Northland sensation eager to kick on in Sydney pool

By Cameron Leslie

For someone who describes her introduction to the pool as something that "just kind of happened", Northland's Melita Raravula is doing exceptionally well.

The Pompallier Catholic College student will next week join fellow Northlanders Kadin Neho and Sean Masters at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney as part of the New Zealand team.

"It just kind of happened," Raravula said and laughed. "I learned to swim quite late, and I kind of just picked it up and went right through. I went from learn to swim into club training. As soon as I picked it [swimming] up I kind of just went on going and didn't want to stop."

When asked "why swimming?", the 16-year-old replied confidently: "I love it when hard work pays off. I love the competitions and going with travel and the team. But I have to work hard to get there and that makes me appreciate it more."

While Swimming New Zealand has been under pressure over the past 18 months, Raravula has been excelling - smashing the qualifying times in difficult circumstances.

In order to be considered for selection, Raravula and her New Zealand swimming teammates needed to swim faster than the qualifying time, a personal best for her, in the heats, and then again in the finals at the New Zealand short-course nationals in Wellington last September. From there, Swimming New Zealand picked the nine fastest.

Raravula qualified in the 100m butterfly and just missed out on the 200m butterfly, both of which she will race in Australia, plus the 400m individual medley.

"The 400m individual medley was a really big surprise, and it's not usually a race I swim. It kind of came up that there was a 400 spot available and my coach [Monica Cooper] thought I'd be able to do it."

Last year was a breakthrough year in the pool for her after attracting the selectors' attention with her performances as part of the New Zealand national age-group team at the Trans-Tasman Tri Series. At the series she recorded four personal best times, which all set Northland Open records. Raravula also set another five new Northland age group records.

The young swimming sensation also competed at the New Zealand Open Championships, which doubled as an Olympic trial. She made the A final in one event, placing her in the top eight swimmers in the country in that event.

Raravula is looking to soak up all she can while leaving competitors in her wake during next week's festival.

"The experience [is what Raravula wants to take away from it] ... the only other international competition I've been to was the Trans-Tasman, which went well. I haven't been able to be around the other sports and sportspeople my age, so to be around and experience that will be good too."

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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