Swimming boss content with NZ Games elite

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 12/04/2014

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A predictable Commonwealth Games team has satisfied Swimming New Zealand's high performance director.

Luis Villanueva saw his elite swimmers Lauren Boyle and Glenn Snyders set the standard at the four-day New Zealand Open championships which ended in Henderson yesterday.

Boyle and Snyders each won three gold medals and, along with Para swimming star Sophie Pascoe, will head the New Zealand team night to contest the 2014 Commonwealth Games starting in Glasgow in July.

Boyle, a triple-gold medallist at last year's world championships in Barcelona, joins Pascoe as the country's best chance of swimming glory at the Games when she competes in the 200 metres, 400m and 800m women's freestyle events.

Boyle and breaststroker Snyders were joined in the team by freestyler Matthew Stanley and backstroker Corey Main, along with several relay swimmers.

Two Kiwis also achieved qualifying marks for the Para events in Glasgow, Christchurch star Pascoe and Te Awamutu Swim club teenager Nikita Howarth.

It's a small and select group and one Villanueva chiefly expected to emerge after the tough qualifying standards were set for the nationals, which doubled as the Games trials, by Swimming NZ and the New Zealand Olympic Committee.

"I've seen most of the best swimmers progress from last year," Villanueva said before the last night of finals.

"We have 10 swimmers so far who have qualified for the Commonwealth Games, which is a good number."

"There's always some disappointments, some swimmers that don't perform exactly at the right time. There's always some highs and lows, but in general, most of the swimmers have swum their personal best or very near.

"Those that had chances to qualify are right there. Either they have done the qualifying or have done personal bests and were very close to qualifying times."

Villanueva said the focus for the elite group could now switch from meeting specific times to preparation for this year's major meets.

"Numbers obviously count, but it's not the most important thing. We need to ensure that the swimmers that have qualified are well-prepared to perform in Glasgow, and then at the Pan Pacifics [in Australia in August].

"To go to an international competition and represent your country, you have to be at an international level," he said.

"So the standards were there to assure that the swimmers that made the team for the Commonwealth Games can really have chances to make the final and fight for top-five, top-six positions."

Snyders and Main have been based in the United States since early last year, and while Villanueva is comfortable with their set-ups, it's his preference that the country's best now train in New Zealand.

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"We have two high performance programmes with excellent programmes and excellent facilities and with good coaches," he said.

"They can be compared with those in the US or Australia.

"Obviously there are individual cases. Two years ago, I wasn't here when it was agreed that Glenn, the only breaststroker in the programme ... the view was that the US, with more breaststrokers and more sprinters, would be good for him.

"And I probably would have agreed. But not in general to send our best swimmers at the ages of 18-20 to anywhere else, because we have programmes at the moment in Auckland and Wellington that can be very good for the development to international standards."

- Fairfax Media

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