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The start of something extraordinary

Russia in sights of talented teen

At the 2013 National Open Swimming Championships Bobbi Gichard caused a seismic shock to take out the 50m and 100m backstroke titles at the age of 13.

Now two years on the Napier-based swimmer is ready to return to her marquee domestic event in pursuit of loftier goals and earn qualification for the 2015 World Swimming Championships in Kazan later this year.

Since taking up the sport competitively aged 10, Gichard has quickly earned a reputation as one of New Zealand's most exciting swimming talents.

Last year she backed up her performance at the 2013 National Open by securing gold in the 50m and 200m backstroke at the 2014 edition before winning a bronze medal in the 100m backstroke at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing in August.

Coached by Noel Hardgrave-Booth out of the Greendale Swim Club in Hawkes Bay, Gichard hopes to shrug off an early season injury niggle to perform with pride at the WestWave Aquatic Centre in Auckland next week (the event runs from April 14-17).

“Earlier in the year I had an ankle problem which affected my training for a while,” explains Gichard. “But since then I have been concentrating on my strength & conditioning and pool technique, so hopefully these changes will give me good results.”

“The aim is race well, PB in my races and qualify for Worlds,” she says.

A place in the team for the World Championships is a realistic target for the 15-year-old Napier Girls' High School student with her lifetime best for the 100m backstroke at 1:01.34 within 0.09s of the A qualification standard.

Should she achieve her ambitions and qualify for Kazan, Gichard hopes the Russian experience will act as an important stepping stone for her career development with the Rio Olympics looming as the big motivation for next year.

“It's exciting and important to me because World Champs would be my first world open meet, which will be a huge step up from junior world events.

“This will give me the chance to race my peers and get race experience at such a high international level before (hopefully) qualifying for Rio.”

Bobbi Gichard – Fact Box

Did you know, Bobbi consumes a huge bowl of Weetbix on raceday as part of her pre-event ritual.