Mya’s Medley on Song for Birmingham

Dressing room

Frustrated in the pool last year, top Kiwi medley swimmer Mya Rasmussen was looking for a fresh start in Brisbane – and now she’s off to her first Commonwealth Games.

Medley swimmer Mya Rasmussen has always wanted to take part in the Commonwealth Games and was well on her way to doing so as a young teenager.

But after winning a gold medal in the 400m individual medley at the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas, in a lifetime’s best that would have qualified her for last year’s Olympics in Rio, she won a plateau achieved.

In her late teens, she struggled to find the form that would get her into the top-16 at a world junior competition, let alone selection for her first senior team.

Even at age 15, while a student at Palmerston North Girls’ High, Rasmussen was New Zealand’s top-ranked swimmer in both the 400m IM and 200m IM.

In 2018, she moved from Feilding to Australia’s Sunshine Coast in search of better times, better competition, and to practice with some of Australia’s top swimmers, such as Kaylee McKeown, a top 400m IM swimmer who currently holds a world backstroke record.

Yet for the next two years, Rasmussen was consistently slower swimming times than she did when she was 14 – not even 10 seconds close to her personal best – and was keen to give up completely.

“Swimming just did not feel the same to me – I was not close to my times yet, and I really struggled mentally to come back to motivate myself,” she says.

She questioned why she was still in the sport.

“I trained so hard, but did not get the results I felt I deserved or what I worked for. Even last year was quite rough, ”says the 21-year-old.

Then late last year, Rasmussen made another move – this time for a change in coaching.

Moving down the coast to Brisbane paid dividends for Mya Rasmussen (midfield). Photo: Swim Queensland.

She wanted to work with coach Tim Lane at Somerville House, a team based at a girls’ residence in South Brisbane. Rasmussen settled there and got a part-time job at Nike.

The move yielded dividends.

“I took a breather and focused on 200 m IM and 200 m butterfly. Then I came back and did a time of four minutes 48 seconds in the 400m IM and thought: ‘Oh, I can actually do another decent time’, which was like a real confidence boost for me, ”says Rasmussen.

In January, she clocked 4m 42.33s in the 400m IM at the New South Wales Championships – just ashamed of her lifetime best. It was her first time under 4m 46.00s since her Commonwealth Youth Games title; and was clocked in just a few months after her move to Brisbane.

While it cut her ticket to this week’s world championships in Budapest (she swam the 400m IM on the final day on Saturday), her time fell nearly four seconds short of the tougher Commonwealth Games standard.

But in April, Swimming New Zealand Rasmussen announced that her New South Wales time was good enough to be selected for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, as a swimmer who could potentially be placed among the top six in the event.

She will also swim the 200m IM and 200m breaststroke in Birmingham next month, five years after winning medals in the same three events at the Commonwealth Youth Games.

“I’m shocked that I got there after all this time,” said Rasmussen, hearing the news of her Games selection. “I was in the car on the way to training and I just started crying – I was so excited.

“I did not even have time to make the long list, so I had to do all that long list of paperwork to be nominated. I had no idea if they were going to pick me up. I was also nominated last time – but was not selected, so I did not want to raise my hopes.

“I’m glad I stuck with it and finally got out there. It has been so long – it is a great relief. “

Rasmussen says she did not move to Brisbane, she would not go to the Commonwealth Games.

“The facilities, the coaching and the training partners are so much better here. Tim is an amazing coach, he is just so organized and up to date. I could not find a more perfect match in a coach, ”she says.

“We think very much the same, and he just understands what I’m through and makes it clear what I need to do, which makes it easier for me.”

Mya Rasmussen will swim three items at the Commonwealth Games next month. Photo: Swim Queensland.

Even a World Cup qualifying season was not part of the plan so early on. Rasmussen had not come closer than four seconds to the qualifying standard within the previous five years.

“I would come home [to New Zealand] and try it, or do it at the Australian trials, but Aussie trials have been moved to May, a month after our qualifying period ended, ”says Rasmussen.

Lane decided at the last minute to clinch the qualifying standard for the world championships at the New South Wales champions to avoid having to make one last attempt at the New Zealand trials in April, should the borders be open .

“I was not so sure how I would go,” Rasmussen recalls. “I had five days to prepare to try to go below this qualifying time. It was quite frightening, but it was quite wonderful to get under the time. ”

Rasmussen holds several national age group records and more than 50 Manawatu records. Yet she is the only swimmer in the Commonwealth Games team without a national open title.

That’s because Rasmussen chose to bypass most senior national events as a teenager and achieved her top times at the national age group championships. Many of them were faster than the winners of senior subjects.

Even as a 13-year-old, she broke five minutes in the 400m IM, in a time that would have earned a silver medal at this year’s New Zealand Championships.

Rasmussen’s initial times in Australia during her slump, however, were pretty good by New Zealand standards. Since 2013, only two New Zealand swimmers have ridden faster than 4m 51.00s in the 400m IM at a national open competition.

One is 2016 Olympic Helena Gasson, who qualified for both Birmingham and Budapest in the 200m IM in April (which is why Rasmussen is not allowed to swim the 200 IM at the world champions).

Teenager Gina McCarthy also met the development qualifying standard for Budapest and could have been selected if Rasmussen had not received the A standard.

Mya Rasmussen is training in Slovakia before the world championships last week.

But Rasmussen has high goals. Her Olympic goal is to lower her times to qualify for Paris in 2024, which has the same 400m IM qualifying standard as the one she missed for Birmingham.

She believes she can do it.

“I am definitely ready to go faster now,” she says. “It was very important to come here and go up against people who are just going to kick my ass.

“If I can fall below 4:40 at the Commonwealth Games, it will be great. Tim said I was more than capable of falling at 4:38. “

Should Rasmussen do so, she will not only be looking for a place in Paris, but she will hold her first New Zealand Open record, one that has stood since 2007.

For now, she has a busy international schedule of four top competitions in 13 months, if she wants to take part in the world short track championships in Melbourne in December, and next year’s world championships to be held in Japan in July.

* Erika Fairweather finished sixth in the 400m freestyle on the opening day of the world championships in Budapest yesterday and is holding on to her sixth rankings. Eve Thomas finished 13th in the same event. (Lewis Clareburt finished just outside the medals in the men’s 400m IM).

And at the World Para Swimming Championships, Nikita Howarth won silver in the 100m breaststroke SB7, and was seventh in the 100m backstroke S7. Gaby Smith broke personal best times to make her first three world championship finals, with a fifth and two sixth placings, while Lili-Fox Mason also swam a personal best to finish seventh in the 400m freestyle final S10. Cameron Leslie was NZ’s star of the world meet and won a gold and three silvers.


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