Swim­mers turn things around

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT -

New Zealand swim­ming has had a bit of a flog­ging in re­cent years, but per­haps a resur­gence is loom­ing.

Three re­ports have been com­piled, ex­am­in­ing the struc­ture and per­for­mance of Swim­ming New Zealand, and all have been crit­i­cal to some de­gree of the na­tional body. High- pro­file coaches have come and gone, some not very hap­pily.

Even now there’s no head coach for the na­tional swim­ming squad and Luis Vil­lanueva, the high per­for­mance direc­tor, is de­part­ing af­ter lit­tle more than two years.

Moss Burmester, the for­mer Com­mon­wealth Games but­ter­fly gold medal­list, walked out on the sport a cou­ple of years ago with a real part­ing shot at its ad­min­is­tra­tion. In the wa­ter, re­sults have been poor.

The shin­ing ex­cep­tion has been freestyler Lau­ren Boyle who, af­ter fin­ish­ing fourth in the 800m at the 2012 Lon­don Olympics, has won three world cham­pi­onships medals in Barcelona in 2013, a Com­mon­wealth Games gold in Glas­gow last year and set a short­course world record for 1500m.

Amazingly, Boyle is swim­ming faster than ever de­spite strug­gling to find a New Zealand coach she’s com­fort­able work­ing with.

Dis­abled swim­mers So­phie Pascoe and Mary Fisher have achieved ex­cep­tional re­sults and brought home buck­ets of gold medals from Par­a­lympics and world cham­pi­onships.

But apart from the dis­abled swim­mers and Boyle, it’s all been rather grim. There’s been no Olympic medal since Danyon Loader’s two golds at At­lanta in 1996, no world cham­pi­onship medal or Com­mon­wealth Games gold (ex­cept Boyle and Pascoe) since 2006. Maybe there are bet­ter times ahead.

At the re­cent New Zealand cham­pi­onships in Auck­land, no fewer than 10 swim­mers – eight in the pool, two open wa­ter – qual­i­fied for the world champs in Kazan, Rus­sia, in Au­gust. That’s way up on the six who went to the 2013 world champs.

Boyle leads the way, hav­ing recorded the world’s fastest 1500m time of the year, at the Aus­tralian champs in Syd­ney this month. She is a gen­uinely world­class ath­lete, even if she is sur­pris­ingly un­der-val­ued in New Zealand.

Be­sides Boyle, swim­mers such as Tau­ranga’s Nathan Capp, He­lena Gas­son and Bobbi Gichard are emerg­ing as po­ten­tial cham­pi­ons.

Capp, 22, pared seven sec­onds offf his own na­tional 1500m freestyle record and also set records in win­ning 800m freestyle and 400m in­di­vid­ual med­ley ti­tles. Even more en­cour­ag­ing, he gives the im­pres­sion he’s just get­ting started.

Gichard, from Hawke’s Bay, is only 15, but pointed to her abil­ity by clean­ing up the 100m and 200m back­stroke events.

Gas­son, from Waikato, had a mem­o­rable na­tion­als, win­ning four ti­tles, in­clud­ing the tough 400m in­di­vid­ual med­ley. She didn’t qual­ify for Kazan, but is one to keep an eye on.

In ad­di­tion to the team head­ing for Kazan, a team of eight, headed by Pascoe and Fisher, will at­tend the world IPC cham­pi­onships, for dis­abled com­peti­tors, in Glas­gow in July. And 19 New Zealand swim­mers will at­tend the world uni­ver­sity games in Korea, also in July. That’s the largest swim­ming con­tin­gent New Zealand has sent to a world uni­ver­sity games.

De­spite the prob­lem at na­tional level in coach­ing and ad­min­is­tra­tion, the swim­mers may well be turn­ing things around.

Swim­ming is a par­tic­u­larly tough in­ter­na­tional sport and things have not been easy at home, so all credit to them.


Lau­ren Boyle, the shin­ing light of New Zealand swim­ming.

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