Countdown starts for Games quartet

Published 6:00pm 8 July 2022

Countdown starts for Games quartet
Words by Nick Crockford

Four swimmers who carry this region’s hopes into the Commonwealth Games, have started their journey to Birmingham.

Brenden Hall, Lakeisha Patterson, Blake Cochrane and Kirralee Hayes are on their way to a staging camp in France, before arriving in the UK.

The quartet will be in Chartres, about an hour from Paris, for more than two weeks preparing for their para-swimming events at the Games (July 28-August 8).

For Hall, from Mango Hill, and Patterson, who lives in Caboolture, the camp will continue their recovery from illness which wrecked racing plans at last month’s world championships.

Hall, who trains at Burpengary, recovered from a week’s COVID isolation to bring home a bronze medal. Club colleague Patterson, winner of two gold medals at the 2018 Gold Coast Games, only managed one heat of one event.

Countdown starts for Games quartet
Bronze for Brenden Hall at the world titles. Picture Delly Carr

However, ‘Lucky’ said she is “much better now” and will be swimming up a classification – from S9 to SM10 – in the 200m individual medley at Birmingham.

“I’m really excited to get over there,” she said. “This is the biggest Para-sport inclusion at a Commonwealth Games that we’ve seen.

“As Para-athletes, we don’t often get to experience major events like this alongside our able-bodied counterparts so it’s an incredible and inspiring experience.”

Former Petrie resident Hall said he went “straight back into training” after the world titles in Madeira to be “as good as I can be” at the Commonwealth Games.

Hall will race in the Men’s S9 100m backstroke, defending the gold medal he won at the 2018 Games on the Gold Coast.

Countdown starts for Games quartet
Lakeisha Patterson will be in the individual medley at Birmingham. Picture Delly Carr

Former Southern Cross student Blake Cochrane, feature picture, will be the first Australian Para-swimmer to compete at four Commonwealth Games when he goes to Birmingham.

A 13-time national champion, Cochrane has won four medals across freestyle, individual medley and breaststroke at the Delhi 2010, Glasgow 2014 and Gold Coast 2018 Games.

The 31 year old, now at USC Spartans, also switches from SB7 to SB8 for the 100m breaststroke and is not worried by expectations after a bronze at the Paralympics last year.

“I’ll just focus on what I can control,” he said, “it worked well in Tokyo.”

Cochrane is juggling sport with work and four advisory panel positions, being a member of the Moreton Bay Olympic Legacy Group, Sunshine Coast Community Reference Group, a 2032 Olympic Task Force Ambassador and on the Paralympic Australia Athletes Commission.

Countdown starts for Games quartet
Kirralee Hayes in the pool at Genesis Aquatics in Bray Park.

Kirralee Hayes, a founding member of Genesis Swim Club in Bray Park, will make her Commonwealth Games debut in the women’s S13 50m freestyle.

Hayes missed the world title trials through illness but is “very excited” by the new challenge, despite knowing little about her opponents.

“It’s great getting back in the team and being able to race again,” said Hayes, also now with USC Spartans on the Sunshine Coast.

“My goal is just trying to do everything better and give it 110 per cent all the time.”

Harley Connolly, who coaches Hall and Patterson in the Belgravia team at Burpengary, is also one of the Australian team coaches at the Commonwealth Games.

Countdown starts for Games quartet
Bailey Armstrong who is in Australia's World Championships team.

Bailey Armstrong, also from the Belgravia Swim Team at Burpengary, helped Australia finish sixth in the 4x1500m mixed open water relay at the FINA World Championships in Hungary.

Australia clocked 1 hour 5 minutes 30.8 seconds in Budapest, on Sunday, one-and-a-half seconds behind Brazil and 50.3 seconds behind winners Germany.

Armstrong was also 32nd in the individual 10km event clocking 2 hours 2.07 seconds and 16th in the 25km with a time of 5 hours 9 minutes 40.3 seconds.

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