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The start of something extraordinary

Gichard Wins Bronze Medal, Breaks Age Group Record

Fifteen-year-old Hawkes Bay swimmer Bobbi Gichard has claimed the bronze medal in the 100m backstroke on the second night of finals at the FINA World Junior Championships in Singapore.

Teammate and defending world 50m backstroke champion Gabrielle Fa’amausili, 15, set the pace to turn second at the 50m mark, but had to be content with seventh.

Meanwhile Gichard, coached by Noel Hargreaves at the Greendale club, went out in 29.41s and held off the fast charging Canadian Danielle Hanus by just 2/100ths to claim the bronze. She clocked 1:00.42, her third straight personal best time at the championships and a new national age group record.

The time was also only 0.2 seconds outside the national open record by Emily Thomas, set in 2009 before non-fabric swim suits were banned, and only 17/100ths of a second off the mark she will need to achieve at the Trials next year for nomination to the Rio Olympics.

“I didn’t expect I could get third but after the race I looked up at the scoreboard and I was so stoked with the race and my time,” Gichard said.

Swimming in lane seven, Gichard said she was unaware of her position in the race.

“I couldn’t see anyone from my lane – I’m unsure if that was a good or a bad thing - but I didn’t expect this.”

Fa’amausili, coached by Igor Polianski at the United club, will be encouraged for her 50m backstroke later in the championship after showing outstanding speed in the first 50m tonight. She clocked an excellent 1:00.74, a new personal best and under the national age group record she set in the heats.

“I am happy to get another PB. I feel better swimming that race now, more confident. I am happy with the outcome and really proud of Bobbi as well,” Fa’amausili said.

“My focus is to keep getting PBs and to focus on swimming my races and not worry about the opposition.”

Australia’s Minna Atherton won the 100m backstroke final in 59.58, breaking her own world junior record set in the semifinal.

There is no respite for both young Kiwi stars. Gichard is back in the pool on day three for heats of her favoured 200m backstroke while Fa’amausili contests heats of the 50m butterfly.

Auckland’s Annabelle Paterson, also from the United club, will make her first appearance of the championships in the 200m backstroke heats.

The fifth World Junior Swimming Championships, staged at the OCBC Aquatic Centre, runs until Sunday.

Results, 100m backstroke final: Minna Atherton (AUS) 59.58, 1 (world junior record); Claire Adams (USA) 1:00.19, 2; Bobbi Gichard (NZL) 1:00.42, 3 (NZ Age Group Record). Also: Gabrielle Fa’amausili (NZL) 1:00.74, 7.

CAPTION: Bobbi Gichard in action. (The image is for editorial use only. Credit: BW Media)