Triple gold medallist Samantha Lee propelled New Zealand into a commanding position after the first full day of competition at the World Lifesaving Championships in Adelaide yesterday, raising the prospect of the Kiwis first title win since 1998.
The 20-year-old broke three world records on a superb day for the Kiwis as they seek to end Australia's domination of the biennial tournament - heading into the final day of events at the pool New Zealand lead the defending champions by 45 points.
New Zealand relied heavily on London Olympic Games swimmers Natasha Hind, Andy McMillan and Steve Kent, though it was Lee who grabbed the limelight with victories in the 100m rescue medley, 200m obstacle race and the 4 x 50m obstacle relay at the South Australian Aquatic Centre.
The Wellingtonian initially broke her rescue medley world record in the heats and lowered her mark again to 1min 11.23secs, although the most satisfying moment came when teaming with Hind, Devon Halligan and Laura Quilter in the relay final.
"I didn't realise until we got our medals just how far in front we were," Lee said, as she reflected on a world-beating time of 1min 50.39secs which enabled the Kiwis to finish a massive four seconds clear of the Netherlands.
"I'm stoked to get the individual world record but there's nothing like breaking a world record as a team. You just can't ask for anything more," she said.
New Zealand's 207-point total could have been even greater had they not been disqualified in the women's 4 x 25m manikin carry, the penultimate event on the programme.
The Kiwis will be aiming for a big lead today given Australian's are traditionally strong when the competition switches to the ocean and beach events at Glenelg this weekend.
"When the competition gets to the beach, I'm in charge of sunscreen application and hopefully I would've earned my rest by then," Lee smiled.
Hind grabbed silver behind Lee in both the 200m obstacles and the rescue medley, while Kent and McMillan came agonisingly close to another magnificent double in the men's 200m obstacles after they both beat Italian Federico Pinotti's 2009 world record of 1min 54.97secs.
Unfortunately China's Feng Shi went even faster by clocking 1min 53.44secs to relegate McMillan (1min 54.54secs) and Kent (1min 54.63secs) to the minor medals.
McMillan, Kent, Max Beattie and Steve Ferguson also picked up bronze in the 4 x 50m obstacles relay, although coach Scott Bartlett was warning his charges not to get ahead of themselves.
"We had a really good day in the pool but we need to back that up again," Bartlett said.
"We'll need a big lead over Australia going onto the beach if we're going to give the world title a decent nudge."
The New Zealand under-20 team also had an outstanding day with Papamoa's Natalie Peat picking up a gold in the 200m obstacles race while Chris Dawson (Midway, Gisborne) also won in the 200m obstacles although Australia still hold a handy lead over their trans-Tasman rivals.
- © Fairfax NZ News