Lauren Boyle leads Kiwi medal hopes in the pool
IAN ANDERSON IN GLASGOW
The success of the New Zealand aquatics team in Glasgow hinges on the success of Lauren Boyle.
That's a big weight on the sculpted shoulders of the 26-year-old, but she is capable of a medal haul that will give the sport a boost after meagre returns from recent Commonwealth Games.
Boyle will be a legitimate contender for gold in her three main events - the 200 metre, 400m and 800m freestyle - while she's part of the 4 x 200m freestyle relay team as well, but may skip that in favour of focusing on her individual races.
She won three bronze medals over 400m, 800m and 1500m at last year's world championships in Barcelona to mark herself down as a favourite for Glasgow.
Over the past two months, Boyle has been based in Spain, undergoing intense training sessions with world-class French coach Fred Vergnoux to get her in peak form for Glasgow after being a standout at the national champs in Henderson in February.
Boyle finished fourth at the London Olympics in 2012 in a time of eight minutes 22.72 seconds - behind Katie Ledecky of the United States, current training partner Mireia Belmonte of Spain and England's Rebecca Adlington. Since then, Boyle has continued to turn back time to match and better younger rivals while registering new personal bests.
Sophie Pascoe is also expected to feature heavily over the six-day programme at the Tollcross International Swimming Centre. In a restricted para-sport programme, the Canterbury star is likely to add to her vast collection of golds in the SM10 200m individual medley and the SB9 100m breaststroke.
There will also be expectations on breaststroke specialist Glenn Snyders.
The 27-year-old has promised big things at times, but his reputation has become one of someone who shines in the heats and then fails to find his best form in the finals.
In Glasgow, he will contest the 100m and 200m breaststroke events but faces stiff competition from Cameron van der Burgh (South Africa) - who won gold over 100m at the 2012 London Olympics - Christian Sprenger (Australia), Adam Peaty (England), Ross Murdoch (Scotland), Andrew Willis (England) and Michael Jamieson (Scotland).
Fellow US-based Kiwi team member Corey Main (100m backstroke) and 400m freestyler Matthew Stanley will be seeking spots in their finals, while the New Zealand team will also include a number of relay teams, with the plan to give a group of young swimmers experience at an elite level with an eye on them qualifying for individual events for the 2016 Olympics.
New Zealand swimmers have grabbed just one gold at the past four Games - Moss Burmester's triumph in the men's 200m butterfly in Melbourne in 2006.
In 1998, the star-studded Australian team featuring Ian Thorpe, Michael Klim, Grant Hackett, Geoff Huegill and Susie O'Neill collected a swag of 23 gold, 15 silver and 11 bronze medals while NZ gained two bronze. It was another Aussie rout in 2002, with NZ's return just a silver and a bronze, while Delhi 2010 returned four silver and two bronze for the Kiwis.
Two divers will also compete at the Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh.
Teenager Liam Stone has produced strong results over the past year and the 17-year-old will be eyeing a medal when he contests the 1m and 3m springboard events.
He will team up with Li Feng Yang in the men's synchronised event, and Yang will also chase a medal in the same events as Stone, along with the 10m platform discipline.
- Waikato Times
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