Swimming: Future looks promising

New Zealand swimming champions at Moana Pool. Pictured (from left) are Gennadiy Labara (coach),...
New Zealand swimming champions at Moana Pool. Pictured (from left) are Gennadiy Labara (coach), Thomas Heaton, Han Zhang, Andrew Trembath, Kurt Crosland, Kate Godfrey and Caitlin Deans. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Otago swimmers have had a heck of a year.

The sport in the province is returning to the glory days when it flourished under the coaching of the late Duncan Laing.

The new guru at Moana Pool is former Ukrainian coach Gennadiy Labara, a product of the strict Eastern European philosophy that demanded dedication from its athletes.

Otago swimmers have won 114 medals - 38 gold, 39 silver and 37 bronze - at national championships this year.

Labara replaced Laing as a professional coach at Moana Pool in October 2006. In the past seven years, his swimmers have broken a massive 355 Otago records and six New Zealand records.

Eight of his swimmers have made New Zealand teams and he was appointed coach of the New Zealand team that competed at the World University Games in Russia.

''It is based on teamwork,'' Labara said.

''I have respect for the swimmers and they have respect for me and each other. We have made a big step this year and if we can continue this way, we will have another Olympic champion from Moana Pool.

''There is a lot of swimming talent around Otago and my goal is to produce Olympic champions, the same way as Duncan Laing.''

The results of the past 12 months had given a lot of confidence to the swimmers, Labara said.

''They now have more belief than they had before. If the swimmers work hard, they can achieve their dream of competing at the Olympic Games.''

Labara is confident it will not be long before Otago is again the top swimming province in New Zealand.

''We can be the best place in New Zealand. There is a big future for swimmers in Dunedin.''

Dunedin Swim Coaching Board chairman Lindsay Dey said 180 swimmers, including triathletes, were training with Labara's squad at Moana Pool.

Labara is head coach and his assistants are Phoebe Williams, Simon Cook and Steve Prescott.

''Gennadiy has developed a very good training programme and the results are coming at national level,'' Dey said.

''The consistency of the coaching has enhanced the result.''

The board intends to make more use of the swimming flume at the University of Otago's School of Physical Education to enhance the swimmers' development.

''Gennadiy's A squad is going especially well and there is competition to get into it,'' Dey said.

The Dunedin Swim Coaching Board is in the process of appointing a fifth coach to Labara's team and has had applications from Ireland, England, India and Australia.

Kurt Crosland (29), the senior member of Labara's's squad, won six medals (five gold, one silver) at the short course championships.

His time of 52.28sec in the 100m backstroke was just 0.6sec off the New Zealand record and was 1.5sec faster than he was swimming at the same time last year.

''It makes it possible for me to reach the podium at the Commonwealth Games,'' Crosland said.

His goal this season is to qualify for Glasgow.

''Gennadiy is doing everything possible to get me there. I listen to him and do what he says. Everything has worked so far.''

Andrew Trembath (16) won 16 medals in the pool at national championships this year. This included five gold medals.

He has confidence in Labara's coaching.

''Gennadiy is strict and knows what he is doing,'' Trembath said.

''As long as we show up and do what he says, we will get there.''

Trembath has won 20 New Zealand titles - 11 in surf life-saving and nine in swimming.

Kate Godfrey (19) was the only member of the Dunedin team to win a gold medal at the New Zealand open championships in Auckland when she won the senior women's 200m individual medley and qualified for the World University Games in Russia.

''I just turn up and swim,'' she said.

''I really trust Gennadiy and his sessions. He works me hard.''

Caitlin Deans (13), a pupil at Columba College, won two gold medals and broke two New Zealand age 13 records at the national short course championships in Wellington in the 400m and 800m freestyle.

She joined Labara's squad late last year after her previous coach, Andy Adair, became chief coach at the Nelson pool.

''My goal is to become a world champion,'' Deans said.

''Gennadiy has set goals for me in training to make me go that little bit faster.''

The swimming year
Otago medals

New Zealand age group, Wellington: 50 medals (16 gold, 18 silver, 16 bronze)New Zealand open, Auckland): 16 medals (one gold, eight silver, seven bronze)New Zealand short course, Wellington: 48 medals (21 gold, 13 silver, 14 bronze)


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