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The start of something extraordinary

Two for Boyle while talented tyros break through

Lauren Boyle doubled up while two young guns fired to celebrate the third night of finals at the 2016 New Zealand Open Swimming Championships in Auckland.

Boyle, who impressed with her 800m freestyle on the opening day, had to work harder to tick the box in the 400m freestyle at the championships which form an official trial for the Rio Olympics.

Bradlee Ashby and Helena Gasson both met the qualifying standard in the 200m individual medley and 100m butterfly respectively.

It brought the New Zealand tally to five swimmers who have met the Olympic standard in six events after three days.

After slipping slightly over the time in the morning heats, Boyle clocked 4:08.28 to be nearly one second under the Olympic qualifying standard. With her build-up compromised with illness in January, Boyle was satisfied to get both qualifying marks under her belt.

“I thought I was going a bit faster than I was so I am not that pleased with the time but it is always good to be on the team and do the qualifying time so I am happy with that,” Boyle said.

“The qualifying time is quite a way off my best but I’ve had a broken build-up to this competition so I hope I can have a clear run now to Rio.”

There was plenty to celebrate with 20 year old Ashby and 21 year old Gasson who both went under the qualifying mark.

Ashby from the Fairfield club, now at Swimming New Zealand’s high performance centre, clocked 2:00:00 in the heats to not only go under the Olympic qualifying time in the 200m individual medley, but claim the 2007 New Zealand record set by Dean Kent.

The lanky Ashby, coached by Clive Power, reset to go under the two minute barrier with a 1:59.76 to lower the national record again in the final.

“My coach challenged me to step up again tonight and try to break that two minute barrier and it worked out,” Ashby said.

"I didn’t have the stress of having to qualify so it was a matter of putting my head down and give that two minutes a crack. Any of those big barriers are more a mental thing than a physical thing but now I’ve gone under it then anything can happen from here.”

Not to be outdone, Gasson took more than a second off her previous best in a time of 58.66 in the heat of the 100m butterfly to go under the qualifying time by 8/100ths of a second and break the previous national record set by Sophia Batchelor four years ago.

Waiting for the final individual event of the night, Gasson stepped up to lower that mark again to 58.51s in an impressive performance, before turning around to compete in the freestyle relay for her North Shore club.

Gasson, who has swum at clubs in Thames and Fairfield, made the bold move to North Shore club under coach Thomas Ansorg last year in a serious bid for international selection.

“I took a while to believe what I’ve done and still going through that process but it is my dream and I am just so glad I get to live my dream,” said Gasson.

Earlier Howick Pakuranga sprinter Daniel Hunter came within a blink of also reaching the qualifying standard in both the heat and the final of the 50m freestyle.

The 21 year old clocked 22.31s to be only 4/100ths of a second outside the qualifying mark in the heat but better the 2008 national record of 22.37 of Beijing Olympian Orinoco Fa’amausili-Banse. Hunter pushed hard again in the final to win but came up just short in 22.41.

Paralympic stars Sophie Pascoe and Mary Fisher continued to produce world class performances in their Rio qualifying bids today.

Both went under the nomination standard in both heats and finals in both the 50m freestyle and 200m individual medley where Pascoe was only a second outside her world record clocking 2:26.87.

Te Awamutu’s Nikita Howarth also went under the nomination time for Rio in the 200m individual medley in 2:57.90, as did Chris Arbuthnott (Icebreaker) in the 50m freestyle S9and Hamish McLean (Wanaka) SM6 in the 200m individual medley to complete another impressive day for the Para-Swimmers.

In other swims Chloe Francis (Parnell) won the women’s 200m individual medley from Kate Godfrey (Neptune) and Mary Tate (United); Gabrielle Fa’amausili (United) took out the 50m freestyle in 25.62 and Chris Dawson (Enterprise Gisborne) won the 100m butterfly in 53.65 from veteran Andy McMillan (Parnell) and Wilrich Coetzee (North Shore).

In tomorrow’s programme, double Olympian Glenn Snyders competes in his favoured 100m breaststroke; young stars Fa’amausili and Bobbi Gichard (Howick Pakuranga) swim the 100m backstroke and Matt Stanley looks to add the 400m freestyle to his qualification in the 200m yesterday.

The championships conclude on Friday with the finals being broadcast live on Sky Sport 3 from 7pm each night.

NZ Open Championships

Rio Olympic