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Event Preview - 2023 Apollo Projects NZ Swimming Championships

Things to watch at the upcoming 2023 Apollo Projects NZ Swimming Championships

A host of New Zealand records will be up for grabs as New Zealand’s elite swimmers gather in Auckland this week for the 2023 Apollo Projects NZ Swimming Championships.

The National Championships are the premier swimming event in New Zealand and will feature stars including Dame Sophie Pascoe, Lewis Clareburt, Cameron Leslie and Erika Fairweather.

The event is being held at the Sir Owen Glenn National Aquatic Centre in Auckland from April 1st to 5th, with heats being contested in the morning and finals in the evening.

“This year’s Apollo Projects NZ Champs are a really key event for us as it doubles as our selection event for the World Aquatics Championships and the World Para Swimming Championship later in the year.” said Swimming New Zealand CEO Steve Johns.

“We’re expecting our athletes to be at their absolute best as they compete for spots in the teams and we’re looking forward to some world class racing over a great few days in the pool.”

Johns is encouraging sports fans to get down to the National Aquatic Centre and support New Zealand’s rising stars.

“The athletes at this event will make up our teams for the Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games next year so this is a great opportunity to get down and see them race in the flesh."
“We’re expecting a packed arena with a great atmosphere and we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see some records fall. Tickets are available through our website and we’d love to see you there.”

Tokyo Olympian and four-time Commonwealth Games medallist Lewis Clareburt says Nationals is always a special event.

“There’s nothing quite like racing in front of your home crowd and it’s an event where I always seem to go really well.”
“Our swim team showed what we’re capable of at the Commonwealth Games last year. Since then I feel like we’ve only been getting better, the level is really high right now so I’m really looking forward to seeing what we’re capable of over the next few days.”

We are inviting the local community to come along and cheer on our top NZ swimmers, with tickets available online for each session. Heats start at 10 am and finals from 5:30pm each day. Don't miss your chance to meet some of our top swimmers on Wednesday 5 April between 4pm - 5pm for a photo and autograph.

Day 1 - Saturday 1 April

Night one kicks off with New Zealand and Commonwealth record holder, Lewis Clareburt (Capital), in the 400m Individual Medley, who is fresh off his Commonwealth Games Gold Medal winning time of 4:08.70. Luan Grobbelaar (Neptune) and Sam Brown (Capital) will be in the fight of their lives to out touch the other as they hope to qualify for their first Aquablack team. Luan’s entry time of 4:16.78 is already below the World Aquatics A standard, with Sam being slightly over at 4:18.65.

While Lauren Boyle’s 1500m record still remains intact at 15:40.14, after a fifth place at the World Short Course Championships in December, Caitlin Deans (Neptune) has an entry time of 16:17.48 ahead of Tokyo Olympian Eve Thomas (Coast) with 16:25.04. Both swimmers are already under the qualification standard and they will be looking to secure their spot for the World Championships team on the first night.

Mya Rasmussen (Kiwi West Aquatics) who competed at both World Championships in 2022, enters the 400m Individual Medley with an entry time of 4:41.81 which was achieved in brilliant style at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in 2022. Mya will be looking to secure her World Championship spot and look to close the gap to Helen Norfolk’s NZ Record of 4:39.07 from 2008.

In the Men’s 800m Freestyle, Louis Clark (North Shore) is seeded first with an entry time of 8:03.14. 2022 Junior Pan Pac team member Larn Hamblyn-Ough (Coast) will be looking to kick off his year and push the Junior qualifying standard of 8:12.45. The 17-year-old National record however may be a little out of reach – it has never been broken since the standard was set at 8:05.32. Tokyo Olympian Zac Reid (Neptune) is also making his return to national events following a hip injury in his favoured event and will be one to watch from lane 3.

In the 50m Breaststroke Multi-Class (MC), Asher Smith-Franklin (North Shore) will be looking to continue his run of record-breaking swims after a stand-out performance at the 2023 Citi Para World Series in Melbourne last month. He has the fastest entry time on paper and the NZ S14 record but will be looking to get the edge over Joshua Willmer (Pukekohe), who currently holds the SB8 New Zealand record in this event. Josh has already qualified for the 2023 Para World Championships which take place in Manchester later this year.

Day 2 - Sunday 2 April

Day two will begin with the Men's 100m Backstroke where Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist, Andrew Jeffcoat (Club 37), will be competing against teammate Zac Dell (Club 37) and Kane Follows (Neptune).

The Women's 100m backstroke will be one to watch with Hazel Ouwehand (Phoenix Aquatics) and Emma Godwin (Heretaunga Sundevils) having entry times within 0.7 seconds of each other (1:00:26 and 1:00:93 respectively). 2022 Junior Pan Pacs representative Isabella Gibson (United) is not far behind with an entry time of 1:02:32 which is currently under the qualifying standard for the 2023 World Aquatics Junior Championships.

Cameron Gray (Coast) is one to watch in the Men’s 50m Butterfly having won a Bronze medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Helena Gasson (Coast) will be competing in the women’s event, her entry time (26.08) is already under the qualification time.

