Dunedin swimmers qualify for World Champs


Day one of the 2023 NZ Swimming Championships in Auckland saw records fall and swimmers lock in qualification for the World Championships in July this year.

Last night’s finals session began with a hiss and a roar as Lewis Clareburt and Luan Grobbelaar battled it out in the Men’s 400m Individual Medley.

Grobbelaar was hot on the heels of four-time Commonwealth Games medallist Clareburt, producing a stunning race to finish in a time of 4:16.00 and secure qualification for the World Champs.

The 20-year-old, who swims for Dunedin’s Neptune Swim Club, couldn’t contain himself as he saw his time, jumping out of the water and throwing a massive fist pump in celebration.

“I’m over the moon, that just sort of came out of the blue to be honest

“The last two months I’ve been training really hard and I’ve believed in that training so it’s brilliant to get this result.”

Clareburt took gold, finishing in 4:14.78s but says he knows he could’ve gone faster.

“It’s nice to get that World Champs spot ticked off but I didn’t swim at my best tonight. It’s been a while since I’ve competed properly so I’ll now have a look at my splits and work out where I can improve.”

The women’s 1500m also saw two gutsy performances secure World Champs qualification.

Tokyo Olympian Eve Thomas posted a huge 13-second PB of 16:10.85 to take out first place and be almost 20 seconds under the World Championship qualification time.

She was followed by Dunedin’s Caitlin Deans in a time of 16:20.71, also securing world champs qualification.

“It’s so good to start the meet on a high,” Thomas said. 

“My goal tonight was to start nice and slow and build into it, I’m happy that I stuck to my plan and my swim was way faster than I expected so I’m really happy with that.”

Cameron Gray then stunned the crowd, setting a New Zealand record as he swam in the opening leg for the Men’s 4 x 100m Freestyle.

Gray swam his 100m split in 48.29 seconds to shave half a second off the record held by Carter Swift, which he swam at World Championships in 2022.

“That felt really good, I’ve been working on my turns and I knew I was feeling fast but I didn’t know I was gonna be that fast so that’s awesome. I feel like I could jump back in and do it all again to be honest,” said Gray.

Despite the heroics of Cameron Gray, Club 37A won the Men’s 4 x 100 Freestyle with Capital in second and Coast A in third.

Coast Swimming Club A took out the Women’s 4 x 100m Freestyle with Coast B in second and St Pau’s A in third.

Records also fell in para swimming events, with Asher Smith-Franklin posting a New Zealand best time of 1:06.94 in the S14 in the men’s 100m Backstroke Multi-Class.

In the same discipline, Jesse Reynolds swam home in 1:06.78 in his heat earlier in the day to secure his qualification for the World Para Swimming Championships.

In the 50m Breaststroke Multi-Class, two further New Zealand records fell with Asher Smith-Franklin posting a time of 33.28 seconds and Josh Wilmer swimming home in 35 seconds flat.

Not to be outdone by the men Rylee Sayer smashed another New Zealand record, posting 46.61 seconds in the Women’s 50m Breaststroke Multi-Class.

Tupou Neiufi then locked in her World Para Swimming Championships spot, swimming a time of 1:25.72 in the Women’s 100m Backstroke Multi-Class.

“I’m so dead, that was tiring,” said Neiufi. “I’m so happy to have made the World Champs time, it’s always a huge honour for me to represent my country.”