Taranaki's only competitor at the London Olympics, Dylan Dunlop-Barrett has his sights set on next year's Commonwealth Games and Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Sports editor Murray Hills talks with the talented swimmer about his goals in the pool.
Dylan Dunlop-Barrett has always dived in at the deep end.
After a tough 12 months in the sport he loves, the swimmer has focused and set his sights on winning a spot in the New Zealand swim team for next year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
His ultimate goal is Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and a second Olympics.
"My main goal for 2014 is to first qualify and then to walk away from the Commonwealth Games with a medal in the 4x200m freestyle relay," he said.
"Looking at the criteria for selection for the Games, the individual qualifying times are quick for the 400m freestyle, my main event. The qualifying time is a 3min 48.6sec with my best being a 3min 51.1sec, so it's within reach but it will be tough."
Dunlop-Barrett said the 200m freestyle was becoming very competitive in New Zealand.
"With plenty of talented guys coming through, the 4x200m is starting to become a real medal possibility."
Dunlop-Barrett said there was also the Pan Pacific Championships a month after the Commonwealth Games.
"That's slightly more competitive as it includes the United States. It's also the competition in which our funding is decided from, so it's critical to first qualify for them and then perform well," he said.
"It will be difficult to back up after the hype of the Commonwealth Games, something we'll have to be aware of leading into it. The individual times are a bit easier to qualify, but they're not taking specialised relay teams."
The trials for both these competitions take place in April next year.
Dunlop-Barrett said Rio was still his main goal.
"It was tough to walk away from the London Games knowing I could have done better than what I did. The Olympics are so unlike any other competition I've ever been to," he said.
"Looking back, we were so emotionally unprepared for the Games. I'd like to have a better crack at Rio and hopefully secure an individual spot on the team. I would love to finish my career on a high in Rio."
Dunlop-Barrett said 2013 had been a tough year.
"I missed the selection for the world championships. We had a lot of coach changes and tension at the pool while Swimming NZ went through a review process. It was a tough preparation before our trials," he said.
"I was gutted at the time, but fortunately myself and Steven Kent [who also missed the team] were sponsored by Northern Arena [an Auckland swim school] to do a two-month campaign with the New Zealand team in Europe."
Dunlop-Barrett said the Kiwi swimmers did a lot of racing and had an altitude camp in Spain.
On a personal level, his highlights were a fourth in the 1500m freestyle at the French Open and a win in the B final of the 400m freestyle at the United States Open.
"They're two of the biggest swimming nations and both competitions attracted competitors from all around the world. The standard of racing was very high," he said.
Dunlop-Barrett said it was great to see the New Zealand team perform so well at the world champs.
"Lauren [Boyle] and I did a lot of work together before the champs, so it was great to see her kill it. She's exceptional, I've learnt a lot from her. I hope she's learnt something from me too."
Dunlop-Barrett said his training was going well.
"Mentally, I feel much fresher than I was this time last year and swimming much better. I'm probably swimming technically the best I ever have. I'm working well with my coach David Lyles . . . he's the fifth coach I've had this year," he said.
"I'm experienced enough now to know what I need to do and work with my own technique, I think for myself now. David creates a lot of atmosphere, so he's great to work with."
Training involves 10 sessions of just over two hours, plus three weight sessions a week, plus Swiss ball and core work.
"I spend about 35 hours a week at the pool. The target race is still the 400m freestyle."
Dunlop-Barrett has just returned from a three-week camp on the Gold Coast with the New Zealand swim squad.
"It was great to see some sun and get some hard work done.
"I had some OK results. I had a personal best in the 200m backstroke with a 2min 04.64sec . . . my previous best was 2min 06.3sec. My freestyle times were 3min 58sec for the 400m and 1min 52.0sec for the 200m, not bad for this time of the year."
Dunlop-Barrett said he would try to get away for a few weeks to an altitude camp in America in February.
"It's pretty important to get away on trips as a stimulus, otherwise you risk getting stale."
Dunlop-Barrett said he was still juggling studies with swimming.
"I'm still studying extramurally at Massey University, doing a business degree majoring in finance. It's only part-time study. I took all of 2012 off with the Olympic campaign. I'm just over half way through my degree," he said.
"I'm also working for the Northern Arena Swim School. I also love making music - my spare time is usually spent playing the piano or any other instrument I can get my hands on, I love my music."
Dunlop-Barrett said he was still involved with surf lifesaving.
"I still try to do races once in a while and I enjoy getting involved at New Plymouth Old Boys.
"I'm starting to enjoy coaching and teaching swimming. When I can, I help out Ayla [his sister] at her swim school [Coastal Aquatics]. I'm not sure if that will be my career choice after swimming though."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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