AUCKLAND, New Zealand, March 25. A blink proved the difference in the agony and ecstasy that was the opening night of finals at the State New Zealand Swimming Championships in Auckland tonight, which doubles as the Olympic Trials.
Twenty-two year old Southlander Natalie Wiegersma finished just 1/100th of a second inside the qualifying time for the London Olympics in the women's 400m individual medley in 4:41.74 at the West Wave Aquatic Centre in Henderson.
At the other end of the spectrum was brilliant 16 year old Canterbury prospect Sophia Batchelor who broke her own New Zealand record in the 100m butterfly in 58.71, but finished just 1/100th of a second outside the qualifying time for London.
There were three swimmers that went under the London qualifying mark tonight.
The country's highest ranked international swimmer Glenn Snyders went under the London time twice in the 100m breaststroke. The 24 year old clocked a slick 1:00.56 in the heats, to again go under the qualifying time, after first achieving the target at last year's world championships. He backed this up with a 1:00.04 to win the final.
Twenty year old Matamata swimmer Matt Stanley capped off a superb opening night when he took more than three seconds off his previous best to go under the qualifying time for London in the 400m freestyle, and to set a new national record held for 16 years by the great Danyon Loader.
Stanley, coached by Scott Talbot at Swimming New Zealand's High Performance Centre, produced a superb back half of his 400m freestyle to clock 3:47.67. This was more than a second inside the qualifying time for London but also edged out the New Zealand record of 3:47.97, set by Loader in winning the gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics.
The link between Stanley and Loader is deeper, as he was coached in Matamata by Graeme Laing, son of the late Duncan laing who coached Loader in his illustrious career.
“It means a lot to me to get this record,” Stanley said. “It is also really good for the community of Matamata. Of course until I can win those gold medals I'm not beginning to touch Danyon yet. He's been an inspiration to me.
“My time was within the realms of what we thought was possible but this is out of this world.”
Stanley will now set himself for his favoured 200m and hopes that New Zealand can also qualify for the 4x200m freestyle relay.
Wiegersma battled shoulder injuries for much of last year but has trained well for the meet.
“I have trained harder than ever before. I was actually looking for Helen Norfolk's national record (4:39) but I will take that,” Wiegersma said.
“Two/100ths of a second slower and I was out but this is great to know I am going to London. I am not going to relax, but it takes some pressure off and I can have a big go at the 200m medley.”
Wiegersma, coached by Jeremy Duncan, turned at the 300m mark in 3:34.82. She looked to be slowing over the final 25m but stretched home in 4:41.74, 1/100th of a second inside the qualifying mark.
Snyders was all class today, clocking 1:00.56 to be under the qualifying mark in the morning heats, and stepped up to take half a second off that time in winning the final.
The world's number sixth ranked breaststroker of the distance was pleased with his performance.
“I just wanted to swim fast. I was really pleased to back up from the morning which is something I didn't do last year,” Snyders said.
“It would have been great to go under the minute in front of the home crowds but this is a good performance. I'm pleased and now want to set myself to go fast in the 200.”
Batchelor, coached by Leeanne Speechley at AquaGym, made a stronger start in the final from her morning heat, going out in 27.4 seconds and holding superbly on the way home. She stretched for the wall to finish an agonising 1/100th of a second off the qualifying time.
Her time of 58.71 took 8/10ths of a second inside the New Zealand record she set last year.
“I have to check with my coach but I am pretty pleased with that,” Batchelor said. “I have to be pleased with that swim but 1/100th of a second is pretty unreal to miss by.”
Tauranga's Nathan Capp, the top qualifier, took out his first national open title in winning the 400m individual medley. He took control on the backstroke leg and dominated from there, winning in 4:22.92, a new personal best.
In other non Olympic distance finals, Danielli Koni beat off North Shore clubmate Melissa Ingram to win the 50m backstroke while Roskill magic's Nielsen Varoy took out the 50m butterfly final.
Men 400m individual medley: Nathan Capp (HPC-Greerton) 4:22.92, 1; Carsten Corazza (Howick Pakuranga) 4:25.93, 2; Roy Pearce (North Shore) 4:27.62, 3.
Women 100m butterfly: Sophia Batchelor (AquaGym) 58.71, 1; Laura Quilter (HPC-Comet) 1:01.00, 2; Lauren Coetzee (WRHPC-Capital) 1:01.74, 3.
Men 400m freestyle: Matthew Stanley (HPC-Matamata) 3:47.67, 1 (Olympic Qualifier); Dylan Dunlop-Barrett (HPC-AquaBladz) 3:51.11, 2; Ewan Jackson (Howick Pakuranga) 3:55.04, 3.
Women 400m individual medley: Natalie Wiegersma (Waverley) 4:41.74, 1 (Olympic Qualifier); Kate Godfrey (Neptune) 4:58.35, 2; Shelby Wilson (Fairfield) 5:00.94, 3.
Men 100m breaststroke: Glenn Snyders (HPC-North Shore) 1:00.04, 1 (Olympic Qualifier); Ashton Baumann (North Shore) 1:02.39, 2; Luke Westgaard (Roskill) 1:02.87,3.
Women 50m backstroke: Danielle Koni (North Shore) 29.36, 1; Melissa Ingram (HPC-North Shore) 29.65, 2; Shelby Wilson (Fairfield) 30.10, 3;
Men 50m butterfly: Nielsen Varoy (Roskill Magic) 24.20, 1; Paul Benson (Roskill Magic) 24.27, 2; Gareth Kean (WRHPC-Capital) 24.51, 3.
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