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The start of something extraordinary

Boyle leads core group chasing Rio Olympic swimming standard

A core experienced group led by world championship medallist Lauren Boyle are expected to pilot the way as the country’s top swimmers chase qualifying standards for the Rio Olympics next week.

The New Zealand Open Championships, which start in Auckland on Monday, will be the first of two official trials along with the Canadian Olympic Trials on 5-10 April, with swimmers entitled to compete at either.

The national championships from Monday 28 March to Friday 1 April will be staged for the first time at the Sir Owen G Glenn National Aquatic Centre at the AUT Millennium and has attracted 256 swimmers from 56 clubs along with swimmers from Egypt, Fiji, Indonesia and Samoa.

Six pool swimmers reached the FINA A standard for last year’s world championships, with the qualifying level of 16th in the world.

New Zealand chairman of selectors, Mark Saunders said while the clear focus is on qualifying for Rio, he will be interested in the development of a significant number of 2020 Olympic prospects.

“The group that reached FINA A standards last year will be the strongest candidates because at this level of the sport, gains are incremental,” Saunders said.

“The work has gone in over the past two years especially on the next group of swimmers and they are tracking strongly but they would need significant personal bests next week to push into Olympic consideration.”

Saunders said the numbers at London were bolstered with two relay teams.

“There is a possibility for relay teams to reach the standard although the key challenge will be for two individuals in each relay to reach FINA A standards.”

Boyle is clearly the standout, ranked second in the world over 800m freestyle and fifth in the 400m freestyle in times over the past 15 months.

The next best are ranked in the top 30 in the world with Glenn Snyders, chasing a third Olympic qualification along with Boyle, 30th in the 100m breaststroke, Bobbi Gichard 36th in the 100m backstroke and Emma Robinson 39th in the 800m freestyle.

Queensland-based Matt Stanley has returned to encouraging form to be ranked 22nd in the world this year in 200m freestyle.

The group who could challenge include the likes of Daniel Hunter (Howick Pakuranga), Shaun Burnett (North Shore), Helena Gasson (North Shore), Nathan Capp (Greerton), Ewan Jackson (Howick Pakuranga), Georgia Marris (United), Laura Quilter (North Shore), Gabrielle Fa’amausili (United), Bradlee Ashby (Fairfield) and Wilrich Coetzee (North Shore).

The championships also include further qualifying races for the country’s leading Para-Swimmers with Paralympic stars Sophia Pascoe and Mary Fisher set to lead the way.

There will be 13 New Zealand swimmers who have opted to compete in the Canadian Trials, to give more preparation time after the major US College meets over the last two weeks.

Nominations will be forwarded to the New Zealand Olympic Committee for consideration following the Canadian Trials with the team expected to be named on 15 April.

Heats begin at 10am and finals sessions from 7pm which will be broadcast live on Sky Sport 3 with live timing here.

NZ Open Championships