Hector Pardoe hopes a trio of races for the British quartet at the season-ending FINA Marathon Swim World Series finale in Abu Dhabi will provide a great platform for 2022.
Pardoe notched a ninth-placed finish in the individual Men's 10km event on his first return to competition since the Olympic Games, as well as contributing strongly to a placing of fifth for the team in the inaugural Mixed 6km race.
That was the race that began the two-day action. On her return to competition in open water, Bath National Centre athlete Holly Hibbott led the GB team off well over the opening 1500m, before handing over to Pardoe within 11 seconds of the lead.
The Tokyo Olympian produced a strong leg to move the Brits into first place at the halfway stage, with fellow Team GB competitor Alice Dearing diving in to take over. Another strong 1500m of marathon swimming kept the Brits in contention, with Dearing's Loughborough University training partner Tobias Robinson anchoring the effort.
He overtook the team from China late on to push Britain into fifth, two places off the podium and with each athlete getting valuable racing into their legs before the individual events.
Less than 24 hours later, Pardoe swam to a top-10 finish in the Men's 10km after that promising display in the team race. The Montpellier-based athlete - who won the Olympic qualifying race in Portugal earlier this year - was just off the hotly-contested sprint finish that saw Germany's Florian Wellbrock claim victory, with Pardoe ultimately touching ninth as he builds towards a busy 2022, when he will target a maiden World Championship appearance in Fukuoka.
Just behind him, Robinson, now training under Andi Manley at Loughborough, finished 12th, 2.5 seconds off his compatriot.
The Women's 10km event started soon after, with Dearing illustrating her favoured tactic of swimming from the back and moving through the field, the Loughborough University athlete progressing from deep in the pack to ninth, only seven seconds off the lead past halfway.
Alice ultimately fell slightly back from there to finish 20th, with Hibbott further back in the field as her re-introduction to the longest forms of the discipline brought valuable experience.
Reflecting on the meet overall, Pardoe was encouraged by many aspects - including the hope that the mixed team event will be one he can keep contributing to in the future.
"I was glad to get out there and race again for the first time since Tokyo, and it was definitely a confidence booster after the disappointment for me in Japan," he said.
"I felt really good out there yesterday in the relay, and it was cool to be a part of the first 4x1500m relay ever done here. Hopefully that can be added to the Olympic schedule in the future, as FINA intend to put it forward to the Olympic committee.
"I did feel a little tight out there today in the 10km, off the back of that relay, but that's just a new experience and obviously something every swimmer has to do in terms of back-to-back races. It was a shame to miss out on the prize money for this leg by one place, but overall I'm happy with the ninth place and I'm feeling ready for the new year and to start the World Series off again in 2022."
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