New Zealand has qualified a men’s freestyle relay team for the World Championships after all four went under the 50 second barrier to highlight the final night of the New Zealand Open Championships in Auckland.
The championships, that attracted 230 swimmers from 43 clubs, doubled as the trials for the World Championships, Youth Commonwealth Games and the World University Games.
Eight swimmers qualified in 10 individual events in the pool, the most individual qualifiers for a decade, while there are two relay teams who met the qualifying standard – the men’s 100m freestyle relay and women’s 4x100m medley relay.
Swimming New Zealand will announce tomorrow the final team for the world championships in Budapest in July, to join Taranaki’s Charlotte Webby who has already been named for open water.
While there were no further individual qualifiers tonight, there was some superb freestyle swimming in both the men and women to cap-off an enterprising and exciting championship with all qualifiers featuring as prospects for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and beyond.
National head Coach Jerry Olszewski said he has been pleasantly surprised at the quality of performances and the attitude of swimmers at his first New Zealand Open Championships.
“Overall the performances have exceeded my expectations. The swimmers within the high performance squad have all moved forward, some significantly,” said Olszewski.
“There are other swimmers that I’ve been following who have really stood up here and there are some that I did not know who have performed well. Overall I am really impressed with the attitude. We have been working hard on our culture and I think our swimmers have led the way, working together positively as a team and supporting not only each other but all swimmers.”
Olszewski said the most impressive aspect has been the charge of the youth brigade, with a number of young swimmers going under the qualifying standard.
The men’s 100m freestyle final produced arguably the closest and best standard for some years, after four swimmers went under the 50-second barrier in the morning heats.
It proved a battle between the 50 metre sprinters stepping up against the 200m freestylers coming down.
In the end the 200m freestyle champion Matthew Stanley powered home to win in 49.59s to edge out 50m freestyle winner Daniel Hunter who was second in just 3/100ths of a second behind. Corey Main finished third in 49.72s and together with Sam Perry, who went 49.48 in the morning heats, it means that New Zealand has qualified a team in the 4x100m freestyle relay for the World Championships.
“The 100m freestyle is something I have been working on. I would still like to get a fair bit faster in the 100 but I am still learning it. It is like learning a new sport,” said Stanley.
“I knew it would be really close after the morning heats and I guess in the end the endurance in the final 15 metres helped. It is really exciting to qualify a relay team. It is something that will really boost the team overall. To have four guys go under 50 seconds is a really good thing for us as a group.”
The exciting future was no better exhibited than the women’s 100m freestyle finals with 17-year-old Gabrielle Fa’amausili (United) winning in a personal best 55.89, just 0.1s ahead of 15-year-old Brisbane-based Laticia Transom (Icebreaker, Manawatu) with North Shore’s Carina Doyle third with just 15/100ths of a second separating the trio.
Canterbury’s Matthew Hutchins, on scholarship at the University of Wisconsin, took out the 1500m freestyle final. He pushed to the lead at the 1000m mark and went on to win in 15:30.68 from Michael Mincham (United) and Cook Islands visitor Westley Roberts in a closely fought battle between the trio.
Porirua’s Bronagh Ryan claimed the women’s 50m breaststroke in 32.32 from Ciara Smith (Northwave), while the men’s 50m breaststroke final went to Syrian visitor Azad Al-Barazi in 28.41 with the national title going to Matthew Phillips (Wharenui) in 29.02.
The women’s 1500m freestyle was dominated by Rio Olympian Emma Robinson (Capital) who won emphatically in an impressive 16:30.16, which is nearly seven seconds under the qualifying standard for Budapest, after she met the mark in the 800m freestyle earlier in the meet.
In Para swimming action, Wanaka’s Hamish Mclean claimed the 100m freestyle in 1:14.16 ahead of Chris Arbuthnott (Ice Breaker, Manawatu) and Jesse Reynolds (Fairfield). Reynolds and Arbuthnott went under the qualifying standard for the Commonwealth Games in the 100m backstroke earlier in the meet.
World and Olympic champion Sophie Pascoe also remained unbeaten this week, winning the 100m freestyle in 1:01.43 ahead of Rebecca Dubber (North Shore) and Tupou Neiufi (Howick Pakuranga).
There was one Oceania record set by Pascoe and 15 national records while four Para swimmers went under the standard for next year’s Commonwealth Games in Pascoe, Arbuthnott, Reynolds and Olympic gold medallist Nikita Howarth.
The team for the world championships and world university games will be named on Saturday before being presented at the annual Swimming New Zealand Awards function in the evening.
Swimming New Zealand contributed this report.