Hawke's Bay swimmer Bobbi Gichard's quest to swim at the 2016 Olympics in Rio has received a major boost.
Greendale's Gichard won two gold medals when representing the Aqua Knights at the recent Victoria State Age group championships in Melbourne. Her elated club coach Noel Hardgrave-Booth, who also coached the Aqua Knights at the six-day event, said Gichard's winning time in the 200m backstroke was just outside the New Zealand age group record for 13-year-olds.
Gichard's 100m backstroke winning time of 1m 0297s smashed the New Zealand record by almost three seconds.
"When you consider Bobbi is 13 years and three weeks old and the New Zealand open record is one minute flat, this is a huge feat. I think it puts Bobbi among the top five on the New Zealand open rankings," Hardgrave-Booth said.
Gichard's 200m time bettered the Victoria state record set by Australian Olympic swimmer Nicole Livingstone in the 1980s. Livingstone, who is now 41, is now retired from swimming and well known as a sports broadcaster across the Tasman.
Gichard's 100m time is a Victoria all-comers' record. Gichard, who is about to become a Taradale High School Year 9 student, has stated regularly during the past two years her goal is to swim at Rio and her coach, who will be in his early 70s by then, intends to continue coaching her until the next Olympics.
"Bobbi is definitely on track for Rio and if she goes, I will be going, too," Hardgrave-Booth said.
Two other Greendale swimmers who Hardgrave-Booth also believes have the potential to swim in Rio featured among the medal winners in Melbourne. Bruin Maunder, 13, won golds in his 100m breaststroke and 200m fly finals and a bronze in his 200m breaststroke final.
Gichard's 14-year-old brother Jacques won silver in 100m and 200m breaststroke finals. Hardgrave-Booth said Jacques missed the national record for his age group by 0.12s in one event, missing gold by 0.2s.
It's no surprise Hardgrave-Booth has high hopes for this trio at this year's national championships. It also won't be a surprise if his three medal winners make more regular trips across the Tasman to improve times and national rankings.