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The start of something extraordinary

Fa’amausili, Gichard qualify for backstroke final

Rising 15 year old swimmers Bobbi Gichard and Gabrielle Fa’amausili have both qualified for their first finals on the opening day of the FINA World Junior Championships in Singapore.

Gichard, coached by Noel Hargreaves at the Greendale club in Hawkes Bay, has finished sixth fastest in the semifinal of the 100m backstroke in a personal best 1:00.88.

She went under her previous national age group record clocking 1:01.12 in her heat to be fifth fastest qualifier, and then lowered her best again to 1:00.88 in the semifinal.

Fa’amausili, coached by 1988 Olympic gold medallist Igor Polianski at the United club in Auckland, had gone even quicker when she clocked 1:00.86 in the heats to take nearly 0.4 seconds off the Gichard’s national age group record.

She was a tick slower in the semifinal in 1:01.15 to qualify seventh fastest, behind Australia‘s Minna Atherton who was top qualifier in 59.86, having broken the world junior record in the heats.

Both Gichard and Fa’amausili are the first New Zealand age group swimmers – up to the age of 18 years  - to go under the 1:01 barrier and are within 0.6 seconds of the national open record held by Emily Thomas.

“Both girls had excellent heats, with Bobbi going quicker again and Gabrielle producing a quality swim,” said head coach Donna Bouzaid. “The two girls are rivals but good friends and continue to push eachother to world class performances.”

Earlier North Shore 18 year old Wilrich Coetzee, coached by Thomas Ansorg, took 0.7s off his previous best to qualify 10th fastest in heats of the 100m backstroke in 55.84. He was 16th fastest in his semifinal in 56.07s after losing the fluidity in his stroke during the second 50m after a strong first length.

The second day provides a challenging schedule for Coetzee with heats of the 200m individual medley and 100m butterfly; Fa’amausili will contest the heats of the 100m freestyle and North Shore’s Yeonsu Lee makes her debut in the 200m butterfly.

Fa’amausili and Gichard will contest the final of the 100m backstroke on the evening programme.

The fifth World Junior Swimming Championships, staged at the OCBC Aquatic Centre, runs until Sunday.

CAPTION: Bobbi Gichard in action. (The image is for editorial use only. Credit: BW Media)