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High hopes in open water swimming

Open water swimming returns to the Southeast Asian Games this August with the Philippines sending four swimmers, including Fil-American Courtney Melissa Gray who is tipped to contend for the medals.

To be held at the Putrajaya Lake, the event offers two gold medals over a distance of 10,000 meters.

Gray, a 19-year-old beauty based in Phuket, Thailand, heads the team that includes Erica Lukang, Roy Canete and Mico Anota.

In last year’s Asian Beach Games in Da Nang, Vietnam, Gray finished eighth overall and third best among Southeast Asian entries.

“Gray has a big chance of landing a medal,” said national coach Dale Evangelista.

All four, who started out as pool swimmers, have passed the bronze medal criteria based on the results of the 2011 SEA Games where the sport was last held.

Evangelista said his team gets a chance to compete against an international field on May 28 in Puerto Princesa.

Gray used to hold age-group records in the backstroke event before her transition to open water. She currently trains in Phuket where she’s studying.

The rest of the team trains at the Rizal Memorial pool where they log between 60,000 and 70,000 meters a week apart from weight training.

Evangelista, who is also coach of the water polo team, said he hopes to bring his swimmers to the Games venue in the first week of July to familiarize themselves with the lake conditions.