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Swimming NZ to build on improved showing

August 6, 2013
Lauren Boyle on the podium after winning the 800m title at the short-course world championships in Turkey.

Lauren Boyle on the podium after winning the 800m title at the short-course world championships in Turkey.

Swimming New Zealand goes firmly back under the microscope after athletes delivered progress at the world championships in Barcelona.

Lauren Boyle‘s three bronze medals deservedly took the headlines, putting a Kiwi run of 19 years without a podium finish firmly to the sword. But improved performances elsewhere in the New Zealand squad also need consideration.

Five individual finalists in Barcelona equals New Zealand’s most at a world championships – matching 1994 in Rome.

Putting Boyle aside for a moment, a smaller, new-look high performance squad is showing improvement after having their funding cut in the wake of a poor Olympic campaign, where no one (apart from Boyle), made a final.

Swimming NZ is still rebuilding from years of squabbling and a thumping review last year. The governance page has been swept clean, mostly, and now the athlete’s have handed administrators an opportunity to build stability and provide a pathway for progress.

Swimming NZ’s high performance director, Luis Villanueva, noted the importance of the springboard found last week.

“These achievements should provide a major drive for a broader improvement of New Zealand results at the world stage in the years leading to Rio,” Villanueva said.

“It’s been an historical competition in many respects.”

Most of the swimmers return to New Zealand over the next couple of days while Boyle and Shaun Burnett compete in this week’s start of the World Cup circuit in Eindhoven, Netherlands and then Berlin, Germany.

Villanueva said the coaching team, which also includes newly-appointed head coach David Lyles, will conduct a debrief on Barcelona before setting goals for next year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

While the Commonwealth Games are significantly less competitive in a sport as global as swimming, next year they will also be an important stepping stone to the 2015 world championships – and an early window on the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

The top priority, for both Swimming NZ and Crown funding entity High Performance Sport New Zealand, must be ensuring the infrastructure around Boyle over the next three years.

After a wretched time under her national sport organisation and having to deal with a number of issues, including a raft of coaches changes – including the loss of Mark Regan, the man who helped transform Boyle since 2011 – she is overdue stability from administrators.
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How that will be done remains to be seen, but it promises to be the most-anticipated strategy in New Zealand sport over the next few weeks.

“Lauren has moved one step higher on her swimming career, her progression since 2011 has been continuous,” Villanueva said.

“In Spain she has added some key improvements. She has swum faster from the heats to final in every event, and of course she has been on the podium in all three events. And she has shown that she has great potential in every freestyle distance event from 400m to 1500m.”

“Lauren has put in the hard work in 2011 and 2012 with Mark Regan, continuing in this challenging year with determination, stepping many hurdles.”

But Swimming NZ now need to prove how those hurdles will be removed in future.

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