2022 Commonwealth Games Diary by Gary Francis "Gaz" - Competition Day Three
Competition Day Three
Only 4 years ago we would have been completely satisfied, if not overjoyed with a haul of 4 medals after just two nights of Commonwealth competition. Though we are definitely very happy with the quality of our performances so far, we know we have to keep our foot firmly on the accelerator and look to be as ruthless as we can. When we reach a final and have a genuine medal chance we need to take it!
The third morning of competition brought the same concerns as the second - will we be able to refocus and make sure we put ourselves in the positions we want for the evening session or will there be a hangover?
The answer became very clear in the first event and it was the team’s natural leader, Lewis who set the tone. His 1:56.76 PB heat swim in the 200 Butterfly, where he out swim former Olympic Champion Chad Le Clos not only qualified him 1st for the final but sent a clear message to his own team mates - let’s get the job done.
He was followed by heat wins for Andrew Jeffcoat, bouncing back from his disappointment at missing the 100 back medal to qualify 2nd fastest for the 50 back semi-final (25.04) and Helena Gasson in the 50 fly. Helena’s heat win qualified her 2nd fastest into the semi-final as well in 26.52.
They were both joined in their semis by Cameron Gray (25.67) and Hazel Ouwehand (27.38). Cameron then doubled up by qualifying for the 100 free semi-final with 50.21. Mya Rasmussen missed the 200 breaststroke final by just over a second but was fairly satisfied with her 2:33.62, just outside her PB but her fastest morning effort in an event she only swims very occasionally.
So, to borrow an analogy from our Team manager Graeme Maw, who described the 6 days of morning and evening sessions as very much like a cricket test match, “we won the session”, and that made it 5 out of 5. A test match is one of sports toughest arenas and if you dominate every session you are very likely to win the match. We need to ‘win’ as many sessions as possible to have the best possible meet, and so far so good. Now we have to back up again and the evening session was looking very full on, with 8 of the team involved in either finals or semi-finals it was another busy night.
Going faster from heats to semi’s to finals was one of the key targets for the High Performance Team at SNZ to improve when we started our programme in 2018. It wasn’t something that had been a habit up to that point. Over time, as our athletes have improved their performance behaviours and expectations, and also gaining valuable experience by putting themselves in the position of being in finals and semi’s more often, it has slowly started to improve. Looking back a year to Tokyo we still found it hard to step up from great heat performances. Perhaps because up to that point all our expectation was to make the evening swims. Now we want to win, and the athletes are starting to see that good heat performances are stepping stones and semi-finals are about securing a final slot by using the heat performance to find the areas for improvement.
Tonight we had nine swims. Three athletes didn’t race in the morning and two of those produced lifetime PB’s and the third their fastest time for several years. Of the athletes who qualified from the heats, their six swims produced 5 improved performances, three of them lifetime PB’s. As a team leader I could not ask for anything more from the athletes.
Andrew Jeffcoat PB’d in 24.82 to break his own NZ record and advance into tomorrow’s 50 back final as second seed. Helena Gasson PB’d in 26.36 to qualify 6th into the 50 fly final. Jesse Reynolds PB’d in 1:20.93 to finish 4th in the SB8 100m Breaststroke. Hazel Ouwehand swam 0.37 faster than the morning but not fast enough to make the final in the 50 fly, and Cameron Gray went 49.89, 0.32 faster than his heat in the semi-final of the 100 freestyle. Again not enough to make the final but 12th fastest in an event that for the first time saw a time under 49 seconds as the requirement to make the final.
Our three medal winners tonight all produced outstanding swims and again I borrow a term from Graeme Maw who said it’s great to see us ‘nicking’ a medal in the last metre of a race as Cameron had done the night before in the 50 fly. Well tonight we ‘nicked’ two Gold medals!
First of all Lewis Clareburt produced another absolutely world class performance and perfectly paced swim in the 200 Butterfly, passing former Olympic Champion Le Clos in the last three or four strokes to touch in 1:55.60, for a second Gold of the Games. Then Josh Wilmer, the youngest member of the team, but certainly not the quietest(!), brought the house down when he swam down the favourite over the last 50m in the SB8 100m Breaststroke for Gold and a New NZ record. Squeezed between those two swims on a really great night for the team was Tupou Neiufi’s S8 100m Backstroke silver. Her time, 1:17.91 was the fastest she has swum since 2019. All the swimmers owe lots to the coaches who have been working on stroke lengths, stroke rates and race pacings with them whether it be at home in NZ or on camp in Spain over the last month, which enabled them to swim down their opponents or in Tupou’s case get out and put herself in a medal winning position.
So, we won the session! 6 out of 6. Tomorrow morning we start again…..Day 1.
Results day 3 finals session:
Andrew 50 Backstroke 24.82 PB, NZ record
Cameron 50 backstroke 25.76 13th place
Helena 50 Butterfly 26.36 PB, qualified 6th for final
Hazel 50 Butterfly 27.01 14th place
Lewis 200 Butterfly 1:55.60 Gold, PB
Tupou 100 Backstroke S8 1:17.91 Silver
Jesse 100 Breaststroke SB8 1:20.93 PB and 4th place
Joshua 100 Breaststroke SB8 1:14.12 Gold PB NZ record
Cameron 100 Freestyle 49.89 12th place
Day Four Athlete Heat Schedule
Women's 200m IM Monday 1st August - 10:27pm
Women's 200m IM Monday 1st August - 10:27pm