Lee passes another exam in Doha to grab last-gasp gold

Ian Chadband |

Kyle Lee (R) touches just ahead in a photo-finish to the world championships Open Water mixed relay.
Kyle Lee (R) touches just ahead in a photo-finish to the world championships Open Water mixed relay.

Kyle Lee has a head for numbers as well as high drama.

A day after taking an accountancy examination in his Doha hotel, the brilliant open water swimmer had some more tough calculations as he battled to earn Australia a win by the merest fraction in the world championship relay.

The 21-year-old Lee will know better than anyone just how unlikely it was to win the 4 x 1500m event around old Doha port by a mere 0.2 seconds after nearly an hour-and-a-quarter’s ferocious racing on Thursday.

Less than 24 hours earlier, the Zimbabwe-born swimmer’s preparation for the last open water race of the programme had entailed him sitting a two-hour auditing examination, as part of his accountancy degree course, in the Australian team hotel, supervised by the team management.

But on Friday morning, after his cerebral test came a brutally physical one as the Western Australian produced one of his now trademark storming anchor legs to touch the boards just two-tenths of a second ahead of Italian Domenico Acerenza after the pair had battled side-by-side in a remarkable duel.

His teammates Moesha Johnson, Chelsea Gubecka and Nick Sloman, who’d set up the last-leg thriller, were left celebrating their triumph – Australia’s first swimming gold of the championships in Qatar – only after a nervous wait on the pontoon to check who’d actually prevailed.

The final verdict arrived that Lee had touched first in 1hr 3min 28.0sec, with the Italian quartet timed at 1:03:28.0 and Hungary third in 1:04:06.80.

“I just tried to stay calm and it is so hectic in that finishing shoot … I guess I got lucky on the touch,” smiled Lee, who’s proved himself a considerable ‘finisher’ for the Dolphins with memorable anchor legs at the 2023 World Championships in Fukuoka and the 2023 World Cup in Funchal.

Kyle Lee  star
Accountancy student Kyle Lee has proved himself a calculating figure on anchor legs of big races. (EPA PHOTO)

“It was so exciting to race today and to know you’re not swimming for yourself, you’re swimming for your country. 

“Everyone swam so well so going into the water, they were wishing me the best of luck – and I tried to do my best for them.”

Gubecka, who had won a silver in the individual 5km event the day before, saluted the team’s ever-improving efforts after a week in which they had booked a full complement of places at the Paris Olympics.

“We’ve absolutely raised the bar within the last five years,” Gubecka said. 

“I am proud of this team but even the juniors who are coming up want to be a part of this and we set the bar to that standard. As far as we can continue the legacy – especially with this relay – it really means something. I am just super proud to be an Aussie.”

Johnson enjoyed a brilliant first leg, putting Australia in fourth position which Guebecka held on to, before Sloman took the lead and Lee did the rest, moving up to Acerenza’s shoulder and slipping to the Italian’s inside before his last decisive burst.

It was Australia’s second gold of the multi-event aquatics championships, after Alysha Koloi’s diving title in the 1m springboard.

In Thursday’s (Friday AEDT) 10m platform synchro, the Australian pair of Cassiel Rousseau and Domonic Bedggood finished sixth (384.15pts) behind champions Lian Junjie and Yang Hao, who made it seven diving golds for China so far.

In the water polo, the Australian women were beaten 13-9 by Hungary and will now face Britain to earn a place in the quarter-finals.

AAP