Walsh hits the big-time
Whitby swimmer turns heads at national championships
Wellington breaststroker Ben Walsh is off to Hawaii in August, after qualifying for the Pan Pacific junior swimming championships in New Zealand record time.
Competing at the national agegrade championships in Kilbirnie this month, Walsh, just tuned 17, set a national age grade and Wellington open record of 1min 02.61s in the 100m breaststroke – two seconds under the junior Pan Pacs qualifying time.
Olympian Glenn Snyder is the only New Zealander to have gone faster.
The national age grade champs doubled as trials for swimmers to be considered for junior Pan Pacs, and the Youth Olympics in China, both in August.
Walsh, who lives in Whitby and swims for the Porirua City Aquatics club, qualified for both.
He went under the 1min 04.79s qualifying time for the Junior Pan Pacs, having clocked 1min 05.07s in the heat.
He said he was nervous before the final, because the national meet was the sole opportunity to qualify for the junior Pan Pacs.
‘‘I get nervous – I just don’t show it,’’ he said.
‘‘I thought, ‘This is it’. I wanted to go hard out in the first 50 and hold on for the last 50.’’
Walsh also recorded under 30 seconds for his first 50 metres for just his second time in the event, the first time being just a month ago at the New Zealand open championships.
‘‘The first 50 felt good – I‘m just so stoked, so happy to make the junior Pan Pacs mark.
‘‘I was hoping to go the time, but was unsure after my morning heat. I wasn’t sure I had it in me.’’
His 200m breaststroke time of 2min 20.40s qualified him for the Youth Olympics and was just outside his Wellington open record of 2min 19.11s, set last month.
He also set a Wellington open record in the 50m, clocking 29.00s. The event is not on the programme at the international meets. In his fourth A final of the nationals, Walsh was seventh in the 200m medley.
The junior Pan Pacific championships involve full- strength teams from the Pacific Rim including United States, Canada Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
Walsh’s coach, Nevill Sutton, is one of the coaches in the Pan Pacs team.
Walsh is unavailable for the Youth Olympics.
Rising fast: Ben Walsh who set the national age swimming champs alight.