New Zealand’s Erika Fairweather Stakes Her Claim For Tokyo Ticket


By Dave Crampton

New Zealand’s Erika Fair-weather, who turned 16 on the last day of 2019, raced inside the qualifying time for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics at the weekend. She is the second of only two New Zealand-based swimmers to achieve the Games standard in individual events in the past year.

At the Victoria Open championships in Australia over the weekend, the 200m freestyle World Junior champion clocked a winning time of 4:07.23 in the 400m freestyle, a 1.5 second improvement on her National Age Group record set last month.

Only Katie Ledecky swam a faster time than Fairweather’s effort at the US Open last year.

Fairweather’s latest effort was an out-front-alone affair: second was Moesha Johnson, on 4:15.63, third place going to New Zealand’s Commonwealth Games 400m swimmer Carina Doyle at 4:17.93.

Fairweather’s cracked the 4:07.90 Olympic qualifier but she must now repeat the feat at Olympic trials, which start in Auckland at the end of next month.

The number of 16-year-olds who have clocked 4:07 or faster over 400m freestyle is just into double digits, among the most notable youth pioneers Janet Evans (USA), on 4:05.45 at the 1988 US Open, Katie Ledecky (USA), on 3:59.82 at the 2013 World Championships, and the current World champion Ariarne Titmus (AUS), on 4:04.26 at the 2017 World Championships.

On the other hand, among those who were well shy of 4:07 at 16 but went on to excel over 400m are Federica Pellegrini, Rebecca Adlington, Camille Muffat, Jazz Carlin, Allison Schmidt and New Zealand’s Lauren Boyle, who was in her 20s before she started to make an impact over 400m.

No other New Zealand teen female has clocked faster than 4:11.74. Boyle’s best as a teen was a 4:16; her best by the time she retired was the 4:03.63 she clocked at the 2012 Olympic Games.

A goal for Fair-weather, who’s new career best would have placed her third at the Commonwealth Games and eighth at the 2019 World championships – as well and second in the 16-year-old boys 400m at last year’s New Zealand National Age Group championships. Fairweather’s time was also a Victorian all-comers’ record.

Her progress comes with one other significant factor: Fairweather, who clocked 1:58.84 in the 10th placed New Zealand 4x200m freestyle relay at last year’s World championships, raced her 4:07 un-tapered. It marked her second lifetime best this years without rest and she is now well inside the previous New Zealand NAG record of 4:14.85.

The runes read well on the road to seeking a ticket to Tokyo 2020.


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