2023 Apollo Projects NZ Swimming Championships: Day One Wrap
The finals session of day one of the 2023 Apollo Projects NZ Swimming Championships began with a hiss and a roar as Lewis Clareburt and Luan Grobbelaar battled it out in the Men’s 400m Individual Medley.
Grobbelaar (Neptune) was hot on the heels of four-time Commonwealth Games medallist Clareburt (Capital), producing a stunning race to finish in a time of 4:16.00 and secure qualification for the World Champs.
The 20-year-old couldn’t contain himself as he saw his time, jumping out of the water and throwing a massive fist pump in celebration.
“I’m over the moon, that just sort of came out of the blue to be honest,” said Grobbelaar.
“The last two months I’ve been training really hard and I’ve believed in that training so it’s brilliant to get this result.”
Clareburt took gold, finishing in 4:14.78s but says he knows he could’ve gone faster.
“It’s nice to get that World Champs spot ticked off but I didn’t swim at my best tonight. It’s been a while since I’ve competed properly so I’ll now have a look at my splits and work out where I can improve,” said Clareburt.
Sam Brown (Captial) rounded out the podium in third.
The women’s 1500m also saw two gutsy performances secure World Champs qualification.
Tokyo Olympian Eve Thomas (Coast) was solid throughout, posting a huge 13-second PB of 16:10.85 to take out first place and be almost 20 seconds under the World Championship qualification time.
She was followed by Caitlin Deans (Neptune) in a time of 16:20.71, also securing world champs qualification. Keira Allott (Mt Maunganui) rounded out the podium in third.
“It’s so good to start the meet on a high,” said Thomas.
“My goal tonight was to start nice and slow and build into it, I’m happy that I stuck to my plan and my swim was way faster than I expected so I’m really happy with that.”
Cameron Gray then stunned the audience, setting a New Zealand record as he swam for Coast Swimming Club A in the lead for the Men’s 4 x 100m Freestyle.
Gray swam his split in 48.29 seconds to shave half a second off the record held by Carter Swift.
“That felt really good, I’ve been working on my turns and I knew I was feeling fast but I didn’t know I was gonna be that fast so that’s awesome. I feel like I could jump back in and do it all again to be honest,” said Gray.
Records also fell in the Men’s 100m Backstroke Multi-Class with Asher Smith-Franklin (North Shore) posting a New Zealand best time of 1:06.94 in the S14. In the same discipline, Jesse Reynolds (Hamilton Aquatics) swam home in 1:06.78 in his heat earlier in the day to secure his qualification for the World Para Swimming Championships.
In the 50m Breaststroke Multi-Class, two further New Zealand records fell with Asher Smith-Franklin posting a time of 33.28 seconds and Josh Wilmer (Pukekohe) swimming home in 35 seconds flat.
Not to be outdone by the men Rylee Sayer (Matamata) smashed another NZ record, posting 46.61 seconds in the Women's 50m Breaststroke Multi-Class.
Tupou Neiufi (Pukekohe) then locked in her World Para Swimming Championships spot, swimming a time of 1:25.72 in the Women’s 100m Backstroke Multi-Class.
“I’m so dead, that was tiring,” said Neiufi. “I’m so happy to have made the World Champs time, it’s always a huge honour for me to represent my country.”
There were also some heart-breaking close calls. In the Women’s 400m Individual Medley Mya Rasmussen (Kiwi West) was first home in 4:43.15s, narrowly missing out on World Champs qualification. She was joined on the podium by Gina McCarthy (Hamilton Aquatics) who took silver and Charlie Twose (Coast) with bronze.
In the Men’s 800m Freestyle Zac Reid (Neptune) took out first place in 7:57.38, again just outside the time required for World Champs. Larn Hamblyn-Ough (Coast) was second in 8:13.31 and Jack Potier (Coast) third in 8:38.61.
Coast Swimming Club A took out the Women’s 4 x 100m Freestyle with Coast B in second and St Pau's A in third. And despite the heroics of Cameron Gray, Club 37A won the Men’s 4 x 100 Freestyle with Capital in second and Coast A in third.
Congratulations to all the swimmers involved in the first day of action at the 2023 Apollo Projects NZ Swimming Championships, it was a fantastic day of competition with another four to come. See below for a preview of what’s happening in the pool tomorrow.
Day Two Preview
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 also 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).
Cameron Gray (Coast) set a New Zealand record on day one of competition and will be back in action in the Men’s 50m Butterfly, where he won a Bronze medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Helena Gasson (Coast) will compete in the women’s event, her entry time (26.08) is already under the World Champs 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. 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.
Eleven-time Paralympic champion Dame Sophie Pascoe (QEII) will also be in action, competing in the Women's 50m Butterfly MC event, while triple Paralympic Gold Medallist Cameron Leslie (Whangarei) will be competing in the Men’s 200m Freestyle Multi-Class event.