No better place to learn, coach says

Lars Humer
Lars Humer
It was a 24-hour stretch that would have thrilled most 17-year-olds.

But Erika Fairweather wanted more, as the great ones often do.

The Dunedin swimmer was disappointed with her performance in yesterday’s 400m freestyle final at the Tokyo Olympics.

She came in eighth, clocking a time of 4min 8.01sec.

It followed a dream heat on Sunday night in which the Kavanagh College head girl finished her first Olympic race in 4min 2.28sec to take 4sec off her personal best.

That performance left her as the fourth qualifier for the final, as well as breaking Lauren Boyle’s New Zealand record.

She also moves to fourth in this year’s world rankings — behind medallists Ariarne Titmus, Katie Ledecky and Li Bingjie.

It was plenty to celebrate.

Fairweather’s coach, Lars Humer, acknowledged that, although he said the overwhelming feeling yesterday was one of disappointment.

However, with another race in the 200m freestyle heats last night, it was a case of putting it aside as much as possible.

"She’s disappointed. She wanted to do better than that and obviously there’s disappointment there," Humer told the Otago Daily Times from Tokyo.

"Erika’s pretty honest about how she does and how she performs. So she takes responsibility for that performance, or we take shared responsibility for it.

"Really, it’s about trying to get over that disappointment. Put the 400 to one side and acknowledge our world ranking’s a lot better, our PB’s a lot better and we’re an Olympic finalist at our first Olympics."

Humer had not been surprised by Fairweather’s rapid heat.

Her training had indicated she was set for a faster time and Humer’s predictions for her splits were close to what she swam.

Having the extra competition at the Olympics helped push her along, he said.

Humer said Fairweather’s warm-up had gone well yesterday and she had hoped to repeat her performance from the heats.

But he felt nerves might have played a part in the final.

"When you get to the final, it’s the big-race component that comes with it. That’s harder to prepare for, other than that big international race environment.

"We can stand up in training and do things in competitions that try to rehearse that same thing.

"But it’s not the same environment: going through the call room with the best swimmers in the world and coming out on stage.

"There’s only one place to learn that — that’s here.

"Sometimes the lessons are a little bit more painful and this morning’s one was a little bit more painful. But hey, maybe that’s when we learn the most."

This was a big stage even as far as Olympic finals went.

At the front was a contest between stars Australian Titmus and US Ledecky, in what will be one of the races of the Games.

Titmus prevailed as her time of 3min 56.69sec edged Ledecky, generally considered the greatest female swimmer of all time, by half a second.

Bingjie was 4sec back in third.

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