Backstroker decides it's time to come up for air

JONATHAN MILLMOW
Last updated 05:00 03/04/2014
Gareth Kean
LAWRENCE SMITH/ Fairfax NZ
TAKING A BREAK: Gareth Kean says he's not retiring from competitive swimming.

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Gareth Kean says he is resting, not retiring.

The 22-year-old Wellington backstroker hung up his goggles yesterday, just four months out from the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Kean was a medal hope in the 100m and 200m events, but feels he needs a break, both physically and mentally.

''I am looking to come back,'' Kean said.

''I just need a hiatus away from the sport. I've been in it a long time and due to that I'm at the point where I need to explore other options in my life.

''I need to look beyond swimming and kind of figure out who I am. I haven't taken this decision lightly. I've still got goals within the sport of swimming but right now, where I am at, I can't achieve those.

''Having some time off will hopefully help me get back in the pool fully motivated.''

Kean is a noted deep thinker. His heart hasn't been in the sport for some time and he says he came to the conclusion a month ago that he was stale.

''It is a hard sport, it is time-consuming.

''It is a combination of things within the sport that have led me to this.

''It's been a good ride but I need to clear my head. It's unfortunate it is Com Games year.''

Kean will move on to a new phase in his life.

He has secured employment in Wellington with IT recruitment company Talent2, where he will work fulltime as a candidate manager starting on Monday.

''It's going to be different and it's going to be exciting,'' Kean said.

''Being a Gen Y kid, I've got a decent grip on it all.''

Kean has been ranked as high as No 7 in the world in the 200m backstroke. He won a silver medal in that event at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi but disappointed at the 2012 London Olympics.

Kean's long-time coach, Gary Hurring, has seen the writing on the wall.

Hurring hasn't probed Kean about his future plans but there have to be doubts about whether Kean will be able to manage a successful comeback or in fact come back at all.

''My priority as a coach is always the athlete and how they are as people,'' Hurring said.

''I'm happy to see that Gareth is happy with his decision. He's seems in a better place. He was very indecisive for a while. I won't say I'm not disappointed to see him have a break but it is important that it is in his best interests.''

Kean is making noises about returning in time for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

''I haven't probed on that too much,'' Hurring said.

''He likes to keep his doors open. I'd love to see him come back. He has unfinished business.

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''To have a shot at Rio he will need at least a year in the pool beforehand. The longer you stay away the harder it is to come back at high level. There will be a fair bit of training required to get him up to speed again. Gareth is a special person, he may be able to do that.

''It's in the lap of the gods, or the lap of Gareth. Time out could be a good thing. He might come back with some real resolve.''

- The Dominion Post

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