Freestyler nets in­vite to worlds

South Waikato News - - SPORT / TE PAPA HA¯ KINAKINA - By PETRICE TAR­RANT

A stroke of suc­cess has landed swimmer Tracy Keith-Matchitt a spot on the Cook Is­land team head­ing off to the FINA World Short Course Cham­pi­onships next month.

Keith- Matchitt, orig­i­nally from Toko­roa, is one of three swim­mers at­tend­ing the Doha event from De­cem­ber 3 to 7.

The 24-year-old, who still swims un­der the Toko­roa Swimming Club banner de­spite liv­ing in Palmer­ston North, said this will be her first in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion.

And as if the spot on the na­tional team is not im­pres­sive enough, Keith-Matchitt has been awarded an all ex­penses paid for, three-month FINA train­ing schol­ar­ship to Ohio next year.

The com­pet­i­tive freestyler cer­tainly did not take to the pool like a fish when first in­tro­duced to the sport 19 years ago, and with size 71⁄

2 feet, you would not typ­i­cally pick her for a swimmer.

‘‘I used to hate it, I would never get in the wa­ter so mum took me to swim lessons. I just re­mem­ber say­ing to my­self one day, ‘when did I start rac­ing?’.’’

The part-time coach now swims the equiv­a­lent of a marathon ev­ery week.

And that is the bare min­i­mum, she said. It wouldn’t be un­com­mon to find her gyming it, par­tic­i­pat­ing in box-fit classes and hit­ting the pave- ment a few times too.

Keith-Matchitt said the strangest part about her rou­tine is that she trains alone and re­ports to her Auck­land-based coach Horst Miehe.

‘‘Peo­ple ask us ‘how on earth does that work?’ and we don’t know, it just does.’’

De­spite her ob­vi­ous ded­i­ca­tion to what she de­scribes as one of the hard­est in­di­vid­ual sports to com­pete in, Keith-Matchitt’s up­com­ing de­but on the world stage was un­ex­pected.

‘‘At the end of last year, I de­cided well you know I’m go­ing to be mak­ing all th­ese changes so why not see if they [Cook Is­lands] are in­ter­ested in me as an ath­lete.’’

She said she put an ath­lete pro­file to­gether and sent it off with the help of her Cook Is­land aunty in Toko­roa, and was blown away by the re­sponse.

‘‘Even­tu­ally they came back and said, ‘ we would be ab­so­lutely de­lighted to have you as an ath­lete . . . where have you been hid­ing?’.’’

She will be look­ing to beat her per­sonal best of 26.6 seconds in the 50 me­tres while also com­pet­ing in the 100m race.

Thanks go to her fam­ily, coach Horst Meihe, part­ner Ra­mone Breuer, and the South Waikato In­door Pool staff.

Tracey Kei­thMatchitt will rep­re­sent the Cook Is­lands at the FINA World Short Course Cham­pi­onships.

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