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World Masters: Old friend turns foe for swimmer Moss Burmester

As the World Masters Games close in on Moss Burmester, a tough decision faces the former world swimming champion.

After years out of the pool, he has entered a full schedule of events in Auckland next month, but he may not contest them all and top of his list to cull is the one that earnt him most prestige during his international career - the 200m butterfly.

Burmester won a world short-course title over this distance in 2008 and later that same year, he set a Commonwealth record (1m 54.35s) that saw him finish fourth equal at the Beijing Olympics. Two years earlier, he captured a Commonwealth Games gold medal in the discipline.

"I don't actually know whether I'll swim it yet," concedes Burmester. "I've realised how hard that event is, now that I don't swim anymore, so I'm still not that keen on it."

He says that now, but you get the feeling, once race day arrives, the competitive fires will ignite again and he won't be able to resist.

Seven years after his last international outing at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, Burmester has been persuaded out of retirement for a crack at the over-age event and has spent the past few weeks under the tutelage of former swimmer/triathlete/surf lifesaver Rick Wells at Newmarket's Olympic Pool.

"I've probably been back three-and-a-half weeks and I'm enjoying it," says Burmester, 35. "I'm starting to feel a bit better now and Rick made a comment the other day that I'm starting to look good again too.

"That was quite a good feeling, to get that re-inforcement."

Burmester hasn't exactly been idle in his hiatus from the sport. Earlier this month, he made headlines for becoming the first to spear a black marlin in New Zealand waters.

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But without the incentive of competition, he admits he has let himself go a bit.

"The weekends come around, and I do adventures and go spear-fishing, but I don't really have a regular training schedule," he says.

"I notice, sitting at my desk, I've had a few health issues like back problems, and it's made me realise how important health and fitness is."

The World Masters Games have given Burmester something to strive for and having a training group around him has certainly helped inspire him.

"I've had a huge amount of motivation from the squad guys here, saying I'm going to train for this thing and then having to commit to it," he says. "It's been really good that they've kept me honest.

"If you look at relative fitness of the other guys, I'd say they're fitter than me. I'm probably at 50% fitness, whereas they're probably 70-80%, but I've got that core background of swimming for years and technique.

"I rely on that very heavily still to lead the lane."

But what started as a way to get fit again will inevitably gain an edge as race day nears. Pre-event rankings are out and Burmester can see how close he is to returning to the podium.

"I'm nowhere near as serious as I used to take it, but it's reminded a bit of what I used to do.

"I'm enjoying the training and I'm not super committed to it, but underneath, I've got that competitiveness. One of my cool qualities is, if you're going to do something, you may as well do it properly.

"When I turn up on race day, 100%, I'll be into it and I'll have my game face on. For now, I'm just enjoying being back in the pool."

- NZ Herald

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