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The start of something extraordinary

Age group swimming hopes splash out towards Rio

While the focus is firmly on this month’s London Olympics, a group of young New Zealand swimmers take on the might of Australia this week to begin the footsteps towards Rio 2016 and beyond.

Swimming New Zealand’s most talented age group swimmers take on two teams from Australia in the gruelling six-test Trans Tasman Test series starting in Canberra tonight.

The 24-strong kiwi contingent will compete in two tests in each of Canberra, Wagga Wagga and Melbourne over six days.

“For most of these swimmers it is their first taste of tough international competition, and we are fortunate to have one of the world swimming superpowers just across the Tasman,” said Phillip Rush, Swimming New Zealand’s Youth Manager, High Performance.

“It is the first time that virtually all have undertaken a test series like this head-to-head. Competing every day and mixed with some hefty travel will really test their fitness and their resolve.

“It is also an excellent chance to develop some team culture.

“There is little doubt that some swimmers from this group will be in the team for the Rio Olympics so we are looking to see who embraces the challenge this week.”

Rush said he is expecting tight racing and with points for each event, it is important that every swimmer works hard for team points.

The team has had two light days of training at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, which has been cleared by health officials after two international swimmers reported whooping cough two weeks ago.

Christchurch swimmer Matthew Hutchins, from the Wharenui club,and Julian Layton from Greendale are the only New Zealand swimmers who competed in the last biennial series in 2010. The Commonwealth Youth Games multi-medallist will be a clear favourite in the middle and long distance freestyle events.

The first test is tonight (NZ time) in Canberra, with the second test on Tuesday morning. The teams then bus to Wagga Wagga in southern New South Wales for the next two tests on Wednesday night and Thursday morning with the final two tests in Melbourne on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.

The New Zealand team is:

Male: Samuel Perry (St Peters, Waikato), Kyle Barnes (Capital, Wellington), Matthew Hutchins (Wharenui, Canterbury), Bayley Main (Howick Pakuranga, Counties Manakau), Julian Weir (AquaBladz, Taranaki), William Campbell (Wharenui, Canterbury), Julian Layton (Greendale, Hawkes Bay), Carter Edgecombe (Fairfield, Waikato), George Schroder (Aquagym, Canterbury), Robert McDonald (Collegiate, Southland), Cameron Blair (KiwiWest, Manawatu), Ben Walsh (Porirua City Aquatics, Wellington).

Female: Liana Smith (Howick Pakuranga, Counties Manakau), Naomi Smit (North Shore, Auckland) Brittany Tucker (QEII, Canterbury), Georgia Marris (United, Auckland), Monique King (North Shore, Auckland), Emily McGill (Capital, Wellington), Melita Raravula (Northwave, Northland), Hayley Edmond (North Shore, Auckland), Rima Williams (Laser Mt Eden, Auckland) , Caroline Baddock (Laser Mt Eden, Auckland), JoMari Meyer (Greendale, Hawkes Bay), Caitlin Rennell (Jasi, Canterbury).

Staff attending: Philip Rush Youth & Age and Open Water Programme Manager - Swimming New Zealand)

Coaches: Noel Hardgrave-Booth (Greendale, Hawkes Bay), Glenn Hamblyn (Laser Mt Eden, Auckland), Martin Harris (Wharenui, Canterbury).

Officials: Yvonne Voss (Tokoroa), Minoo Ghadiali (Manurewa)

Team Manager: Jude Fawcett (Wellington).