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Swimmers on Fire in Hawke's Bay

Day 4 Wrap of the 2024 Apollo Projects NZ Swimming Championships

Three swimmers lit up the pool on day four of racing at the 2024 Apollo Projects NZ Swimming Championships in Hawke's Bay by achieving the Paris qualification standard.

Kane Follows (Neptune & Swim Dunedin) swam the race of his life to hit the Paris qualification time in the Men's 200m Backstroke. Follows set himself up well, flying out across the first hundred before executing a perfect turn into his second hundred. The crowd erupted to their feet at the final turn as Follows hit the accelerator, powering home in 1:57.13 to break Gareth Kean's New Zealand Record set 12 years ago by 0.02 seconds.

Follows was swamped by fellow competitors in the pool, showcasing the camaraderie between the swimmers in these championships, after a memorable celebration upon seeing his time on the screen.

Follows expressed what it meant to him to achieve the qualifying time for a pinnacle team for the first time in his career.

“This has been a grind, I’ve missed a lot of teams but I’ve stuck at it, I’ve given so much to the sport and it feels so good to get this result."
“Sport is a lot of ups and downs but it’s all worth it for this feeling, I’ve really enjoyed this week, racing with my mates and this is the most fun I’ve had in a long time.”

Lewis Clareburt (Club 37 - 1:58.79) claimed the silver medal with teammate Andrew Jeffcoat (Club 37 - 1:59.37) rounding out the podium.

Cameron Gray (Coast) had the pool buzzing during the heats session in the Men's 100m Freestyle. A great turn set the 20-year up for a fast second lap, with the Aucklander putting his head down and flying home to touch in 48.26 to break his New Zealand Record and go under the Paris qualification time.

An ecstatic Gray yelled and hit the water in celebration as the crowd gave a standing ovation.

“I can’t quite believe it. I was feeling pretty good down the first 50m, in the last 50m I knew it was going to be close, knew I was going to be on, so just went for it."
“I’m looking forward to a bit of a rest after this and then I’ll be back into getting ready for a big few months.”

Gray backed it up in the final to take the gold medal (49.02) ahead of Carter Swift (Club 37 - 49.39) and Zac Dell (Club 37 - 50.07).

Paralympian Cameron Leslie (Whangarei) was in the following heat during the morning session, swimming in the Men's 100m Freestyle Multi-Class. The 34-year-old S4 swimmer showed his class to touch the wall in 1:25.86s, well under the Paralympic qualification time.

Leslie was pleased to get his championships under way with a Paris qualifying time.

“It’s good to get that time this morning and we'll see what we can do in finals tonight."

Finn Russ (Selwyn - 59.15) put in a great performance in the final to take the gold medal in an S19 NZ Record time. Leslie backed up his heat swim to claim silver, with Ian Chen (St Paul's - 59.88) coming in for bronze. Asher Smith-Franklin (North Shore - 56.42) also broke his S14 NZ Record twice in one day, continuing to impress as an up-and-coming swimmer.

The Hawke's Bay crowd on come out in droves for the Women's 200m Backstroke, with local Emma Godwin (Heretaunga Sundevils) leading out the race at the first turn, before Helena Gasson (Coast - 2:11.03) produced a gutsy effort to set a huge personal best, just outside the Paris qualifying standard. Gina McCarthy (Hamilton Aquatics & RPC Waikato - 2:13.71) displayed her trademark strong finish to move through for silver with Godwin (2:16.58) finishing third.

The Women's 100m Freestyle also had the crowd at fever pitch, as Laticia Transom (Club 37 - 53.94) took out the first lap hard before pulling away from Erika Fairweather (Neptune & Swim Dunedin - 54.43) off the turn to post her first time under 54 seconds as a new personal best, narrowly missing Hayley Palmer's NZ Record set 15 years ago. Zoe Pedersen (Coast - 55.68) continued her rate of development to win the bronze in a 16 Years NZ Age Record.

Quinn Pike (Hamilton Aquatics - 1:07.58) then continued her great meet, taking the Women’s 100m Freestyle Multi-Class title in a close battle with Chloe Gladwin (Whakatane - 1:07.79). Ella Benn (Selwyn - 1:10.51) finished strongly to claim the bronze medal.

Lewis Clareburt picked up another national title in what’s been a busy schedule for the Tokyo Olympian, winning the Men’s 200m Butterfly in a classy 1:57.06, particularly given he finished the 200m Backstroke not long before the race. Joel Crampton (Capital - 2:05.06) produced a strong swim for silver and Blair Helms (North Shore - 2:06.24) rounded out the podium.

Clareburt’s time was so hot it appeared to set off the fire alarm, resulting in a delay, after which Neve Tassicker (Nga Tai Tuatea a Taraika - 2:18.68) held on to win the Women’s 200m Butterfly in a tight tussle with Esme Paterson (Neptune & Swim Dunedin - 2:19.53) and Ruby Matthews (Phoenix Aquatics - 2:24.10).

Ian Chen (St Paul's - SB19), Joshua Willmer (Pukekohe - SB8) and Joseph Blake (Hamilton Aquatics - SB18) then all set New Zealand records in the Men’s 50m Breaststroke Multi-Class. Chen finishing in 32.99 for gold, Willmer in 34.38 for silver and Blake in 47.02 for fourth, with James Haydon (Club 37 - 33.88) claiming the bronze.

Quinn Pike (SB19) took out the Women’s 50m Breaststroke Multi-Class final in 42.88 in an SB19 NZ Record, with Chloe Gladwin (Whakatane - 47.36) and Rylee Sayer (Matamata - 57.78) completing the podium.

The final event of the night was the Mixed 4 x 100m Freestyle which produced another record-breaking performance, with Club 37 combining Carter Swift, Lewis Clareburt, Laticia Transom and Eva Allan together to continue their fine performances in the relays to break the NZ Record (3:27.73). Coast (3:34.02) secured the silver medal ahead of Club 37 B (3:38.69).

Full results from the day are available on Swimify

Upcoming Action - Saturday 13 April

Tomorrow will be the final day of the championships but will finish with a bang with a bag full of races you don't want to miss. Lewis Clareburt will be seeking the Paris qualification time in the Men's 200m Individual Medley. Erika Fairweather, Eve Thomas (Coast) and Caitlin Deans (Neptune & Swim Dunedin) are set to resume the next chapter of their great races. The Men's 50m Freestyle is top billing as Taiko Torepe-Ormsby (Wharenui) takes to the pool for the first time in the championships with joint NZ Record holder Michael Pickett (Club 37) both looking in form alongside Cameron Gray and Carter Swift. Cameron Leslie will return to the pool for the Men's 50m Freestyle Multi-Class, whilst Gabi Fa'amausili (Club 37) is the top seed in the Women's 50m Freestyle.

The event is the final opportunity for New Zealand’s top swimmers to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Heats will be held from 10am each morning, with finals held in the evening from 5.40pm.

Don't miss any of the action with opportunities to watch from the grandstand pool side or on the Whakaata Maori YouTube channel.


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