The signs are good. Otago swimming is on the verge of
producing national senior champions and internationals.
Last week's Otago and Canterbury championships at Moana Pool
showed Otago swimmers can match the best from Canterbury.
The evening contest between the Otago Stars and the
Canterbury Shockwaves added spice and was good for the
development of South Island swimming.
New Zealand swimming has been dominated by the North Shore
club over the past decade when most of the best swimmers
trained at the one club.
It was a system that did not produce results at major
international competitions such as the Commonwealth Games,
Olympic Games and world championships.
There are now swimming squads producing champions around the
country and one of the best is in Wellington where former
Olympian Gary Hurring is the coach.
Last week's championships showed there are swimmers in the
South Island who can match the best in the country.
Four Otago senior swimmers stood out and proved they are on
the verge of a major breakthrough at the highest level.
The best prospect is Kurt Crosland (28), who has the
potential to get to the world championships in Barcelona in
the three backstroke events.
His best times are: 50m (25.89sec), 100m (55.40sec) and 200m
Kate Godfrey (19) has targeted the World University Games in
Russia and her best chance is in the 200m and 400m individual
medleys. She is also competitive in the backstroke.
Matthew Glassford (22) shifted from Alexandra to Dunedin
seven years ago to train in Duncan Laing's squad. He is a
breaststroke specialist and his best time for the 200m event
is 2min 17.05sec.
The other key senior member of the Osca squad is Katie
Kenneally (21), who won the 200m backstroke final last week.
These four swimmers are all members of coach Gennadiy
Labara's Osca squad.
There are two younger swimmers in the Osca squad who have the
potential to succeed at senior level.
Andrew Trembath (16), a pupil at Otago Boys' High School,
shifted to Dunedin last year after his QE2 club lost its pool
in the Christchurch earthquake.
He is a backstroke specialist who has times that rate him as
one of the best for his age-group in the country in the 100m
(56sec) and 200m (2min 03sec). His 200m individual medley
time of 2min 04sec is also competitive.
''Training is more focused here and my technique has changed
a lot,'' he said.
''When I competed in Christchurch I used to just go up on the
blocks and swim. I didn't think as much about it as I do
Jeremy Hopkins (14) is another talented Osca swimmer. He won
seven gold medals at last year's New Zealand age-group
championships in Wellington.
A swimmer to emerge at the championships was Isobel Ryan
(16), a member of Shane Jones' squad in Oamaru. She won four
gold medals in the girls aged 15 and 16 grade. A
disappointing feature of last week's swimming was the
backward step taken by the Waves club since its coach Andy
Adair accepted a position at Nelson last October.
When Adair signalled his departure, Troy Balvert, who won a
bronze medal in the senior men's 800m freestyle at the open
nationals, went back home to the North Island.
Carina Doyle, who won a gold medal in the women's aged 17 and
18 200m freestyle at the national age-group championships
last season, shifted to Wellington this week.
The Waves swimmers have lost their edge since the departure
Waves and Neptune used to have an even tussle in the overall
club contest. Last week, Neptune won all age-groups.
In the 15 and 16 age-group, Neptune won with 831 points from
Queenstown on 330 and Waves on 280 points.
In the senior events, Neptune was a convincing winner with
1073 points from Waves on 171 and Oamaru on 132.