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The start of something extraordinary

Two qualifying times, three NZ records from youth brigade

Two up-and-comers have achieved the qualifying standard for the Rio Olympics on the third morning of heats at the 2016 New Zealand Open Swimming Championships.

Twenty-year-old Bradlee Ashby from the Waikato went under the mark and broke the New Zealand record in the men’s 200m individual medley.

In the final heat of the morning, 21 year old Helena Gasson from the North Shore club also beat the Rio standard in the women’s 100m butterfly, in a time of 58.66s which was also a new national record.

Ashby clocked 2:00.00 which was 28/100ths of a second under the qualifying mark for Rio, and 0.3s under the previous record of the great Dean Kent, set in 2007.

The Fairfield swimmer, who is now in the Swimming New Zealand high performance squad, said the experience at last year’s world championships, where he was selected as a development swimmer, proved invaluable.

“The experience of racing there against the likes of Ryan Lochte and being around that environment was a real bonus,” Ashby said.“I can’t believe it – it’s absolutely amazing to get that time today.”

Gasson, who has swum at clubs in Thames and Fairfield, made the bold move to North Shore last year in a serious bid for international selection.

She missed the qualifying time in the 200m butterfly by less than half a second on the opening night but made amends when she zoomed home in 31 seconds flat over the final 50m in the 100m butterfly to go under the qualifying time by 8/100ths of a second.

Her time broke the previous national record set by Sophia Batchelor four years ago by 5/100ths of a second.

“I took a while to believe what I’ve done and still going through that process but it is my dream and I am just so glad I get to live my dream,” said Gasson.

Earlier Howick Pakuranga sprinter Daniel Hunter came within a blink of also reaching the qualifying standard when he set a national record in the 50m freestyle heats.

The 21 year old was timed at 22.31s to be only 4/100ths of a second outside the qualifying mark. He did go under the 2008 record of 22.37 set by former Olympian Orinoco Fa’amasusili-Banse, who also competed in the championships after several years out of competitive swimming.

In other heat swims Lauren Boyle was a fraction outside the qualifying mark in the 400m freestyle in 4:09.37 but more than 11 seconds clear of the next fastest.

Paralympic stars Sophie Pascoe and Mary Fisher went under nomination time in heats today of the 50m freestyle and 200m medley with Nikita Howarth also under the medley time.

Tonight’s finals begin at 7pm and will be live on SKY Sport 3.

NZ Open Championships

Rio Olympic