Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Swimming: Successful Boyle still below her best

Lauren Boyle was still unsatisfied despite reaching a second qualification mark for Rio. Photo / Getty
Lauren Boyle was still unsatisfied despite reaching a second qualification mark for Rio. Photo / Getty

Lauren Boyle admits she is still a way off her world-class best form after just sneaking under the Olympic qualifying time in a second event on day three of the New Zealand swimming nationals.

Boyle tonight wrapped up her programme in the pool by adding the 400m freestyle title to the 800m crown she claimed on Monday night. Her time of 4:08.28 came in narrowly under the Fina A standard but was well off her personal best time and New Zealand record of 4:03.63.

While pleased to qualify in a second event, Boyle admitted she was disappointed with her final swim.

"I'm not super pleased with the time," said Boyle, who will return to her training base on the Gold Coast next week. "I guess my front-end speed has been a bit slower over the first part of the year, so hopefully I can work on that over the next few months."

The five-time world championship medallist said she had realistic expectations of herself at this week's Olympic trials after illness in January had disrupted her preparation.

"I had a bit of a broken build-up to this competition, so hopefully that doesn't happen over the next four months and I can get really consistent with my training."

Boyle claimed silver medals in the 800m and 1500m freestyle at last year's world championships but, with the longer distance not on the Olympic programme, the 28-year-old will focus on the 400m and 800m in Rio.

A further two swimmers booked their tickets to Rio today as day three of the national swimming championships threw out some surprise results.

Waikato's Bradlee Ashby pulled off a big swim in the morning heats of the 200m individual medley, eclipsing the Olympic qualifying standard by 0.28 seconds to become New Zealand's fourth qualifier for the Games. His time of two minutes flat in the heats broke the New Zealand record previously held by three-time Olympian Dean Kent and he went even faster in last night's final, taking out the title in 1:59.76.

The buzz at North Shore's national aquatic centre had barely died down before Helena Gasson added her name to the list of Olympic qualifiers, going under the mark the 100m butterfly.

The 21-year-old produced a time of 58.66secs to better both the qualifying time and New Zealand record. Like Ashby, she went faster again in the final, to improve her record to 58.51.

For Gasson, today's effort went a long way to making up for the disappointment of the opening day of the championship, when she narrowly missed qualification in the 200m butterfly, fading badly in the finals after a strong swim in the morning. Gasson said she learned a lot from her experience earlier in the week.

"I did not handle the pressure well at all, so I've seen a few people about it and tried to get my head right. I really needed to," she said. "I just had to stay positive [for today's race]. I wasn't really thinking about the end time, I was just thinking about processes and how I was going to swim the race and if I did it how I knew I could, I knew I would do the time."

In all, three New Zealand records fell on day three of the championships, with Howick Pakuranga's Daniel Hunter setting a new best time in the 50m freestyle as he came agonisingly close to the Olympic qualifying time. Hunter's time of 22.31 in the heats was just 0.04 seconds outside the Fina A standard needed to make the grade for Rio.

He had a second crack at the mark in tonight's final, but came up short, taking out the title in a time of 22.48.

- NZ Herald

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