Swimming: Four Otago competitors stand out

Kurt Crosland.
Kurt Crosland.
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 (2min 03.60sec).

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.

Kate Godfrey.
Kate Godfrey.
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 now.''

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 of Adair.

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.

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