A Stratford swimming coach will be competing with an Olympic gold medallist for the title of club coach of the year.
Clive Wheeler is one of the three finalists for the Club Coach of the Year category at the 2014 Swimming New Zealand Awards.
Wheeler is up against Igor Polianski, an Olympic backstroke gold medallist for the USSR at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and also a member of FINA's Hall of Fame, and Ken Nixon, of Fairfield Swim Club, for the title.
Wheeler said he was surprised to learn he was one of the finalists.
"Awards are not something you go looking for, awards happen," he said. "It's quite an honour to be nominated."
Wheeler, who turns 80 this year, has been coaching for 43 years and said Stratford is a town just brimming with swim talent.
"For a small town, it has produced quite a fair few talents, putting swimmers on New Zealand teams and also breaking New Zealand records," Wheeler said.
He said it was "very satisfying" to see his pupils shine.
"But swimming is not only about championships," he said. "It's about providing pathways to give kids good life skills like time management, that sort of stuff."
Wheeler's coaching career first started in 1971 in Inglewood when he stepped in as a coach for his two sons.
Two months later, he was coaching 65 children. "I started as an amateur coach," he said.
Wheeler started coaching full-time professionally in 1987 and has seen eight New Zealand representatives under his tutelage.
"We're really a feeder for the national team," he said.
The hallmark of a medallist swimmer is "dedication, hard work and discipline," Wheeler said.
He was made a life member of Swimming Taranaki, Stratford Swimming Club and the New Zealand Coaches and Teachers Association.
Wheeler was also one of the swim coaches at the 2007 Australian Youth Olympic Festival.
But Wheeler is hanging up his whistle in May after four decades of turning out top swimming talents. "I will definitely miss coaching," he said.
Swim Safe adviser Cecilie Elliott said this was the first year Swimming New Zealand has three Taranaki finalists in three different categories.
St Patrick's School in Inglewood is in the running for Swim Safe School of the Year award while Okato Swimming Club is up for Community Club of the Year.
"This shows commitment and dedication to swimming in the Taranaki region, from learn-to-swim to competitive to high performance swimming," Ms Elliott said. "An amazing achievement."
The Swimming New Zealand Awards are on April 12 at Auckland's Viaduct Harbour.
- Taranaki Daily News
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