Olympic relay swimmer Orinoco Faamausili-Banse-Prince thought his trip to Beijing was over before it even began.
Just before the final places in the New Zealand swimming side were announced last month the Mt Albert Grammar student fell for a prank by relay team-mate Matt Herring.
"He texted me and said: ‘I’ve got some bad news’. I was preparing myself for the worst, then he texted back and said ‘just kidding’.
"I was pretty angry. By the time I saw him I’d calmed down a bit."
The New Zealand side did not automatically qualify for the Olympics because they finished outside the top 12 at last year’s world champs.
But the Kiwis picked up the last of four extra spots with a time of 3m17.45s at the New Zealand trials in March.
The team still had to wait for other final results before their spot was officially confirmed.
"There were a lot of days spent watching the internet, seeing how the rest of the world was going," Orinoco says.
The Sandringham resident was an integral part of the qualification process, recording 49.4 seconds, almost a second faster than his best individual time.
"That was a special race. It was just us in a pool and everyone was going crazy in the complex," he says.
"I was shaking up on the blocks but ready to do what I needed to do."
Orinoco’s success comes on top of securing a gold medal at the world junior champs in Mexico last month in his favoured 50m freestyle.
Securing the top spot was especially pleasing for the 18-year-old because he fell ill during the event, although he missed out on the Olympic qualifying time for the 50m at the New Zealand trials in March.
He says he’s looking forward to rubbing shoulders with athletes in Beijing and will try to get in a game of basketball if he has time.
Orinoco will have the support of mum Alosina after a fundraising campaign to send her to Beijing.
"It definitely helps having someone from home there. It keeps me grounded and focused on what I have to do."
Orinoco’s Laser Mt Eden club coach Glenn Hamblyn is confident the relay team, which also includes Cameron Gibson and William Benson, will do well at the games.
"Guys tend to put a bit more in for the team. They’ll be gunning for the final."
It’s the first time a swimmer from the Mt Eden club has reached the Olympics since Anthony Mosse in the 1980s.
"It’s good for young kids to see what can be achieved," Hamblyn says.
The men’s 4x100 freestyle relay heat is on Sunday and the final the next day.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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