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Swimmers impress in shakedown for Rio Olympics

Swimming New Zealand is encouraged by both the quality and quantity of performances looking ahead to the Rio Olympics.

Six swimmers have qualified in eight events after the conclusion of the 2016 New Zealand Open Swimming Championships, with a further trial to be staged for the Northern American-based collegiate Kiwis in Canada next week.

New Zealand’s Para-Swimmers also impressed this week with eight swimmers going under the nomination standard in 24 events.

Four New Zealand swimmers who achieved FINA A times and competed in the world championships last year reached the Olympic qualifying standard, while two of the 2020 targeted young swimmers also bettered the standard.

“We came in with a target of our five senior swimmers stepping up to reach the standard which has been excellent,” said head selector Mark Saunders.

“And it has been the icing on the cake to get two of our targeted swimmers for Tokyo in 2020 to achieve the standard for Rio in Helena Gasson and Bradlee Ashby.

“There are some big plusses with the likes of Lauren Boyle and Matthew Stanley achieving the qualifying standard in multiple events, and Glenn Snyders has come home from the USA and really stood up.

“The big plus is that in a number of cases, including Gasson and Ashby, the swimmers bettered the standard twice in a day. They swam fast in the morning and faster at night which is something we have not always managed to achieve in the past, and must do if we want to move from heats into semifinals and finals.”

Mr Saunders said he hopes the results this week will have a positive effect on the 13 New Zealanders who will compete in the Canadian Trials, who are led by Corey Main and recent NCAA medallist Matt Hutchins.

Rio-candidate Matthew Stanley made it a clean sweep of his freestyle events with a stunning victory in the 100m freestyle after an epic battle with Howick Pakuranga’s Daniel Hunter, who broke the national record in the morning heat.

Hunter turned in front in 23.32 chasing the Rio standard of 48.99, but Stanley, who has beaten the qualifying time in the 200m and 400m freestyle, stormed home to win in 49.59.

The 21 year old Hunter clocked 49.43s to top qualifiers in the morning heats, going under the national record of 49.54 set by Mark Herring in 2008.

North Shore’s Laura Quilter prevailed in the women’s 100m freestyle, holding off Samantha Lee (Capital) and Paige Flynn (St Peters) in 56.30s.

Gasson (North Shore), who beat the qualifying mark in the 200m butterfly earlier this week, took out the 400m individual medley in a personal best 4:52.06 from Kate Godfrey (Neptune) and Yeonsu Lee (North Shore).

Waikato’s Ashby, part of Swimming New Zealand’s high performance squad, took out the 200m backstroke in 2:01.40 to complete an outstanding meet where he went under the Rio standard in the 200m individual medley.

The women’s 200m backstroke title went to exciting 16 year old Bobbi Gichard (Howick Pakuranga) who clocked an excellent 2:11.93, just over a second outside the Rio standard.

It was not the fairytale finish as hoped for Greerton’s Nathan Capp, part of Swimming New Zealand’s high performance squad, who was timed at 15:23.89 in his attempt to better the 15m14s mark in the 1500m freestyle.

However in a special time trial the quartet of Bradlee Ashby, Glenn Snyders, Chris Dawson and Daniel Hunter clocked 3:36.86 in the 400m medley relay to post the 14th fastest time in the world, with the final deadline for Rio qualification in early May.

Paralympic stars Sophie Pascoe and Mary Fisher continued on their world class form, both going under the Rio nomination time in heats of the 100m freestyle and both went faster at night, with Pascoe dipping under the magical minute mark in 59.82s.

They were joined by North Shore’s Rebecca Dubber who also bettered the nomination time.

Fisher went on to match Pascoe with a world record in her final event, the 50m butterfly. Fisher (Tawa) clocked 32.92 in the S11 category which was 0.3s under her own world record to cap off an outstanding meet for the illustrious pair, who have 16 world titles between them.

Eight Para-Swimmers have met nomination times across 24 events this week which delighted Jon Shaw, Head Performance Coach.

“It has been an outstanding week for the Para-Swimmers who have created real competition amongst themselves because of the number of available quota spots for New Zealand,” Shaw said.

“The pleasing aspect is that this has been achieved within a great team culture.

“We’ve seen virtually all of our Para-Swimmers swim faster at night, and of course Sophie and Mary continue to show they are world class.

“We’ve had performances from our proven performers but there have been some newcomers who have shown monumental shifts and none more so than Bryall McPherson from North Shore who has done wonders with her coach Gary Francis.

“They, like many of our squad, have shown the benefits of the resource of this national aquatic training centre.”


Women 100m freestyle: Laura Quilter (North Shore) 56.30, 1; Samantha Lee (Capital) 56.68, 2; Paige Flynn (St Peter’s) 56.73, 3.

Men 100m freestyle: Matthew Stanley (Matamata) 49.59, 1; Daniel Hunter (Howick Pakuranga) 49.81, 2; Julian Weir (Aquabladz New Plymouth) 50.97, 3.

Women 400m individual medley: Helena Gasson (North Shore) 4:52.06, 1; Kate Godfrey (Neptune) 5:00.16, 2; Yeonsu Lee (North Shore) 5:01.29, 3.

Men 200m backstroke: Bradlee Ashby (Fairfield) 2:01.40, 1; Jackson Cropp (North Shore) 2:02.96, 2; Corneille Coetzee (North Shore) 2:04.73, 3.

Women 200m backstroke: Bobbi Gichard (Howick Pakuranga) 2:11.93, 1; Annabelle Paterson (United) 2:13.58, 2; Sophie Wotherspoon (United) 2:15.01, 3.

Men 1500m freestyle: Nathan Capp (Greerton) 15:23.89, 1; Devlin Forsythe (Karori Pirates) 16:08.42, 2; Troy Balvert (Aquabladz New Plymouth) 16:11.35, 3.


Men 100m freestyle: Christopher Arbuthnott (Ice Breaker) 1:00.11, 1; Hamish McLean (Wanaka) 1:15.13, 2; Tama Solouota (Howick Pakuranga) 1:04.58, 3.

Women 100m freestyle: Sophie Pascoe (QEII) 59.82, 1; Mary Fisher (Tawa) 1:09.34, 2; Rebecca Dubber (North Shore) 1:16.25, 3.

Men 50m butterfly: Hamish McLean (Wanaka) 32.39, 1.

Women 50m butterfly: Mary Fisher (Tawa) 32.92, 1; Nikita Howarth (Te Awamutu) 35.38, 2; Bryall McPherson (North Shore) 34.40, 3.

CAPTION: Matthew Stanley in action. Credit: BW Media

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