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The start of something extraordinary

First international title for Ben Walsh at Oceania Champs

There’s a lot of recent firsts for 17 year old Wellingtonian Ben Walsh in his young swimming career.

He is the first swimmer from the Porirua City Aquatics club to be selected for a national team, competing in his first Oceania Championships in Auckland this week.

He has won his first international titles in the last couple of days, winning the 100m and 50m breaststroke.

His performances at the recent New Zealand Age Group Championships in Wellington also earned him selection for the Junior Pan Pacific Championships in Hawaii in August.

The Pan Pacific Championships are run every four years involving full strength teams from USA, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and the rest of the Pacific.

“The club is really happy and have been really supportive, especially being the first swimmer on a national team since the club merged with the Mana club to form Porirua City,” Walsh said.

The Tawa College Year 13 student first entered the water as a two year old, and he has been in and around it ever since.

“My grandfather and father were both swimmers. Being in New Zealand and surrounded by water, my parents believed I needed to learn to swim and that’s how I got in to it at age two.”

Breaststrokers in this country are few and far between, with double Olympian Glenn Snyders dominant in recent years, and now based in Los Angeles to get more quality breaststroke competition and coaching.

“I started to shine more in breaststroke at the division two nationals and I’ve stuck with it from there.

“I like the push-offs and the feeling of power in the glide.”

He is now focussing heavily on preparations for the Junior Pan Pacs.

“I am so excited about the Junior Pan Pacs, not just because it is such a high level international meet, but it’s in Hawaii. I’ve not been there before.

“The competition is going to be the next level up and so it is going to be huge.”

He wants to break the 1:02 barrier for the 100m breaststroke at Hawaii which would make him New Zealand’s fastest ever teenage breaststroker.

“I would love to give Glenn (Snyders) a run for his money next New Zealand Opens.

“Long term I want to make the Olympics – maybe in 2016 if I keep on improving the way I am, but otherwise 2020.”

He is unsure if he will head to university next year or take a gap year to focus on his swimming, but plans to be around New Zealand swimming for the long haul.