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The start of something extraordinary

Gasson and Ashby encouraged, Seebohm impresses

Rio Olympians Bradlee Ashby and Helena Gasson were highly encouraged by their form under heavy training load at the New Zealand Zonal Swimming Championships at the Sir Owen G Glenn National Aquatic Centre in Auckland.

Gasson won all three of her individual events to help the Harlequins team to overall victory, while Ashby won his two individual swims as well for his Aquaknights team.

The championships, supported by the Brian Perry Charitable Trust, involved 160 swimmers split into four zones around the country in relays and individual events over two non-stop 90 minute sessions.

The meet was sparked by the appearance of four Australians headed by World and Olympic champion Emily Seebohm plus Minna Atherton, Nicholas Brown and Grayson Bell with one visitor drafted into each of the four teams.

While there was a fun element to the team racing, both Gasson and Ashby were heartened as they prepare for the national championships in April which doubles as the official trials for this year’s FINA World Championships.

“We have just started to come down into more power training but still in a very heavy workload and absolutely smashing it in training, so what we have done here as a squad has been really encouraging,” said Gasson of her Swimming New Zealand high performance squad members.

“I was incredibly surprised by my times in all my swims tonight. I wasn’t expecting those times so it is pleasing.

“This is fun to have the team atmosphere but every time I swim I take it seriously. I am too competitive to do anything else,” said Gasson, who competed for the Harlequins team, comprising clubs from Northland, Auckland and Counties Manukau that successfully defended their titles in both senior and junior ranks.

Fellow national squad member Ashby, who competed for Aquaknights comprising clubs from Taranaki, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Hawkes Bay, was also pleasantly surprised by his good form.

“We haven’t tapered at all. The fitness side of things is encouraging. I managed good times with a bunch of swims especially in that first 90 minute session,” Ashby said.

“I went close to the times I set in competition three weeks ago, which shows that what Jerry (national coach Jerry Olszewski) is doing is working in terms of getting us racing fit.

“All of the squad swimmers have done well tonight which is really exciting.”

In the junior competition (15 years and under) Harlequins (Northland, Auckland, Counties Manukau) won with 984points from All Stars (Wellington, Manawatu) 727, AquaKnights (Taranaki, Waikato, BOP, Hawkes Bay)719 and Makos 682.

Harlequins were equally dominant in the senior division winning with 1080 points from Makos 736, AquaKnights 709 and All Stars 587.

Seebohm, only just back into swimming after removal of her wisdom teeth, showed her class to be only a second outside the New Zealand record in winning the 200m individual medley and a blink off the 100m backstroke mark. She was competing for the AquaKnights team.

Compatriot Brown also picked up two wins for the All Stars (Wellington, Manawatu).

Senior swimmers to score two wins included Carina Doyle (Harlequins), Ashby (AquaKnights), Ciara Smith (Harlequins), George Schroder (Makos), Corneille Coetzee (Harlequins), Hayley McIntosh (Harlequins), Daniel Hunter (Harlequins) and Lewis Clareburt (All Stars)

The junior swimmers with two wins included Gina McCarthy (AquaKnights), Chelsey Edwards (All Stars), Josh Gilbert (AquaKnights), Kiana Swain (Harlequins), Gina Galloway (Harlequins) and Tyron Henry (Harlequins).

In the break between sessions a group of former swimming stars competed in a Legends Charity Relay which has raised more than $10,000 to date for the New Zealand Swimming Alumni Trust which gives grants to up-and-coming swimmers. The team from Northern Arena won the relay.

CAPTION: Helena Gasson in action during the breaststroke leg of the individual medley. Credit: BW Media

NZ Zonal Championships