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The start of something extraordinary

Three Olympians bag world championship qualifying times

Three Rio Olympians made for an outstanding start to the 2017 New Zealand Open Championships in Auckland.

Helena Gasson, Corey Main and Emma Robinson all went under qualifying times for July’s FINA World Championships in Budapest to spark an excellent start to the championships.

There are 230 swimmers competing from 43 clubs in the championships which double as the trials for the FINA World Championships, Youth Commonwealth Games and the World University Games, along with international swimmers from seven nations.

Gasson set things going with a qualifying performance during the morning heats in the 50m butterfly.

Main, back from his base in Florida, nipped under the mark in winning the 200m backstroke while Robinson, who is currently based in Queensland, powered home impressively in the 800m freestyle.

Main edged under the qualifying mark for the world championships by 15/100ths of a second in the 200m backstroke at the Sir Owen G Glenn National Aquatic Centre.

Main was delighted with his swim.

“I was quite nervous before that race. It is quite challenging coming back from the US where we swim yards and convertto metres in a few days but it was a matter of getting the job done,” Main said.

“I felt good in the morning swims and while I’ve not looked at my splits it felt good tonight and I am wrapt to get the qualifying swim done on the first day.”

The 22 year old from the Howick Pakuranga club went through the halfway point in 58 seconds and came home with two even splits of 29.84 and 29.64 seconds to edge under the qualifying time and set a new personal best.

He finished ahead of fellow Rio Olympian Bradlee Ashby and North Shore’s Corneille Coetzee.

Gasson, from Swimming New Zealand’s high performance centre, qualified in the heats of the 50m butterfly.

The 22 year old from the Coast club surprised herself in the morning with her time of 26.45s, just 4/100ths of a second inside the time for Budapest.

“I’m targetting my longer events tomorrow and later in the week so it was great to get the qualifying mark in the 50 and that gives me confidence for the 100m butterfly tomorrow,” Gasson said.

She was marginally slower in winning the final in 26.54 ahead of the Auckland pair of Yeonsu le (North Shore) and Gina Galloway (United).

Robinson has usually set herself against New Zealand great Lauren Boyle, but with the fellow Olympian still recovering from injury, the freestyler had to do it on her own.

She was comfortably in control with 1:04 splits for each 100m to win in 8:34.66 which was nearly four seconds inside the qualifying time.

“It is always a bit difficult to know how you are going in an 800m so I will look at my splits but overall it felt like a good swim,” Robinson said.

“It was tough to get back into things after Rio but I am really satisfied with that.”

Second was outstanding 17 year old Northland swimmer Hayley McIntosh who clocked 8:41.87, which was a national age record by more than three seconds. North Shore’s Monique King was third.

US-based Rio Olympian Matthew Hutchins was unable to better his promising morning swim in the final of the 400m freestyle. Racing just 10 days after the NCAA Championships in Indianapolis for the University of Wisconsin, Hutchins clocked 3:53.32 which was five seconds outside the qualifying time for the world championships, after his heat time of 3:49.20 in the morning.

He finished clear of visitor Wesley Roberts (Cook Islands) and outstanding teenage talent Lewis Clareburt (Capital).

Hutchins, swimming for the Wharenui club, has his favoured 1500m freestyle later in the meet.

Hawkes Bay swimmer Bobbi Gichard, swimming for the Howick Pakuranga club, took out the women’s 200m backstroke. After a quiet morning heat, the 17 year old who won a medal in the 2014 Youth Olympics, won in 2:12.80 ahead of the North Shore pair of Emma Goodwin and Kelsi Boocock.

Howick Pakuranga flyer Daniel Hunter, the top qualifier, took out the 50m butterfly in a slick 24.08s, only 0.4s outside the qualifying time for Budapest. He pipped Sam Perry (St Peters) and Wilrich Coetzee (North Shore).

The heats begin daily at 10am and the finals from 7pm. All heats sessions will be streamed live on Swimming New Zealand’s website with all finals live on SKY TV.

In Para-Swimming action, the great Sophie Pascoe qualified for the world championships and next year’s commonwealth Games in the morning heats of the SB9 100m breaststroke, clocking 1:20.49.

Results Day 1:

Men 400m freestyle: Matthew Hutchins (Wharenui) 3:53.32, 1. Wesley Roberts (Cook Islands) 3:55.14, 2; Lewis Clareburt (Capital) 3:56.08, 2; Zac Reid (Aquabladz New Plymouth) 3:56.30, 3.

Women 200m backstroke: Bobbi Gichard (Howick Pakuranga) 2:12.80, 1; Emma Godwin (North Shore) 2:14.70, 2; Kelsi Boocock (North Shore) 2:15.07, 3.

Men 200m backstroke: Corey Main (Howick Pakuranga) 1:58.00 (World Champs Qualifying Time), 1; Bradlee Ashby (Fairfield) 2:00.83, 2; Corneille Coetzee (North Shore) 2:02.17, 3.

Women 50m butterfly: Helena Gasson (Coast) 26.54, 1; Yeonsu Lee (North Shore) 27.71, 2; Gina Galloway (United) 27.87, 3.

Men 50m butterfly: Daniel Hunter (Howick Pakuranga) 24.08, 1; Sam Perry (St Peter’s) 24.42, 2; Wilrich Coetzee (North Shore) 25.01, 3.

Women 800m freestyle: Emma Robinson (Capital) 8:34.66 (World Champs Qualifying Time) 1; Hayley McIntosh (Northwave) 8:41.87, 3. Monique King (North Shore) 8:59.07, 3.

Para swimmers:

Men 400m freestyle: Jesse Reynolds (Fairfield) 4:37.41, 2. Hamish McLean (Wanaka) 5:37.37, 2.

Women 400m freestyle: Olivia Upston (Parnell) 5:48.77, 1.

Men 50m backstroke: Celyn Edwards (Selwyn) 37.83, 1.

Women 50m backstroke: Sophie Pascoe (QEII) 32.03

Men 100m breaststroke: Tama Solouota (Howick Pakuranga) 1:23.84, 1; Celyn Edwards (Selwyn) 1:29.60, 2; Ethan Sionepulu (St Paul’s) 1:36.50, 3.

Women 100m breaststroke: Nikita Howarth (Te Awamutu) 1:28.58, 1; Olivia Upston (Parnell) 1:45.74, 2.

CAPTION: Emma Robinson celebrates her world championship qualifying swim. Credit: BW Media

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