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The start of something extraordinary

State New Zealand Swim Championships – Day 3 Wrap

While there were two more Olympic qualifying times set, it was a remarkable performance from an untried group of four men that brought the house down on the third night of finals at the State New Zealand Swimming Championships in Auckland tonight.

North Shore’s Lauren Boyle and Southland’s Natalie Wiegersma both added a second qualifying time in the 200m freestyle and 200m individual medley respectively at the event that doubles as the Olympic Trials at the West Wave Aquatic Centre in Henderson.

The night was sealed when the New Zealand quartet of Matthew Stanley, Steven Kent, Dylan Dunlop-Barrett and Andrew McMillan smashed the New Zealand record and gave themselves an outstanding chance to earn an invitation to the London Olympics.

The quartet, the fastest four individuals in the 200m freestyle final, went 7:14.05 in the 4x200m freestyle relay which was seven seconds under the old national record, but more importantly posting a time that would have placed them 10th in the world last year.

Twelve teams have already qualified for the Olympics, with the next four fastest nations at the end of the qualifying period in early June to earn selection.

Their immediate aim tonight was to satisfy the NZOC criteria, which was a time equal to the 12th fastest team at last year’s world championships. They went inside that target of 7:15.65 with a superb effort, set up with a 1:48.02 opener by Stanley, 1:48.67 from Kent, a stunning 1:48.01 from Dunlop-Barrett and an anchor leg of 1:49.35 from McMillan.

“That was out of this world,” said Dunlop-Barrett who returned from Australia after Christmas and is now based at the High Performance Centre under Talbot.

“I nearly gave up the sport three months ago. I was that disillusioned with things. But it has been unreal back home. We are like brothers and we just gave it everything out there. It has not sunk in. I know we have to wait now but that was a great swim.”

The women’s 200m freestyle was set up by Natasha Hind who took the field through the 100m in a slick 57.67s before Boyle’s strength showed through. She showed her class to come home in 1:58.28, inside the qualifying time for the Olympics by 5/100ths of a second.

Hind established a new personal best of 1:58.69 although it was an agonising 36/100ths of a second outside an individual qualifying time for London.

However Boyle, Hind, Amaka Gessler (2:00.07) and Samantha Lucie-Smith (2:01.26) were the first four home and will earn places in the team for the women’s 4x200m freestyle relay which has already earned a qualifying spot in London. The selectors may consider adding a reserve with Boyle’s anticipated heavy schedule in London.

Their combined time was under the time they set in the final of the world championships last year and the fastest time in the world to date this year.

“It’s great to get a second qualifying time and to continue to swim fast. I was really pleased with that swim tonight,” Boyle said.

“We have a really competitive group in training and that showed tonight. I knew they would push me and collectively we had some good times. I think we can develop a really good relay in London which is exciting.”

Southland’s Natalie Wiegersma, who comes from the small farming community of Dacre near Invercargill, also qualified for her second event when she took out the 200m individual medley.

The 22 year old from the Waverley club, coached by Jeremy Duncan, went 2:13.17 with a classy display, more than five seconds clear of second’s placed Grace Francis who edge out her younger sister and fellow North Shore swimmer Chloe Francis.

Wiegersma went through the midway mark in 1:02 after an excellent backstroke leg and while she slowed a little on the final freestyle leg, it was 0.2sec inside the qualifying mark.

“It was great to qualify in the 400m medley but even better to get a second event in London,” said Wiegersma. “The schedule is good, with the 400m first and then the 200m.

“I’ve put in a heaps of work on the backstroke and I’m pleased with that."

Wiegersma was thrilled with her form given a tough 2011 which was thwarted by a shoulder injury.

“It was such a down year last year. It is the reason why my freestyle is still not back where I want it and I know that I have a lot of work to do. But to bounce back to qualify in two events for the Olympics makes up for that.”

New Zealand’s top world ranked swimmer Glenn Snyders (North Shore HPC) was in superb form, beating his own New Zealand record in the 50m breaststroke in 27.06 which is the fastest time in the year to date this year. It is a non-Olympic event.

“That was seriously fast. I would love it if Glenn could swim the 100m again now,” said his coach Mark Regan from Swimming New Zealand’s High Performance Centre.

North Shore’s Shaun Burnett, coached by Mark Regan at the High Performance Centre, went under the two minute barrier for the first time clocking 1:59.80 to win the 200m butterfly, while North Canterbury’s Natasha Lloyd added a second title in winning the 50m breaststroke.

That takes the number of individual qualifying performances to nine and with both relay teams could take the number to as high as 14.

The championships continue until Friday.


Women 200m freestyle:  Lauren Boyle (HPC-North Shore) 1:58.28, 1 (Olympic Qualifier); Tash Hind (HPC-Capital) 1:58.69, 2; Amaka Gessler (HPC-Motueka) 2:00.07, 3; Samantha Lucie-Smith (WRHPC-Capital) 2:00.12, 4; Penelope Marshall (HPC-North Shore) 2:00.23, 5.

Men 200m butterfly:  Shaun Burnett (HPC-North Shore) 1:59.80, 1; George Eglesfield (North Canterbury) 2:02.95, 2; Brett Newall (WRHPC-Capital) 2:04.62, 3.

Women 200m individual medley: Natalie Wiegersma (Waverley) 2:13.17, 1 (Olympic Qualifier); Grace Francis (North Shore) 2:18.72, 2; Chloe Francis (HPC-North Shore) 2:19.91, 3.

Women 50m breaststroke:  Natasha Lloyd (North Canterbury) 33.08, 1; Becki Dooley (Jasi) 33.30, 2; Stephanie Bennington (WRHPC-Capital) 33.44, 3=; Emily McGill (WRHPC-Capital) 33.44, 3=.

Men 50m breaststroke: Glenn Snyders (HPC North Shore) 27.06, 1 (NZ Record); Jeffrey Arona-Tuifana’e (Howick Pakuranga) 28.44, 2; Nick Ferrif (North Shore) 28.47, 3.

Men 4x200m freestyle relay:  New Zealand (Matthew Stanley, Steven Kent, Dylan-Dunlop Barrett, Andrew McMillan) 7:14.05, 1 (NZ Record); North Shore A (Daniel Bell, Mathew Myers, Elliot Crene, Michael Hudspith) 7:41.10, 2; Waves Swimming Club (Rhys Applegarth, Kieran Applegarth, Troy Balvert, Braden Doyle) 7:47.70, 3; Wharenui (Matthew Hutchins, Matthew Lemon, Mitchell Easter, Matthew Wilson) 7:49.57, 4.