Finlay targets spot in national squad

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 29/04/2014
Michael Finlay
ROBYN EDIE/ Fairfax NZ

NO REST: Invercargill swimmer Michael Finlay is confident he can cut his times for his preferred 50 metres and 100m freestyle.

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Southland swimmer Michael Finlay is enjoying a lie-in but the alarm clock will soon be set for 5am again.

The 23-year-old has stepped out of the water for a short break ahead of a landmark year in the pool.

Unfortunately, while the alarm may be turned off, it's still tough to turn the body clock off.

"Although I am on a break, I'm still waking up at 5am, but I get to roll over for a few hours more," Finlay said.

Staying dry doesn't mean completely switching off for the top athlete. "I am doing a bit of strengthening work in the gym and running the dog for my cardio work," he said.

The spell from the pool comes as Finlay targets a spot in New Zealand swimming squad for his preferred 50m and 100m freestyle events.

Earlier this month, Finlay was the only Southland open swimmer at the New Zealand championships in Auckland.

He swam for several personal bests and in the process qualified for the 50m final. He also smashed three Southland records in the 50m and 100m freestyle.

"My times for both events are on the cusp of being good enough to make the national team for both events," Finlay said.

Often it's only fractions of a second separating the best from the rest in the pool and Finlay is fast closing the gap.

"I'm half a second off qualifying for the national squad in the 50m freestyle and about a second off the 100m freestyle," he said.

Working with his long-time coach Jeremy Duncan, Finlay is confident he can cut his times further.

"Looking at my 50m freestyle this year, I have taken off half a second, which is a big improvement over the distance," he said.

"It has been really encouraging for my coach and I. Now the focus of training will be how to transfer that extra speed to the 100m. It's looking really good and I am excited about what lies ahead."

When the alarm starts buzzing again at 5am, Finlay and Duncan will be tweaking the training programme.

"Because I am a sprinter we will cut back on distance and focus more on power and speed in the water," Finlay said.

"This means hitting the gym and doing the right exercises. We will also change some of the stuff I do in water and focus on heaps of resistance swimming."

Finlay also hopes to head across the Ditch in July to compete against top swimmers from Australia before diving into the 2014 NZ short-course championships in Wellington in September.

The captain of the Invercargill-based Orca Swimming Club, Finlay is within touching distance of his immediate goal, to qualify for the national squad.

"If I make the squad, it means I can attend national swim camps and train with the elite swimmers in the country," he said.

"Getting that exposure with them would be great."

It would also mean Finlay is kicking on to his big dream - representing New Zealand.

"Whether I can swim for my country at the world champs, the Commonwealth Games or the Olympic Games, that would be the ultimate goal," Finlay said.

The Southlander's impressive results in the pool are already inspiring the next generation of swimming stars.

"My swim in the final of the New Zealand championships in Auckland was on Sky TV and that got a lot of the young club members excited," Finlay said. 

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- The Southland Times

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