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The start of something extraordinary

Swimmers look for new start at national championships

National Swimming High Performance Director, Luis Villanueva sees the State New Zealand Championships starting in Auckland on Sunday as a new beginning.

The former Spanish Swimming Federation Technical Director has been impressed with the attitude and talent of the country’s leading swimmers since taking up his role in January.

Villanueva is expecting strong performances at the Championships which double as the official trial for July’s FINA World Championships to be staged in Barcelona.

While he is targeting good performances next week, his main focus is building a high performance environment throughout the country aiming at next year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the 2016 Rio Olympics and beyond.

“The swimmers have responded very well and I am impressed with their attitudes,” Villanueva said.

“I expect the best from every swimmer, not just at next week’s championships, but every day at every training session.

“The standards to qualify for the World Championships are demanding but we have many swimmers in this country capable of achieving them.

“From what I have seen already, there is good talent here in New Zealand. We are now building a good environment. There will be need to be some very hard work put in by all swimmers and there will be many challenges every day going forward if we want to produce finalists and medals at the Olympics, but it is possible.

“The Championships next week, I hope, will be the start of something exceptional.”

In the last few months following a whole-of-sport review, Swimming New Zealand has a new Board, its new High Performance Director in Villanueva and new Chief Executive with Australian Christian Renford taking up his post last week.

The final key building block is the new National High Performance Coach which Villanueva hopes to finalise next month, with the Spaniard taking up a direct interest on pool deck in the short term with renowned Australian coach Bill Sweetenham contracted as temporary coach.

Eleven of the 16-strong London Olympic team are competing in the Championships headed by 25m world champion Lauren Boyle, who will focus on the 400m and 800m freestyle events. She has recently returned from a training stint at altitude in Spain with Wellington backstroker Gareth Kean.

Also back is leading breaststroker Glenn Snyders, now based in California under Dave Salo in an international squad as he looks to take his specialist stroke to a new level with Rio in mind.

The other Olympians entered include Dylan Dunlop-Barrett (New Plymouth Aquatics), Amaka Gessler (Motueka), Natasha Hind (Capital), Steven Kent (North Shore), Samantha Lucie-Smith (Capital), Andrew McMillan (Cromwell), Hayley Palmer (North Shore), and Matthew Stanley (Matamata).

There will be interest in the charge from a group of talented younger swimmers including Sophia Batchelor (AquaGym), Samantha Lee (Capital), Laura Quilter (North Shore), Ewan Jackson (Howick-Pakuranga), Matthew Hutchins (Wharenui), Chloe Francis (North Shore), Nielsen Varoy (Roskill), Tabitha Baumann (North Shore), Natasha Lloyd (North Canterbury), Shaun Burnett (North Shore) and Mitchell Donaldson (North Shore).

Big Australian-based sprinter Cameron Simpson (Templeton) will add spice to the sprint environment as the swimmers chase a tough FINA A standard to qualify for the world championships.

The FINA B standard is the standard for the junior world championship selection, with swimmers having to achieve qualifying times at the championships, with the exception of a small group now based on scholarship in USA who have a conflicting NCAA Championship and have until later in the month to post a time at a FINA sanctioned meet.

The championships also include a strong contingent of athletes with disability headed by three London Paralympic starts, Sophia Pascoe, Mary Fisher and Cameron Leslie.

Racing at the West Wave Aquatic Centre in Henderson begins on Sunday with heats from 10am and finals from 6.30pm.

The schedule is:

Day 1 – Sunday 17 March: Women 100 backstroke AWD, Men 400m freestyle AWD, Women 100m butterfly, Men 400m freestyle, Women 200m medley, Men 50m butterfly, Women 400m freestyle, Men 100m breaststroke, Women 50m breaststroke, Men/Women 4x200m freestyle relays.

Day 2 – Monday 18 March: Women 50m backstroke AWD, Men 50m backstroke AWD, Women 100m backstroke, Men 200m freestyle, Women 100m breaststroke, Men 100m backstroke, Women 1500m freestyle, Men 150. medley AWD, Men/Women medley relay.

Day 3 – Tuesday 19 March: Women 50m butterfly AWD, Men 50m breaststroke, Men 200m butterfly, Women 200m freestyle, Men 800m freestyle, Men 200m medley AWD, Women 200m medley AWD, Men/Women 4x100m freestyle relay.

Day 4 – Wednesday 20 March: Men/Women 50m freestyle AWD, Women 50m breaststroke, Men 50m backstroke, Women 50m backstroke, Men 100m freestyle, Women 200m butterfly, Men 200m medley, Women 50m freestyle, Women 800m freestyle, Men 100m backstroke AWD, Women 400m freestyle AWD, Men/Women 4x200m freestyle club relay.

Day 5 Thursday 21 March: Women 200m freestyle AWD, Men 100m butterfly AWD, Women 100m freestyle, Men 200m backstroke, Women 200m breaststroke, Men 200m breaststroke, Men 1500m freestyle, Women 100m breaststroke AWD, Men 100m freestyle AWD, Men/Women 4x100m medley club relay.

Day 6 – Friday 22 March: Women 100m butterfly AWD, Men 50m freestyle, Women 50m butterfly, Men 100m butterfly, Women 200m backstroke, Women 400m medley, Men 400m medley, Men 100m breaststroke AWD, Women 100m freestyle AWD, Men/Women 4x100m freestyle club relay.

Details: www.swimmingnz.org.nz

CAPTION: Matt Stanley, one of 11 London Olympians competing in the State New Zealand Open Swimming Championships.

For further information contact: IAN HEPENSTALL  Media Manager Swimming NZ High Performance Sports Media NZ Ltd Tel 09 2327822 Mob 0275 613181 E: ian@sportsmedianz.com Skype: kiwiheps