2021 Aon NZ Swimming Champs Preview
The 2021 Aon New Zealand Swimming Championships kicks off next week from Monday 5th to Saturday 10th April. Returning to Auckland again, held at the Sir Own Glenn National Aquatic Centre. This event will be a key part of the Olympic and Paralympic qualification process, as our athletes build toward Tokyo, the best swimmers from around the country converge on Auckland to battle it out for the title of national champion.
The competition brings a total of 306 athletes, from 56 clubs across New Zealand. Swimming among our top national swimmers are some of New Zealand’s top age group swimmers. The previous Open Championships held in 2019, saw 1 Open record broken by Daniel Hunter (HPK) in the 50m Freestyle event and a total of 19 Age Group Records. Hunter won’t be racing at this year’s NZ Champs, as he is currently in Australia.
Among the four NZ swimmers who have made the qualification time for the 2021 Olympics, three of them will be racing at NZ Champs (Lewis Clareburt, Erika Fairweather and Zac Reid). Ali Galyer from Coast is currently in the US, so will not be present. Ali came back to New Zealand in 2019 for Opens and qualified for the 18th FINA World Championships along with Fairweather, Reid and Clareburt.
Galyer and Clareburt met the Olympic Qualification Time at this competition and Lewis took home the Bronze medal in the Men’s 400m Individual Medley, as well as breaking the NZ Open record, which currently still stands (4:12.07 seconds).
Also at World Championships, The Women’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay made the top 12 required for relay quota at the 2021 Olympics. Our top female Freestyle swimmers will be battling it out to take the four spots of the relay team.
Zac Reid, in the Tokyo leg of the 2019 FINA World Cup, took the Silver medal in the Men’s 400m Freestyle. The Aquabladz swimmer swam under the Olympic Qualification Time at the 2020 ASA Open Championships in December last year. Reid swam a time of 7:53.50 seconds in the Men’s 800m Freestyle event, also breaking the NZ Open record and shaving 3.9 seconds off his previous personal best.
Reid is top seed of the Men’s 400m and 800m Freestyle events. Clareburt, who swims for Capital Swim Club, is top seed in four individual events, the Men's 200m and 400m IM, the Men's 200m Freestyle and the Men’s 200m Butterfly.
One of New Zealand’s top age group swimmers, Erika Fairweather from Neptune Swim Club also achieved an Olympic Qualification time at the 2020 ASA Open Champs. Erika swam a 4:07.23 in the Women’s 400m Freestyle. Fairweather won Gold in the Women’s 200m Freestyle at the 2019 FINA World Junior Championships. Recently turned 17-years, we look forward to watching Erika swim at NZ Champs and potentially break several age group records.
Also from Neptune Swim Club, Caitlin Deans will go head to head with Hayley McIntosh from Phoenix Aquatics in the Women’s 1500mm Freestyle, with hopes to swim under the Olympic Qualification Time. Both swimmers represented New Zealand at the 2018 World Short Course Championships.
Missing from this event is Eve Thomas from Coast, who is currently in Australia. Eve’s current personal best time for the 1500m Freestyle is inside the Olympic Qualification Time. Eve will need to achieve the time at an approved meet to make the standard and qualify for the 2021 Olympics.
2016 Olympian, Helena Gasson from Coast Swim Club will be exciting to watch. Gasson had an incredible year last year, breaking a total of 11 NZ Short Course Open Records at the 2020 International Swim League, held in Budapest. Helena currently holds NZ Open (Long Course) Records in the Women’s 100 and 200m Butterfly and will be looking to swim under an Olympic Qualification Time in either of the Women’s Butterfly or Individual Medley events.
Backstroke swimmers Andrew Jeffcoat from Pukekohe and Kane Follows from North Shore will be looking to achieve the Olympic Qualification Time in either the Men’s 100m or 200m Backstroke event. In the 200m, Jeffcoat will have to shave almost exactly a second off his personal best, whilst Follows needs to swim 1.3 seconds inside his lifetime best. Jeffcoat swam incredibly well last year during the 2020 Aon Short Course Series/North Shore Invitational, breaking 4 NZ Short Course Open Records across backstroke events.
A total of 22 Para swimmers will compete at the championships. The results from the London 2019 World Para Swimming Championships (6 Gold, 1 Silver medal) left the New Zealand Para Swimming Team ranked 10th on the medal standings. The team currently holds five slots for the Tokyo 2020(2021) Paralympic Games.
A nine-time Paralympic Gold Medallist and multiple World Champion, Sophie Pascoe from QEII will be returning to Auckland after breaking 5 World Para Swimming Records during the 2019 Opens event, 4 of which are still standing (She has 11 in total). Sophie has swam at the past three Paralympic Games, 2008 in Beijing, 2012 in London and 2016 in Rio. She is now looking forward to what she hopes will be her fourth Paralympic Games in
Three-time Paralympic Gold Medallist, Cameron Leslie from Whangarei Swim Club will be competing in four individual events. Leslie currently has 2 World Para Swimming Records still standing, the Men’s 50m Freestyle S4 (37.14) and the Men’s 150m Individual Medley SM4 (02:23.12).
Nikita Howarth from Hamilton Aquatics recently returned to swimming last year and has her sights firmly set on Tokyo. Howarth won Gold in the Women’s 200m Individual Medley SM7 in the Rio 2016 Paralympics and currently holds 1 World Para Swimming Record in the Women’s 100m Butterfly S7.
Two more Para swimmers to look out for during the competition are Tupou Neiufi from HPK Swim Club and Jesse Reynolds from Fairfield.