New Zealand Opens to Trial Pan Pacific Championships Hopefuls

Lewis Clareburt, 100 Free record. AON Swimming New Zealand National Age Group Swimming Championships, National Aquatic Centre, Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday 19 April 2018. Photo: Simon Watts/
Photo Courtesy: BW Media, Swimming New Zealand

Preview by Dave Crampton, Swimmng World Contributor. 

Commonwealth Games medallist Lewis Clareburt and Olympian Emma Robinson headline the 2018 AON New Zealand Open champs starting in Auckland on July 2. Clareburt is top seed in four of his five events, with Robinson top seed in all three of her events, the 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle. Both are competing for the Wellington-based Capital Swimming club, as is para-swimmer and world record-holder Mary Fisher.

The championships are qualification events for the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships, Junior Pan Pacific Championships and Youth Olympic Games, and Robinson is aiming to qualify for the Pan Pacific Championships in Japan, with Clareburt having qualified at the Commonwealth Games. Hayley McIntosh’s seed time in the 800m is also under the Panpacs qualifying time, which is seven seconds slower than the qualifying time for the Commonwealth Games.

Clareburt, 18, will compete in the men’s 100m and 400m freestyle, 200m butterfly and both individual medleys.

“I haven’t tapered yet, so Opens is a chance for me to have a hit out before heading off to Pan Pacs in Tokyo,” Clareburt said. “I’ve been working on some new skills with my coach (Gary Hollywood), so I’m looking forward to testing them out”.

More than 300 swimmers, including 21 swimmers from seven other countries, will contest the championships, including 25 para swimmers. It is the final opportunity for New Zealand para swimmers to qualify for selection for the Pan Pacific Para Swimming Championships in Cairns.

However, many of New Zealand’s top swimmers, including top para swimmer Sophie Pascoe, who is in Europe, Commonwealth Games finalist and Panpacs qualifier Bradlee Ashby, and team mates Bobbi Gichard, who is off to Florida on scholarship this year, Australian-based Laticia Transom and Matthew Stanley, and Helena Gasson have not entered. Nor has US-based Gabrielle Fa’amausili, who has had a recent operation and pulled out of the Commonwealth Games, or promising young teen Bre Crawford.

However sprinter Michael Pickett,15, is making the trip from Australia, where he has been based since January. He won both Australian and New Zealand freestyle NAG titles earlier this year and is third seed in the 50m dash.

Daniel Hunter heads the 100m freestyle seedings, and while he has qualified for Panpacs during the Commonwealth Games in the 50m, he will have to break his national record set at those Games in the 100m to qualify in that event. He competed in those Games through relay qualification.

World championship backstroke finalist Corey Main and his brother Bayley – both US-based – will also be competing; the former also having qualified for Panpacs at the Commonwealth Games.

Swimming New Zealand CEO Steve Johns is excited for the week of competition. “There will be an impressive line-up of talent competing, and with the event being a qualification meet, I’m sure we’ll see some very fast times.”