Four are worth a high five

MURRAY HILLS
Last updated 11:22 14/07/2012

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The waiting game is almost over for Taranaki's sole Olympic hopeful Dylan Dunlop-Barrett.

Thousands of hours of training and countless lengths of the pool will be put to the test on July 31 when he steps up on the starting block in London.

The 21-year-old from Oakura is a member of the New Zealand 4x200m freestyle relay team for the London Olympics.

"I'm just hanging out waiting to leave," he said hours before flying out of Auckland on Tuesday with the New Zealand swim team for a two-week camp in Belgium before heading to London.

"It feels like it's been ages since we beat the qualifying time. It's been a waiting game."

Dylan, who teams with Matthew Stanley, Steven Kent and Andrew McMillan in the relay team, wasn't letting the waiting get to him.

"You don't want it to consume you. There's too much to do anyway, my focus is on training. Six mornings a week and every night except Wednesdays . . . that's my little treat. We have Sundays off."

Those sessions are intense. "We're in the water for two hours. And then there's gym sessions, usually an hour and a half."

Don't get him wrong, he loves it.

"I've been swimming since I was five or six . . . I love it. Fifteen years later, this is the reward . . . my life-long work paying off. I've had to work hard for it and the Olympics will be the crowning glory. It's a lifestyle as much as a job, if you can call it a job. I'm pretty lucky."

Dylan said making it to the Olympics with Stanley, Kent and McMillan was something special.

'We're a really close unit. They're my best mates and to go to the Olympics with them as a team is awesome."

The quartet smashed the New Zealand record and bettered the qualifying standard with a time of 7m14.05s at the nationals in Auckland in March.

"It was a huge relief when we received the news we were going to London. Finding out we were going was definitely one of the best days of my life. There were a few high fives from the boys."

Dylan said things would really hit home when the Kiwi swim team arrived in London four days out from the Games to take their place in the Olympic village.

"I think it will blow my mind a little when we join the rest of the athletes in London."

And having his parents pool side would be great.

"Mum and Dad arrive in London on the 27th. They'll be there cheering us on for our first race on the 31st."

A few days ago, having both there wasn't looking so likely with the parents of swimmers allocated only one ticket per family.

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For Noot Barrett and Joy Dunlop-Barrett that meant one was going to miss seeing their son swim.

"I've only just sorted things. We've now got two tickets," said Noot. "It's taken a few phone calls, a few emails and a bit of sobbing. But the ticket allocators Cartan Tours and the London Games organising committee have come through and all of the swimming parents now have tickets which is fantastic."

Noot said the problem was the size of the arena.

"There's only seating for 5000 around the pool and there's a high demand for tickets. In Shanghai for the world champs last year, there was seating for 17,000 and that was packed. In London, all the seats have been taken."

Seeing Dylan and his team- mates race will be the culmination of a couple of big months for the Oakura couple.

It began with the team smashing the New Zealand record and dip under the qualifying time for London. Then came the news their second daughter, champion swimmer and surf lifesaver Ayla, was expecting a baby in November - Noot and Joy's first grandchild. Capping it off was confirmation Dylan and his team-mates were on the starting block in London.

And that's not forgetting their eldest daughter, Jesamine, who lives in Wellington.

"She's engaged and settled down there. She and her partner have bought a house. She's talented in her own right, but not on the sporting stage. They're all different and isn't that a blessing. We're proud of them all."

Noot said securing tickets to the semis and final of the swimming was fantastic.

"If they make it through to the final, that would be cool," said Noot. "We arrive in London just in time for the opening ceremony . . . start the party."

While they hadn't been able to get any tickets for other events, Noot said he hoped to see some of the kayaking, triathlon or open water swimming.

"It's crazy, everyone wants tickets. Maybe we'll be able to get some tickets when we get over there. Anything would be good, after all, it's the Olympics. The best athletes in the world."

Noot said he and Joy were extremely privileged to see Dylan compete at the Olympics.

"It's a great opportunity for us and for him. He's just your normal kid . . . a good kid who's excellent at what he does."

Noot said it had been a long journey for Dylan to achieve his Olympic goal.

"He's dedicated. In the last 12 years, he wouldn't have missed 10 training sessions. In the last four years, he's only missed two and they were in Australia. Over there, if you're sick, you're not allowed to train."

Dylan spent 18 months training in Australia, heading there in 2010 a few months after he finished his schooling at Francis Douglas Memorial College.

"The training sessions over there were pretty brutal, but they helped Dylan. He's got that desire, that commitment, all those superlatives you come up with for kids who achieve . . . and solid values. If you cheat in any way, it will impact on your performance. You can't fake being a swimmer. It's hard work."

Joy agreed there were exciting times ahead.

"It's awesome. When you have kids, you never think one would be going to the Olympics. It's quiet surreal.

"He's just a normal kid, he has to do the dishes . . . absolutely. He has to pull his weight around home," she said.

"He's very disciplined. He gets up, swims, eats, sleeps, studies (he's doing a business degree through Massey University) and then he's back into it in the afternoon. It's pretty intense."

Joy said Dylan had worked hard and dedicated himself to the sport.

"He probably wouldn't see it as giving up a lot, but he has. He's given up a lot of his social life. He's very focused," she said.

And after the Games?

"We'll take Dylan to Paris and maybe Ireland. I'd like to try some of their Irish whisky," Noot said.

"Dylan has missed out on all our trips away with Ayla and Glenn (Ayla's partner and New Zealand surf lifesaving captain Glenn Anderson). Not because he wasn't offered them, rather he didn't want time away from swimming."

Those trips, always in tandem with their two daughters, have taken the couple to world championships surf lifesaving events in Germany, France, Egypt, Turkey and Australia.

"So this will be nice to have some time with Dylan."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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