Ted Taylor didn't get any break from training over the summer but was well rewarded.
The Wellington College deputy-head boy continued his progress up the swimming ladder when making the 400m freestyle final at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney last month.
"I definitely exceeded my expectations," Taylor said. "It's always a goal to make a final but I didn't expect to get there."
Taylor finished seventh in the final in 4min 3.92s, after recording 4.03.12 in his heat, almost six seconds inside his previous best long-course time. "I was really hoping to get down close to four minutes."
Taylor, 17, had given an indication of what he could do when recording 3.55.73 for 400m at the New Zealand short-course championships in Wellington in October. "That was the time that got me into the team [for the Youth Olympic Festival] and was converted to a long course time of 4.02.53 for my seed time in Sydney.
"I probably went out a bit too fast in the final [in Sydney], trying to keep up with the leaders."
The swimmers who finished ahead of Taylor in the final were from Australia (2), Japan (2) Hungary and Brazil. "It was won by an incredible Aussie guy [Mack Horton] in 3.54."
Taylor also competed in the 200m freestyle in Sydney, recording a personal best of 1.56.62 and was a member of the 4 x 200m freestyle relay team which finished fourth.
"The only downside was that my summer break was cut a bit short but it was definitely worth it. I usually take a break after the short-course championships and have a week or two where I'm not thinking about swimming."
Taylor achieved another goal by being selected to join the Wellington high-performance centre squad. "I started training with them at the start of the term."
He is now preparing for the New Zealand age-group championships, which begin in Wellington on February 26, with the national open championships in Auckland next month. "They are probably the two biggest events on the swim calendar."
Taylor was below his best at the 2012 age-group championships, when hampered by a pinched nerve in his neck.
He has entered in seven individual events this year, with the 200m and 400m freestyle and the 200m butterfly likely to be his best.
However, he will be competing in the 17- and 18-year-old combined age group, which is a tough test in his first year in that grade.
"I'm definitely aiming to medal in the 400m free. I'm probably ranked in the top three in the age group but will be up against Matthew Hutchins, who is a really good swimmer from Christchurch. I will just try to keep up with him."
The 400m freestyle is Taylor's favourite event. "You've got time to get into your rhythm and tactics and stamina come into it, as well as your speed. I prefer it to the 1500m, which is a bit too long for me."
Two Wellington swimmers competed at the Youth Olympics Festival, the other being Tawa College's Ben Walsh.
Walsh, who turned 16 this month, competed in three individual events and finished seventh in the 200m breaststroke final, where he was the youngest qualifier.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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