Ian Thorpe’s Former Coach, Doug Frost, Assists Rising New Zealander Lewis Clareburt

Photo Courtesy: Dave Crampton

By Dave Crampton, Swimming World Contributor.

Doug Frost, coach of five-time Olympic gold medallist Ian Thorpe, has travelled from Australia to New Zealand to work with Commonwealth Games medallist Lewis Clareburt prior to the Pan Pacific championships next month.

Clareburt, 19, is coached by Gary Hollywood, who will be the New Zealand coach at the Pan Pacific Championships. Both Clareburt and Hollywood received the 2018 swimmer and coach of the year awards respectively at a Swimming New Zealand awards presentation this month.

When Hollywood got in touch with his mentor Frost to see if he would coach Clareburt and the rest of his squad for a few weeks while on leave, it was a no-brainer.

“[Hollywood] asked, ‘will l come over’. I said, ‘when? I’ll be over whenever you need me’.” Frost said.

Frost, who lives on a golf course in Australia and coached Thorpe from the age of nine, still coaches part time, and also mentors several other coaches.

He believes Clareburt has the potential, and all the qualities to do well, at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. But he doesn’t think much of the facilities in New Zealand. He is training swimmers in a 33m pool until Hollywood returns at the end of this month – but he believes Clareburt needs more time in a 50m pool.

“If you want to produce world champions you need to have the facilities.”

Hollywood has run a good programme since starting at the Capital Swimming Club in Wellington, just over two years ago, Frost says.

“His programme has developed considerably. I think the way it is going, there’s no reason why it cannot be the number one club in New Zealand.”

In 2002, after assisting with the coaching of Olympians Corey Main and Glenn Snyders, Hollywood left New Zealand owing to lack of adequate training facilities, in particular a 50m pool. He now has weekend access to a 50m pool.

Frost is currently working on Clareburt’s breaststroke, his backstroke, as well as the flow of his stroking, in preparation for the Pan Pacific championships. He says Clareburt may well be able to lower his 400m individual medley time of 4:14.42 set at the Commonwealth Games.

“With confidence, I think he can drop his best times.”

Clareburt is relishing an opportunity to be under the hand of Frost, who runs a similar programme to Hollywood in Australia. “He’s awesome- it’s a great opportunity, he’s pretty casual.”

“It’s just his presence, knowing that he has got so much knowledge coaching top swimming.”

But he is also clear what he wants to do.

“My goal is to get an Olympic medal.”

He is not the only one in New Zealand with that goal – Hollywood is also similarly focused.

“I`d like to bring an Olympic medal back to New Zealand – that’s the big focus for me with Lewis,” Hollywood said. “We are tracking well, we have got an opportunity, and we just want to see how fast we can have him swim – and hopefully that might mean a medal.”

If that hope turns into a reality, it will elevate Clareburt into swimming royalty in New Zealand. Just four New Zealanders have won an Olympic swimming medal in an individual event; the most recent 22 years ago.

Clareburt knows he has to drop his 400IM time to at least 4:09 to do it. That’s a five second drop – but he lowered his personal best by four seconds at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games for bronze.

While Frost, 75, is enjoying coaching the young squad in New Zealand – Clareburt is one of the older ones – it means longer hours poolside than he is used to.

“I miss my golf – you just can’t walk off pool deck.”

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