Sisters splash out
THERE aren't too many sisters who can class a gruelling pool session as a bonding exercise, but Leanda and Melissa Cave have never been ordinary siblings.
US-based Leanda won the women's world ironman title in Kona last October and has been at Kewarra Beach the past 10 days visiting her parents Gordon and Joyce.
But also at home at the moment is her older sister Melissa, who lives in London and is an accomplished open-water swimmer.
The duo have been sharing a lane rope at Marlin Coast Swimming Pool during their Cairns sojourn while they train for their respective sports.
"Melissa is swimming really well right now," Leanda said.
"She's been keeping up with me for the most part even though I swim about twice as much as her. She seems to get better really quick while I tend to sit on this one level.
"But there's no competition in the pool. It's encouragement more than anything as we try to get each other through the workouts."
Melissa, who swam the English Channel in a team last year, said she and her sister carried different training loads.
"I'm a long-distance, open-water swimmer, while Leanda does distance triathlon," she said.
"There's no reason for us to have competition in the pool. What we do is very different, so we just support each other."
Melissa was on hand to watch her sister's triumph in Kona last year, along with their brother Justin.
It was support Leanda was grateful for as she scored the biggest win of her professional career.
"I think it was the first time any family member of mine has watched me win a world championship, so that was really nice," Leanda said.
"With my brother being there as well, it was just a lot of fun.
"Mum and dad couldn't make it because mum was having an operation here, but they've got all their flights and accommodation booked for this year."
Parental support has been a factor in the athletic careers of the sisters.
After migrating from the UK, the Caves travelled around Australia before settling in Cairns when Melissa and Leanda were both school age.
With water an intrinsic part of the Australian and Far North lifestyle, Leanda said her parents wanted to make sure their young family could swim.
"We were always living near the water and mum and dad wanted to make sure we could swim in case we ever ended up in the ocean unsupervised," she said.
"We kind of got into everything from that organically."
But Melissa also believes swimming comes naturally to her family.
"We're all swimmers and all good swimmers. It must be something in our genetic line, but there's also that support we got from mum and dad," she said.
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Big splash: sisters Lena and Melissa Cave.