Teen swim sensation Erika Fairweather lowered her own national record, but just missed the magic four-minute mark in her specialized 400-meter freestyle event.
The 19-year-old from Dunedin’s Neptune Swim Club won gold in the 400m free at the New Zealand Swimming Championships on Monday night, in a new personal best of 4:00.62, just 24 hours after removing the Women’s 200m freestyle on Sunday.
Despite a brilliant swim by second-placed Eve Thomas, who just missed out on a personal best but fell below the qualifying standard for the world champions, the only serious competition in the 400m freestyle final at Auckland’s Sir Owen Glenn National Aquatic Center was between Fairweather world class and the clock.
The Olympian was chasing the four minutes, hoping to become the fifth woman in the world to do so, but was pragmatic about her result and when she could get under four minutes.
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“I’m excited, a PB is a PB anyway,” Fairweather said.
Despite lowering her personal best from her previous national best of 4:00:97, set at the South Island champions in Invercargill in early March, Fairweather acknowledged that she actively swam to four minutes on Monday.
“I would have loved to crack it today, obviously it didn’t happen; I have it in the back of my pocket; I know it’s coming out soon, it’s just a matter of when,” she said.
Fairweather swam out of lane four, pulled into the lead and swam solid sections before a blistering final 50 meters in 29.07 seconds helped her lower her previous record.
After trailing just behind Fairweather for the first 300 meters, Thomas finished in a time of 4:08.40, just outside her personal best, with Caitlin Dean claiming bronze.
Previously, Fairweather’s fellow Olympian Lewis Clareburt had to settle for a distant second behind another Neptune swimmer, Zac Reid, in the men’s 400m freestyle final.
Clareburt set the early pace for the first 300m but was caught off guard in the final 100m by Reid – who is recovering from illness after a long battle with Covid following hip surgery.
Clareburt, whose specialist events are the individual medley and butterfly, flew over the track ropes to congratulate Reid in an emotional post-race moment.
In addition to winning the national title, Reid’s time of 3:47.87 – just outside the New Zealand record – was below the required qualifying mark for the world championships.
“I have no words for it,” said an emotional Reid after the race.
“It’s been a really tough 18 months for me and to come and put that together today… I just don’t know what to say.
“Just a big thank you to everyone who has continued to believe in me and come out here and prove it makes it all so much fun,” said Reid.
Clareburt swam home in a time of 3:52:10.