Chelsea gritting teeth for long haul to Rio
SWIMMING: Michael Sage has mentored plenty of the nation's top young swimmers but none like Chelsea Gubecka.
He says the 15-year-old, who is national open water champion, has the commitment, desire and ability to push her body to the limit and beyond.
And it's this sort of work ethic which could propel her to the Olympic Games in Rio.
"She's by far the best trainer I've ever seen," Sage said, ahead of the Pan-Pacific Championships on the Gold Coast.
"She's extremely tough, just with the determination she shows at every session.
"None of the swimmers (I've had before) are able to do what she does."
Gubecka, who clocks up about 80km a week in training, will compete in the 10km open water race at the Pan-Pacs on Monday, against many of the globe's top endurance athletes from Brazil and the United States.
After competing at the world championships in Spain last year, where she finished 30th, this meet represents another international step towards the 2016 Olympic Games.
"We don't know how she will go. We just want her to swim a smart race," Sage said. "We know she can swim fast but she's got to put herself into a position to win it, that's the plan.
"But I don't want to put any pressure on her pre-race. At the moment it's all about learning."
Gubecka is also a renowned pool swimmer. She won the Australian 1500m freestyle crown last year and placed second in that event this year.
But Sage, who became coach at Kawana two months ago, said Gubecka was, at this stage, concentrating on her open water prospects.
To earn a berth at Rio, she will need to qualify from a series of events next year, including the national titles, a Mexico meet and a race in Russia.
"It's definitely different to pool racing. It's tougher," Sage said.
"There's a lot of physical contact and there's a lot of strategy but she loves that and she has been very successful, especially during the short period she has done it.
"A lot of the leading Europeans are well into their 20s and 30s so she's picked it up very quickly at a young age."
The diminutive teenager doesn't mind the rough rigours of racing.
"She's not as big as many others - like the Europeans - but she's got a big heart," he said.
Sage, 33, has returned to the Sunshine Coast after four years coaching in Melbourne where he focused on some of the Australia's top juniors.
From 2002-10 he was coach at Cotton Tree and Coolum.
Among those he guided were Jarrod Poorte, Buster Sykes and the Coast's Olympics and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Brittany Elmslie.
- STEELE TAYLOR