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Three Swimmers Hit Paris Qualifying Times On First Day in Hawke's Bay

Day 1 Wrap of the 2024 Apollo Projects NZ Swimming Championships

The 2024 Apollo Projects NZ Swimming Championships has gotten off to a flying start as three athletes swam Olympic and Paralympic qualifying times on day one of competition.

Competing at the Hawke’s Bay Regional Aquatic Centre, Jesse Reynolds (Hamilton Aquatics & Waikato RPC) was the first athlete to swim a Paris 2024 Paralympic qualification time (S9). The 27-year-old hit the time required in his Men's 100m Backstroke Multi-Class heat, before turning it up a notch and posting a faster time of 1:05.47s in his final.

Reynolds was pleased with his performances across the heat and final.

“I’m really happy with hitting that qualification time. To get that time in the morning and then go even quicker in the final was exactly what I was aiming for. I don’t think too many people have been to three Paralympics so I hope I can be part of that group and I’m really looking forward to competing for New Zealand again.”

Reynolds shared the gold medal with Jole Watkins (Pukekohe - 1:12.10s) as he broke the S19 NZ Record, with Denver Xavier (Club 37 - 1:21.20s) claiming the bronze.

Commonwealth Games Gold Medalist, Joshua Willmer (Pukekohe), was the next to hit the mark. Sporting a fresh mullet the 19-year-old flew home in the Men's 100m Breaststroke Multi-Class in 1:13.94s to make the Paris Paralympic qualifying time (SB8).

Speaking afterwards Willmer was thrilled with that result.

“I’m stoked! I didn’t measure my stroke rate that well in the heats, I got a little excited, so I kept it nice and controlled tonight and I’m really happy with that time.”

Ian Chen (St Paul's - 1:13.89s) won the gold in that event, with Willmer the silver and Watkins (1:21.77s) across the classifications.

Eve Thomas (Coast) then showed her class in the grueling Women’s 1500m Freestyle. Thomas started fast and held her pace to the finish in a blistering 16:07.46s, more than a second and a half under the qualification time for the Paris Olympics.

Thomas touched on what it would means to her if she were to be selected for Paris.

“An athlete’s dream is the Olympics and to have swum under the qualification time for my second Olympics is an honour. I went hard from the start tonight and I just hung on, so I’m really pleased that I stuck to my plan.”

It is the third Paris qualification time for Thomas, who has already qualified in the 400m and 800m Freestyle, hitting the mark at the 2024 Aquatics World Championships in Doha in February this year.

Caitlin Deans (Neptune & Swim Dunedin - 16:28.94s) came home for silver and Sophie Hay (Hamilton Aquatics & Waikato RPC - 17:16.34s) for bronze.

Another impressive performance on the first night was the Men's 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay, where Club 37 broke the NZ Record that's been held 16 years since the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Led off by Carter Swift in a personal best time (48.66s), the team was on from the start with Lewis Clareburt, Zac Dell and Michael Pickett taking down the long-standing record. Coast Swim Club A (3:22.91s) and Coast Swim Club B (3:27.59) rounded out the podium.

In the day's other action, Chloe Gladwin (Whakatane) had left her mark, winning two national titles as she took out the Women’s 100m Backstroke Multi-Class (S19 - 1:42.20s) ahead of Rylee Sayer (Matamata - 2:16.56s) and the Women’s 100m Breaststroke Multi-Class (SB19 - 1:21.92s) ahead of Lili-Fox Mason (Wharenui - 1:19.28s) and Ella Benn (Selwyn - 1:23.40s).

Sam Brown (Coast) won the Men’s 400m Individual Medley by almost two seconds ahead of Blair Helms with a big PB for silver (North Shore - 4:24.77s) and Ariel Muchirahondo (Swim Rotorua - 4:38.24s), while Zyleika Pratt-Smith (Coast - 4:59.32s) was dominant in the Women’s 400m Individual Medley ahead of Maia Adams (Raumati - 5:03.17s) and Ariella Riley (Hamilton Aquatics - 5:04.65s).

Coast completed a trifecta in the Men's 800m Freestyle, with Brendan Visser (8:18.37s) leading home teammates Larn Hamblyn-Ough (8:29.00s) and Jack Potier (8:39.27s).

The evening was rounded out with the relays, with Coast taking home the honours in the Women’s 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay in 3:48.99s, ahead of North Shore (3:49.91s) and Coast B (4:00.78s).

Full results from the day are available on Swimify

Upcoming Action - Wednesday 10 April

Tomorrow will see Erika Fairweather (Neptune & Swim Dunedin) start her campaign, contesting the 200m Freestyle, which will be must-watch race as part of how the Women's 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay team for Paris may take shape. 2023 World Champs semi-finalist Andrew Jeffcoat (Club 37) is also in the pool, swimming the Men's 100m Backstroke, while 2023 World Junior Championship silver medallist Monique Wieruszowski (North Shore) will be in action in the Women's 100m Breaststroke. 

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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