In both the Men's and Women's 200m Freestyle events there is the potential for a relay team to be formed. The favourites for the Men's race include Carter Swift (Club 37), Lewis Clareburt, Zac Reid and Cameron Gray, who all have times just above the qualification standard. For the women, Erika Fairweather (Neptune) has an entry time (1:56:73) that is already below the qualification time, with Eve Thomas (Coast), Laura Littlejohn (St Paul’s) and Caitlin Deans (Neptune) hot on her heels. Eve Thomas dropped under the 2-minute mark for the first time earlier this month at the New South Wales Championships and will be looking to repeat that this week.

There will be an opportunity to see Dame Sophie Pascoe (QEII) competing in the Women's 50m Butterfly MC event, as well as Asher Smith-Franklin and Bailey Conlon in the Men’s 200m Freestyle Multi-Class event. Triple Paralympic Gold Medallist and current Laureus Award nominee, Cameron Leslie (Whangarei), will also compete against Asher and Bailey.

Day 3 - Monday 3 April

The Men’s 400m Freestyle will open proceedings on night three, with Louis Clark, Zac Reid and Lewis Clareburt all entering times within one second of each other.

The Men's 50m Backstroke will also be a cracking competition with Cameron Gray, Andrew Jeffcoat and Zac Dell entering times under the qualification time for Worlds, and Kane Follows just over.

In the Women's 50m Backstroke, Emma Godwin entered with a time just under the qualification standard and Hazel Ouwehand and Gabi Fa’amausili (Club 37) are less than a second behind her.

Cameron Gray and Lewis Clareburt, with multiple Commonwealth Games medals between them, will be ones to watch when competing in the Men’s 100m Butterfly with entry times close to qualification.

The must-watch race of the evening if not the meet will be the Women’s 400m Freestyle. Erika Fairweather has recently swum 4:00:97, a time well under the qualification standard, which has now ranked her as the eighth-fastest swimmer in history. If Erika can break the 4-minute mark, she will be only the fifth woman in history to do so. Eve Thomas and Caitlin Deans will also be competing in the event with Eve posting an entry time under the Worlds qualification standard.

In the Men’s 50m Backstroke MC, Paralympians Jesse Reynolds (Hamilton Aquatics) and Cameron Leslie will be competing for the national title, while Asher Smith-Franklin will compete in the Men’s 100m Butterfly MC. Aquablacks Gaby Smith (Vikings) and Lili-Fox Mason (Wharenui) will round out the individual races in the Women’s 400m Freestyle MC. Both Smith and Mason swam under the 5-minute mark earlier in the year at the Melbourne Para World Series which qualified them both for the Para World Championships.

Day 4 - Tuesday 4 April

Another potential relay team will open the competition for day 4, with the Men’s 100m Freestyle kicking off the events. Again Carter Swift, Lewis Clareburt and Cameron Gray all entered with close times, this time with Michael Pickett (Club 37) potentially battling it out for the top four.

Emma Godwin is the headline act in the Women's 200m Backstroke. Emma attended the World Short Course Champs for this event in December, so is one to watch.

2022 World Short Course representative, Kane Follows, will also be putting his case forward for selection in the Men’s 200m Backstroke event, already entering with a time under the qualification mark.

The Women's 100m Freestyle is also set to be a great race, with Laura Littlejohn, Erika Fairweather, Chelsey Edwards (Coast) and Rebecca Moynihan (Club 37) all entering times within one second of each other.

Reigning Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist, Lewis Clareburt, will also be competing in the Men’s 200m Butterfly, and 2022 World Short Course representative Esme Patterson will be competing in the Women’s 200m Butterfly as she aims to make her first Aquablack team.

In the multi-class events, reigning World Champion Cameron Leslie will be competing in the Men's 100m Freestyle MC, while Gaby Smith will be competing in the Women's event. In the Men’s 100m Breaststroke MC, Asher Smith-Franklin and Joshua Willmer will be battling for the national title. Willmer and Smith-Franklin currently hold the SB8 and S14 National records respectively in this event with Josh having already qualified for the Para World Championships.

Day 5 - Wednesday 5 April

Day 5 will open with one of the most anticipated races of the week, the Women's 800m Freestyle. With Erika Fairweather recently stating she is adding this event to her Paris Olympics programme, there is strong competition for spots with Eve Thomas and Caitlin Deans.

The Men’s 200m Individual Medley will follow with Lewis Clareburt's final appearance of the competition.

The popular 50m Freestyle will be the last individual event for the championships with Cameron Gray, Carter Swift and Michael Pickett being the ones to watch in the Men's event. The Women’s event hosts a stacked field with Chelsey Edwards, Rebecca Moynihan, Gabi Fa’amausili, Laura Littlejohn and Emma Goodwin all making their final appearances.

NZ swimming legends Cameron Leslie and Dame Sophie Pascoe will round out the competition with the Men's and Women's 50m Freestyle MC event.

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