2023 World Para Swimming Championships Preview
A squad of six Kiwi athletes made up of experienced campaigners and exciting young talent has arrived in Manchester ahead of the 2023 Para Swimming World Championships.
The team is spearheaded by multiple Paralympic Gold Medallist Cameron Leslie (Whangarei, Aquablack #272) who’s competing in four events during the event which runs July 31st – August 6th.
He’s joined by Commonwealth Games medallists Tupou Neiufi (Pukekohe Swim Club, Aquablack #261), Joshua Willmer (Pukekohe, Aquablack #275) and Jesse Renolds (Hamilton Aquatics, Aquablack #262).
Returning for their second Para Swimming World Champs appearances are Lili-Fox Mason (Wharenui, Aquablack #273) and Gabriella Smith (Vikings Swim Club, Aquablack #274).
Eleven-time Paralympic gold medalist Dame Sophie Pascoe was named to the squad in April but has been forced to withdraw due to a medical reason.
For 33-year-old Cameron Leslie it’ll be his 7th long course Para World Champs. He says he’s looking forward to seeing his younger team members in action.
“It’s really cool to see the young ones coming closer to podium spots, they have lots of potential so I’m looking forward to seeing what they do in the pool next week,” said Leslie.
“I’ve loved being part of the development of some of these athletes and now I get to race alongside them which is pretty special. I’m hoping we’ll get to see a few celebrations in the pool from them this week, everyone loves a Josh Willmer celebration in particular so fingers crossed.”
Leslie says the team is taking inspiration from fellow Aquablack Erika Fairweather who won bronze in the 400m Freestyle at the World Aquatics Championships this week.
“Seeing other kiwis do well in the pool is so exciting. That was an amazing race she swam and it’s got us really fizzed to get back on the international stage.”
He’s predicting tight races with just over a year to go until the Paralympic Games.
“I’m in a bit of a sweet spot and enjoying all my events at the moment and I know everything’s going to be really competitive. The 50m backstroke and 200m freestyle are the two that I’m really looking forward to so they should be a good watch.”
Leslie and Lili-Fox Mason left to join the team this week with the rest of the athletes having spent the past fortnight at a training camp in Mallorca, Spain.
“I’m really excited to be at another World Champs and competing against the best athletes in the world,” said Mason.
“We’ve had a great build up and the team is excited to begin racing.”
The team who raced in Madeira last year ended with five individual medals, a World record, two Oceania records and fourteen New Zealand records (age, open and relay).
Swimming NZ's Paralympic Programme Lead, Simon Mayne, is pleased with preparations.
“We’re really happy with how these athletes have been tracking and we’re looking forward to showing what we can do in Manchester,” said Mayne.
“We’ve had a great training camp in Mallorca where we’ve had some good pool time and we’re feeling fresh, fast and ready to go.”
It will be the 11th edition of the Para Swimming World Championships and the third time it is held in Great Britain following Glasgow 2015 and London 2019.
Over 600 Para swimmers from around 70 nations are set to compete in the last World Championships before the Paralympic Games in Paris, France next year.
Aquablacks Team for the 2023 World Para Swimming Championships:
Tupou Neiufi (#261) Pukekohe Swim Club
· 100m Backstroke (S8)
· 50m, 100m Freestyle (S8)
Jesse Reynolds (#262) Hamilton Aquatics
· 100m Backstroke (S9)
Cameron Leslie (#272) Whangarei
· 50m, 100m, 200m Freestyle (S4)
· 50m Backstroke (S4)
Lili-Fox Mason (#273) Wharenui
· 100m Butterfly (S10)
· 400m Freestyle (S10)
Gabriella Smith (#274) Vikings
· 400m Freestyle (S10)
· 100m Breaststroke (SB9)
· 200m Individual Medley (SM10)
Joshua Willmer (#275) Pukekohe
· 100m Breaststroke (SB8)