Lauren Boyle leads way as Kiwi swimmers chase Rio Olympic's qualifying marks
World championship medallist Lauren Boyle is expected to lead the way as New Zealand's top swimmers chase qualifying standards for the Rio Olympics next week.
Starting in Auckland on Monday, the New Zealand Open Championships is the first of two official trials for the country's best.
The Canadian Olympic trials from April 5-10 is the second chance to meet the marks set to qualify for the Games, which start in Rio on August 5.
Wrapping up on Friday and being staged for the first time at the Sir Owen G Glenn National Aquatic Centre at the AUT Millennium facility, the NZ Open Champs have attracted 256 swimmers from 56 clubs along.
Swimmers from Egypt, Fiji, Indonesia and Samoa will also be in action.
Six Kiwis reached the A standard set by world swimming governing body Fina for last year's world championships, with the qualifying level of 16th in the world.
Swimming NZ chairman of selectors Mark Saunders said while the clear focus is on qualifying for Rio, he was interested in the development of a significant number of 2020 Olympic prospects.
"The group that reached Fina A standards last year will be the strongest candidates because at this level of the sport, gains are incremental.
"The work has gone in over the past two years especially on the next group of swimmers and they are tracking strongly but they would need significant personal bests next week to push into Olympic consideration."
"There is a possibility for relay teams to reach the standard although the key challenge will be for two individuals in each relay to reach Fina A standards."
Boyle is clearly the standout, ranked second in the world over 800m freestyle and fifth in the 400m freestyle in times over the past 15 months.
The next best are ranked in the world's top 30 with Glenn Snyders chasing a third Olympic qualification.
Boyle is also ranked 30th in the 100m breaststroke, while Bobbi Gichard is 36th in the 100m backstroke and Emma Robinson 39th in the 800m freestyle.
Queensland-based Matt Stanley has returned to encouraging form to be ranked 22nd in the world this year in 200m freestyle.
The group who could challenge include the likes of Daniel Hunter (Howick Pakuranga), Shaun Burnett (North Shore), Helena Gasson (North Shore), Nathan Capp (Greerton), Ewan Jackson (Howick Pakuranga), Georgia Marris (United), Laura Quilter (North Shore), Gabrielle Fa'amausili (United), Bradlee Ashby (Fairfield) and Wilrich Coetzee (North Shore).
The championships also include further qualifying races for the country's leading para-swimmers with Paralympic stars Sophie Pascoe and Mary Fisher set to lead the way.
There are 13 New Zealand swimmers who have opted to compete in the Canadian trials to gain more preparation time after the major US college meets during the last two weeks.
Swimming NZ nominations will be forwarded to the NZ Olympic Committee for consideration following the Canadian event, with the team expected to be named on April 15.