits to being “pushed” into trying longer distances and now says it is “better than sprinting!”

Fab five swimmers take on the world
The swimmers with coach Harley Connolly

Harley Connolly – coach

Bribie-based Connolly is in the Australian coaching team for the world open water titles in Hungary and Seychelles, as well as the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

He was also at the Paralympics in Tokyo last year and will have his own swimmers and take others under his wing at each of the meetings.

Connolly’s charges at Burpengary have busy programs but adding “different events” for the likes of Lucky, will be a good challenge.

“It’s a busy year,” he says, “the world championships were meant to be in 2021 but are now before the Comm Games this year.

“But I think it is good for them to race in multiple events and good for coaches to try and perform under pressure. I’m looking forward to it.

“It’ll be a busy year, but hopefully the results all pay off and make it worthwhile.”

2022 Australian World Para Swimming Championships team

Emily Beecroft

USC Spartans

Rowan Crothers

Yeronga Park

Katja Dedekind

Yeronga Park

Tom Gallagher

USC Spartans

Jasmine Greenwood

Bay & Basin

Brenden Hall


Benjamin Hance

USC Spartans

Timothy Hodge


Jack Ireland

University of Queensland

Paige Leonhardt


Matthew Levy

North Sydney

William Martin

Nudgee College

Madeleine McTernan

All Saints

Jake Michel

Carina Leagues

Grant Patterson

Central Cairns

Lakeisha Patterson


Col Pearse


Alex Saffy


Keira Stephens

USC Spartans

Ruby Storm

USC Spartans

Rachael Watson


2022 Australian Open Water FINA World Championships team

Moesha Johnson – Griffith University (Queensland)

Chelsea Gubecka – Yeronga Park (Queensland)

Finella Gibbs-Beal – Noosa (Queensland)

Nicholas Sloman – Noosa (Queensland)

Bailey Armstrong – Belgravia (Queensland)

Kyle Lee – North Coast (Western Australia)

Mel Tantrum - Swimming Australia State Technical Lead (Western Australia)

Janelle Pallister – Griffith University (Queensland)

Harley Connolly – Belgravia (Queensland)

Robert Van der Zant – Yeronga Park (Queensland)

John Rodgers – Noosa (Queensland)

2022 Australian World Junior Open Water Championships team

Finella Gibbs-Beal – Noosa (Queensland)

Piper Sanderson – Belgravia (Queensland)

Abbey Connor – Revesby Workers (New South Wales)

Jasmine Rawyward – TSS Aquatics (Queensland)

Robert Thorpe – St Peters Western (Queensland)

Caleb Dryer – Trinity Grammar (New South Wales)

Kai Robertson – Revesby Workers (New South Wales)

Clancy Luscombe – Marion (South Australia)

Harley Connolly – Belgravia (Queensland)

Maxine Seear – St Peters Western (Queensland)

Alex Clarke – Revesby Workers (New South Wales)


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