Top swimmers compete on Games' opening day

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 24/07/2014
Glenn Snyders
Getty Images
BIG CHANCE: Glenn Snyders is one of NZ's top medal hopes in Glasgow.

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New Zealand will unleash their heavy hitters on the opening day of the swimming competition in Glasgow tonight (NZ time) - but an early medal rush would be a surprise.

Lauren Boyle, Glenn Snyders and Matthew Stanley will all be in action on day one of heats and finals at the Commonwealth Games, but only Stanley will compete over his specialist distance.

Boyle begins her hectic schedule in the women's 200 metres freestyle, and while her outstanding ability could see her grab a podium spot it may be too much to ask for the 26-year-old long distance specialist to beat the likes of Australia's Emma McKeon.

Another team veteran, breaststroker Glenn Snyders, has the opposite scenario, with the men's 200m event likely to be too long for his liking.

Stanley will race the 400m freestyle, and after a solid buildup he's confident of pushing for a medal, with his chief rivals being the Australian trio of David McKeon, Mack Horton and Jordan Harrison.

Boyle won bronze in three events at last year's world champs in Barcelona - the 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle - and she is expected to battle Wales' Jazmin Carlin for gold in the 400 and 800 in Glasgow later in the programme, with Australians Bronte Barratt and Jessica Ashwood, Canada's Brittany MacLean and South Africa's Karen Prinsloo also rivals.

Snyders admits that the 200m breaststroke - which has been tipped to set the Games alight on the first night as hometown hero Michael Jamieson chases gold and a potential world record - isn't his chief focus.

"With it being the 200, I'm not sure what to take from it," the 27-year-old said.

"I haven't been doing the 200 in training - my main is the 100 - so I think it's a good race to have as the first under your belt. It will just be a case of how I handle the heats, and if I make the final ... it'll just be a case of being able to recover from that."

Snyders will also contest the 50m as the third part of his Games schedule. Things don't get any easier over the two shorter distances, as he comes up against world champions Cameron van der Burgh (South Africa) and Christian Sprenger (Australia), Scotland's Ross Murdoch and England's Adam Peaty.

"I think it's a good thing," he said of the quality of the field.

"I think it's a privilege to be part of that - men's breaststroke in the past few years has evolved into something pretty great and it's just getting faster."

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At previous major events, the US-based swimmer has picked up a tag of being unable to back up impressive heat efforts later that night in the finals.

"I've just been a person who's always just wanted to go hard in every single race," he said.

"It's not been a question of not going hard in the final, it's just that I haven't been able to back it up."

Snyders is looking forward to feeding off the atmosphere at the Tollcross International Swimming Centre venue.

"It's a lot smaller compared to London, or Delhi, or even Melbourne, but being compact it's going to draw a lot more energy - the crowd are going to be right there and riding it; it's going to be awesome.

"It's something that you need to have experience in - and I definitely have that experience. I tell the newer people, just get out there and race, you've done it a thousand times.

"You're swimming the same race you have since you were a little kid.

"You've always got to back yourself - so I'm just going to back myself and perform like I know how to."

Boyle said the hardest part of her schedule - which may also include being part of the 4x200m women's freestyle relay team - will be the last two days "when hopefully I have the 800 final and then the 400 final the next day".

"I think a lot of the distance swimmers will be in the same boat, having both those events at the end." Stanley will also contest the 200m freestyle against another strong field.

"My events are really closely packed with guys who have really similar times, so it's quite open," he said.

"There's a couple of Aussie guys who may be pushing their heads out in front, but I'm just looking forward to competing."

Para-swimming star Sophie Pascoe will be chasing two golds in Glasgow as part of the 16-strong New Zealand team that also features backstroker Corey Main and a host of relay teams.

Luis Villanueva, Swimming NZ's high-performance director, wasn't going to put a medal target on his squad.

"We are looking for personal bests, and improvements on times is our first goal."

- Stuff

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