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The start of something extraordinary

Swimming’s Dynamic Duo in the medals in Samoa

Swimming New Zealand’s dynamic duo, Bobbi Gichard and Gabrielle Fa’amausili produced a one-two medal thrust on the opening day of the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa.

Gichard claimed the gold medal and Fa’amausili the silver medal in the final of the 100m backstroke at the Samoa Aquatic Centre tonight.

They led an excellent night for the New Zealand team with North Shore’s Wilrich Coetzee winning a gold medal in the 200m butterfly and Bayley Main (Howick Pakuranga) claiming bronze in the 100m backstroke.

Gichard and Fa’amausili, both just 15, scored on the world stage a week ago in Singapore. Gichard won the bronze in the 100m backstroke and Fa’amausili won the 50m backstroke at the FINA World Junior Championships.

Today they pushed each other, with Gichard ahead by 0.2s at the turn and able to hold off Fa’amausili to win in 1:00.51, just 9/100ths off a second outside her record time at the world championships and 29/100ths of a second from the qualifying time for the Rio Olympics.

It has been a busy time for Gichard from the Greendale club in Hawkes Bay, after competing in the world championships, the junior world championships and now the Commonwealth Youth Games.

“I have had goals for each. The worlds were about making semifinals, the junior worlds were PBs and podiums and here is to be on my best times and get podiums,” Gichard said.

“I am on track with them all. It is a matter of going step by step.

“I am so happy for the rest of the team after today. Hopefully we can keep this up for the rest of the meet.”

Fa’amausili was pleased with her swim

“It was only just off my PB and nice to have Bobbi pushing and challenging me all the way and just out-touching me,” Fa’amausili said.

“I want to improve my times this week. Most of all I want to enjoy being part of a bigger New Zealand team.”

She has plenty of support this week from family that have travelled from New Zealand and relatives who live in Samoa.

Coetzee, from the North Shore club, qualified for three finals today but decided to forego the 100m backstroke. It proved a good decision as he came out of a dogfight to win the 200m butterfly in 2:01.85.

He was behind South Africa’s Brendan Levy at the 100m mark but pushed ahead with 50m to go and held off the fast-finishing Supriya Mondal from India for the title.

“I am stoked. All that training is finally coming to a good result for me. I couldn’t expect any more.”

Earlier Main set a personal best 56.95s to finish third in the 100m backstroke. It bettered his previous by 1.4 seconds in an outstanding swim for the 18 year old who is based at the University of Florida.

Gichard, breaststroker Mario Koenigsperger, Coetzee and Fa’amausili combined to be second in the mixed 200m medley relay, a non medal event.

Teams can choose which stroke each gender can swim, with Northern Ireland leading at the midway stage from New Zealand and South Africa after using their male swimmers for the backstroke and breaststroke legs.

South Africa snuck ahead from New Zealand’s Coetzee in the butterfly and held off Fa’amausii in the final freestyle to win in 1:48.23. New Zealand was 0.8s behind with North Ireland hanging on to third.

Tomorrow Fa’amausili and Gichard compete in the 50m backstroke, Main races the 50m backstroke and 100m freestyle, Lee has the gruelling 400m individual medley while Koenigsperger (Howick Pakuranga) and Eliot Lundon-Moore (Aquabladz, Taranaki) make their individual debuts in the 100m breaststroke with Lee, Annabelle Paterson, Fa’amausili and Gichard combining in the 4x200m freestyle relay.

Day 1 finals results:

Men 50m butterfly: Zane Waddell (RSA) 24.52, 1; Brayden McCarthy (AUS) 24.90, 2; Lewis Clough (ENG) 24.94, 3. Also: Wilrich Coetzee (NZL) 25.34, 5.

Women 200m freestyle: Georgie Boyle (ENG) 2:00.72, 1; Kathryn Greenslade (WAL) 2L01.69, 2; Shayna Jack (AUS) 2:01.89, 3. Also: Annabelle Paterson (NZL) 2:04.84, 8.

Men 100m backstroke: Conor Ferguson (NIR) 55.87, 1; Clyde Lewis (AUS) 56.19, 2; Bayley Main (NZL) 56.95, 3.

Women 100m backstroke: Bobbi Gichard (NZL) 1:00.51, 1; Gabrielle Fa’amausili (NZL) 1:00.86, 2; Nathania van Niekerk (RSA) 1:03.00, 3.

Men 200m butterfly: Wilrich Coetzee (NZL) 2:01.85, 1; Supriya Mondal (IND) 2:01.94, 2; Brendan Levy (RSA) 2:02.19, 3.

Women 200m butterfly: Gemma Cooney (AUS) 2:13.51., 1; Meg Finnon (SCO) 2:14.21, 2; Tazmin Pugh (ENG) 2:14.69, 3. Also: Yeonsu Lee (NZL) 2:21.17, 5.

Mixed 200m medley relay: South Africa 1:48.23, 1; New Zealand 1:”49.06, 2; Northern Ireland 1:49.83, 3.

CAPTIONS: North Shore’s Wilrich Coetzee (centre) on the podium after winning gold in the 200m butterfly on day one of the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa.

The image is free for editorial use. Credit: Amanda Stead.