Can Clareburt swim to medal like Loader?

Lewis Clareburt is confident that if the stars align in Tokyo, he has as good a chance as any of...
Lewis Clareburt is confident that if the stars align in Tokyo, he has as good a chance as any of taking home a medal. Photo: Reuters
Lewis Clareburt was not even born when compatriot and Dunedin's Danyon Loader won two swimming gold medals in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

That was the last time a Kiwi was on the Olympic swimming podium.

But Clareburt could be New Zealand's best bet for ending the 25-year  drought after a world championship bronze medal in the 400m individual medley in 2019.

After shaving nine seconds off his best in under a year to get there, the 22-year-old is confident that if the stars align in Tokyo, he has as good a chance as any of taking home a medal.

Danyon Loader won a gold medal in the 200m and 400m Freestyle Events at the Atlanta Games. Photo:...
Danyon Loader won a gold medal in the 200m and 400m Freestyle Events at the Atlanta Games. Photo: Getty Images
And the absence of a crowd won't be a problem either for Clareburt.

"If I can get myself into the final I think anything's possible, a medal could definitely be on the table.

"Being from New Zealand, we don't really get a whole huge crowd. So we probably got a bit of an advantage compared to the rest of the world," he said.

"By the time I go out on that block, you know, I'm ready to get angry and ready to bust it out and go fast."

The pandemic has posed preparation challenges, with no international competition since the world championships, but also no distractions from training, which Clareburt thinks might make for some high-quality performances in the Tokyo pool.

He acknowledged pressure on him to deliver a medal, but was largely ignoring it.

"I'm just here for myself and for the team," he told Reuters. "If I get a medal, you know, so be it."

Clareburt has also become something of an star in recent weeks with TikTok videos of his athlete's village experiences, and was stunned that one of them had over a million views.

"We're doing something that you know is making us have a bit of a laugh," he said. "It definitely distracts you from what you're here to do." 

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