By Dave Crampton
Two further New Zealand swimmers have qualified for Rio in national record time, with both reducing their record times in the evening finals in Auckland.
Bradlee Ashby, in the 200m individual medley, and Helena Gasson in the 100m butterfly, knew they had to break national records to qualify.
Ashby, who is coached by Clive Power, clocked 2:00.00 in the heats; then prepared to break that barrier in the final, clocking 1:59.76.
“My coach challenged me to step up again tonight and try to break that two minute barrier and it worked out,” Ashby said.
‘I didn’t have the stress of having to qualify so it was a matter of putting my head down and give that two minutes a crack. Any of those big barriers are more a mental thing than a physical thing but now I’ve gone under it then anything can happen from here.”
Gasson, who was unable to crack the 200m butterfly Rio time, took more than a second off her previous best to clock 58.66 in the heat of the 100m event, then lowered that to 58.51 for her third national mark of the week.
“I took a while to believe what I’ve done and still going through that process but it is my dream and I am just so glad I get to live my dream,” Gasson said.
Lauren Boyle added the 400m freestyle to her 800m event. Her build-up has been affected by illness in January, but she was satisfied to qualify, although in a slow 4:08.38 by her standards.
“I thought I was going a bit faster than I was so I am not that pleased with the time but it is always good to be on the team and do the qualifying time so I am happy with that,” Boyle said.
“The qualifying time is quite a way off my best but I’ve had a broken build-up to this competition so I hope I can have a clear run now to Rio.”
Paralympic stars Sophie Pascoe and Mary Fisher continued to produce world class performances. Both went under the nomination standard in both heats and finals in both the 50m freestyle and 200m individual medley where Pascoe was only a second outside her world record, clocking 2:26.87.
Nikita Howarth also went under the nomination time for Rio in the 200m individual medley in 2:57.90, as did Chris Arbuthnott in the 50m freestyle S9 and Hamish McLean SM6 in the 200m individual medley to complete another impressive day for the Para-Swimmers.
Sprinter Daniel Hunter came just short of the qualifying standard in the 50m freestyle, clocking 22.31s – just 4/100ths of a second outside the qualifying mark. Although it was a national record, it was not a big enough one.
Meanwhile, U.S- based New Zealand swimmers are preparing to swim at the Canadian trials, a qualifying meet for those who could not make it to Auckland due to NCAA commitments.
Most promising look to be Matthew Hutchins in the 400m freestyle, seeded well under the Rio A time. Backstroker Corey Main is seeded right on the qualifying time in the 200m distance and four splits outside the 100m distance – meaning if Main is able to crack the backstroke along with Glenn Snyders in the 100 breaststroke in Auckland, New Zealand may have a Rio relay team.
The New Zealand championships conclude on Friday, with the Canadian trials commencing on April 5.
Swimming New Zealand contributed to this report.