Local swimmers prepare for Australian champs

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Tasman Swim Club’s Sam McKenzie and Thomas Heaton are preparing to “take another step in their development” when they compete in next month’s Australian State Teams Age Short Course champs in Canberra.

Sam and Thomas, both 16, were selected in the 40-swimmer team last week after winning gold medals at the New Zealand short course championships in Auckland earlier this month. Sam will be swimming in the 16-17 boys 100m and 200m freestyle while Thomas will contest the 16-17 boys 400m and 1500m freestyle at the champs in Canberra from September 25 to 27.

Although the two swimmers have raced in Australia before, their coach Andy Adair says this will be their toughest assignment yet.

“They were both in the New Zealand team that went to the Australian age groups last year, so they have experience at that level,” Andy says. “There were 1200 kids and half a dozen Olympians there, but this will be harder because they will be swimming in the 16-17 age group.

“It’s going to be a great opportunity for them. It’s another step in their development.”

Sam says he’s excited by the prospect of competing against the best swimmers in Australia although recognises it is going to be a “steep learning curve” stepping up an age group.

He is also looking forward to staying at Australia’s elite sporting precinct, the Australian Institute of Sport’s campus in Canberra.

“I can’t wait to swim against the Australians again,” Sam says. “We’ll be racing against faster swimmers so hopefully that’ll push us to go faster.”

Thomas knows it will be a big challenge racing against older swimmers and hopes that it will “help us learn to go faster”.

The three-day meet will feature a team’s competition which Andy says will add another dimension to the champs.

“It’s also going to be interesting for them because it’s team’s racing, so there’s always a lot more hype and excitement.

Even if they can’t win a race, it’s important to get second or third to get points for the team.”

Andy says Tasman Swim Club’s Talia Harwood just missed selection for the team, while Caitlin Delany was ineligible because she “just turned 17” and missed the 15 to 16 age criteria for girls.