Natural high aim for teen
SWIMMING: Mountain Creek teenager Chelsea Gubecka will spend three weeks in a high-altitude training camp as she prepares to scale the dizzy heights of the international open water swimming world.
The 15-year-old Olympic hopeful (pictured) will travel to the Australian Institute of Sport's 'altitude house' in Canberra after she returns from her bronze-medal campaign at the Pan Pacific Championships in Hawaii.
The 10km open water specialist will spend three weeks living in a specially modified house that simulates the low-pressure atmosphere of 2500m above sea level and could give Gubecka a fitness advantage as she tries to qualify for the 2016 Olympics.
"It will just basically improve her aerobic capacity, her utilisation of oxygen as a fuel and that's one of the areas we really want to work on in the next 12 months," coach Michael Sage said.
According to the AIS website, the house is designed to simulate a high altitude atmosphere, which head of physiology professor Chris Gore says increases the levels of oxygen-carrying red blood cells.
"By living in the house for 12 hours or so a day, the athlete's red blood cell counts increase, their haemoglobin increases," Professor Gore said.
"As well, their muscle buffering capacity, ability to handle lactic acid and their efficiency also improves.
"They can then use these factors to their advantage in training and competitions.
"Overall, we're talking about a 1-2% increase in performance, which mightn't sound like much, but can be the difference between a medal and failing to qualify."
Sage said the training camp would give Gubecka an opportunity to look for potential advantages as she prepares to take on the best open water swimmers in the world at next year's Olympic trials in Russia.
"They'll basically live high and train low and see if their body responds to that. If it does, they'll know it's worthwhile travelling and doing some altitude training," Sage said.
The 10km swimmer has a loaded schedule for the remainder of 2014, with international races planned in China and Hong Kong along with the Queensland and NSW championships.
Sage said getting race experience was the most important element for Gubecka as she tried to secure a top-10 berth in Russia and earn automatic qualification for the 2016 Olympic Games.
"The long-term plan is the Olympics and finishing in the top 10 at Russia will give Chelsea automatic qualification," Sage said.
"If she doesn't get in that way, she still has an opportunity, but it's a lot longer process."
The Coast-based coach had not spoken to Gubecka after yesterday's bronze-medal finish in Hawaii but was pleased with reports from the teenager's father. Gubecka showed steely resolve to brush aside the race's last-minute move from the Gold Coast to Hawaii and complete the course in 1:59.54, 38 seconds short of the personal best she set at the World Championships in Portugal last year.