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The start of something extraordinary

Olympic champion swimmer trains with New Zealand squad

An American Olympic gold medallist will add some sheen to the New Zealand swim scene for the next few weeks.

The 25 year Texan Claire Donahue is training with Swimming New Zealand’s Wellington Regional High Performance squad and has travelled with them to compete in the New South Wales Championships starting in Sydney tomorrow.

Donahue, who competed for Western Kentucky University, won a gold medal for USA in the medley relay at London Olympics where she was a finalist in the 100m butterfly.

The opportunity arose with an ongoing relationship with Swimming New Zealand’s high performance coach in Wellington, Gary Hurring and Donahue’s coach Bruce Marchionda.

Donahue has been in good form, part of the USA team that see a new world record in the medley relay in a meet in Scotland.

Hurring said Donahue’s presence has helped give a real lift to the squad, and it was also rewarding that the training programme in New Zealand is virtually identical to what she was doing in USA.

“It’s great for our squad to swim alongside her every day and to talk to her about what it takes to become an Olympic champion,” Hurring said.

She is the second international who has trained in New Zealand with Sze Hang Yu from Hong Kong recently training for a short time with the Auckland squad. She set a new national record on her return to Hong Kong and hopes to come back to New Zealand for another training stint later in the year.

Swimming New Zealand High Performance Director Luis Villanueva said the interaction with international swimmers with the national squads is beneficial to both parties.

“Our swimmers get to train with other nations and learn off eachother and it also opens up opportunities potentially for our swimmers to have the chance to train at times in other international quality programmes,” he said.

“The only pity is our leading swimmers are now training at altitude in Arizona and have missed out on this opportunity.”