Sunshine Coast swimmer Kareena Lee has been announced as the fourth Australian Olympic Team member selected for Tokyo 2020.
Lee will make her Olympic debut in Tokyo, competing in the 10km Marathon Swimming event in Odaiba Marine Park.
The 25-year-old, who finished seventh in July’s World Championships to earn a quota spot by name, was nominated by Swimming Australia and officially selected by the AOC.
Australian Chef de Mission for Tokyo 2020 Ian Chesterman said Lee’s selection was well deserved after an outstanding international season in 2019.
“It is fantastic to officially announce Kareena to her first Australian Olympic Team,” Chesterman said.
“This is a day to celebrate a remarkable achievement not just for Kareena, but her entire support crew of family, friends, coaches, teammates and Swimming Australia who contributed to this milestone.
“Kareena has performed to such a high level on the global stage, including seventh at July’s World Championships, silver in February’s Marathon Swimming World Cup in Doha and taking her first 10km national title in January 2019.
“I look forward to following Kareena’s performances in the upcoming season as she builds towards Tokyo 2020.”
After narrowly missing out on Rio 2016, Lee said she initally felt relief when she qualified for Tokyo.
“When I qualified at Worlds, the first kind of emotion I had was relief, now I think about it I’m just so excited, it’s something I’ve wanted since I was a little girl, I’m just really happy,” Lee said.
“After just missing out on Rio I wasn’t too sure if I was going to continue the sport. I had a bit of a break and a long think about it, and I knew I wouldn’t be happy within myself if I left the sport. My heart was still in it and I really didn’t want to leave on a low, so I knuckled down and I trained very, very hard.
“I’m obviously really happy I didn’t leave.”
Marathon Swimming made its Olympic debut in 2008, with just seconds often splitting the top competitors despite almost two hours of racing.
“I think everyone’s goal is to get on the podium at Tokyo, that would be the absolute dream, especially as it’s something Australia hasn’t done yet, but with everyone in this event so close on that finish line, it can really be anyone’s race.”
Being one of the first athletes selected on the 2020 Australian Olympic Team means Lee only has one thing to focus on for the next 10 months.
“It’s really amazing being selected this far out, it allows me to narrow the focus to just the Olympics now.
“I don’t have to worry about qualifying close to the event so I will just concentrate on training and selecting races I want to focus on without the extra pressure.”
Swimming Australia Chief Executive Leigh Russell was thrilled to have their first athlete confirmed for Tokyo 2020.
“Kareena’s selection on the Olympic Team is the start of a very exciting year for swimming,” Russell said. “All of us at Swimming Australia congratulate Kareena and wish her all the best in her preparation for the Games.”
Lee is just the fourth of an expected 480 team size for Tokyo, with further opportunities for Australian marathon swimmers to qualify at the 2020 FINA Olympic Marathon Swimming Qualifying event in May 2020 in Fukuoka, Japan.