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Virtus Team Bound For France

Team announcement of the NZ team to attend the Virtus Global Games in France

A mixture of experience and fresh faces is the theme of the Kiwi swimmers competing at the Virtus Global Games in Vichy, France next month.


Headlining the 10-strong swim team is Blenheim Swim Club’s Jack Bugler, who is the only member of the team to have been to a Global Games previously in Brisbane 2019.


Alongside Bugler, 20, is Hamilton Aquatics’ Melissa Donoghue who has previously represented New Zealand at World Para Swimming World Series events (as has Bugler) and the Special Olympics World Games in 2019.


Donoghue, 35, has been involved in the Para swimming circuit for roughly a decade and will lean on that experience as she targets her favourite race – the 400m freestyle.


Luka Willems from Wharenui Swimming Club, 20, has also represented New Zealand twice in the past 12 months – at the World Down Syndrome Swimming Championships in Portugal and the Virtus Oceania Asia Games in Brisbane. Willems is somewhat of a trailblazer for swimmers with Down Syndrome in New Zealand, being our first ever II2 (S18) swimmer at a Virtus event last year – where he also won bronze in the 100m freestyle. However, Willems is this time around joined by fellow swimmer with Down Syndrome Joseph Blake from Hamilton Aquatics.


Others who joined Willems and Bugler at the Virtus Oceania Asia Games were Bailey Conlon of Te Arawa Swimming, Tate Pichon of Mt Eden Swim Club, Finn Russ of Nelson South Swim Club, Lance Dustow of Greendale, and Rylee Sayer of Matamata. Pichon, Russ, and Dustow – all II3/S19 – won medals in Brisbane and will be looking to test themselves against a global field. Sayer, the youngest of the team at 14, won the top prize for youth female swimmers in Brisbane. Conlon, a New Zealand record holder and competing in the II1/S14 classification, had one of the toughest draws in Brisbane but was successful in making finals.


Alongside the experienced swimmers mentioned will be Genevieve Watson of North Canterbury Swim Club, who will become New Zealand’s first ever female II3/S19 swimmer.

New to this level of racing, the 20-year-old Watson has had a baptism of fire over the past six months but has come through and become a positive addition to the team.


Supporting the team as coaches are Te Arawa Swimming’s Henk Greupink and Nelson South Swim Club’s Glen Findlay – both of which were coaches for the OA Games in Brisbane also. In the team manager role will be Robyn Conlon of Te Arawa Swimming, support by personal supporters Angelique van der Velden and Susan O’Brien.

Joseph Blake

Hamilton Aquatics

Melissa Donoghue

Hamilton Aquatics

Jack Buglar

Blenheim Swimming Club

Lance Dustow

Greendale Swimming Club

Finn Russ

Nelson South Swimming Club

Rylee Sayer

Matamata Swimming Club

Luka Willems

Wharenui Swimming Club

Bailey Conlon

Te Arawa Swimming

Tate Pichon

Mt Eden Swimming Club

Genevieve Watson

North Canterbury Swimming Club

Support Staff

Henk Greupink

Te Arawa Swimming

Robyn Conlon

Te Arawa Swimming

Glen Findlay

Nelson South Swimming Club

Susan O'Brien

Matamata Swimming Club

Angelique van der Veldon

This team is a self-funded team, if you’d like to support them please contact Cameron Leslie on cameron@swimming.org.nz

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