What started out as a bit of fun for Zyleika Pratt-Smith continues to prove fruitful for the Tauranga swimming star.
The 14-year-old has been a busy young athlete competing in both the 2018 NZ Short Course Championships in Auckland between October 2 and 6, and the NZ National Artistic Swimming Championships, held between October 4 and 7, also in Auckland, scoring top placings at both competitions.
At the swimming event, Zyleika, representing the Mount Maunganui Swim Club, won gold and set Bay of Plenty records in the 200 Individual Medley, the 100m backstroke and her 3rd place in the 50m breaststroke was also a new Bay record. Zyleika also took the gold medal in the 50m butterfly at the event.
At the New Zealand National Artistic Swimming Championships, Zyleika beat 51 athletes to win gold for the Figures division of the 13/14/15-year-old category, the largest group in the competition. Zyleika won two more golds, one for her solo performance and another for her duet with Karlina Steiner.
Zyleika took up synchronised swimming about seven years ago when her grandmother took her down to Baywave to try it out for a bit of fun, her mum Annick Pratt says.
Now she is in the New Zealand Development Squad and loves synchronised swimming.
She is also in the New Zealand Swimming Squad, making her a very busy teenager.
Pratt says her daughter is "very passionate and very talented at both" sports and doesn't want to choose one sport over the other.
Zyleika was one of 21 swimmers representing Tauranga Synchro, ranging in age from 9 to 20, at the national synchronised swimming competition. The Tauranga club came home with an impressive medal haul proving that once again, Tauranga is a major player in the sport.
The local swimmers were just a small part of the 170 athletes from 10 clubs around New Zealand, and international swimmers from Australia and New Caledonia competing in the country's most prestigious synchronised swimming event.
Tauranga Synchro head coach Lara Teixeira Cianciarulo says synchro is a difficult sport, but highly rewarding because of it.
"Synchro a very much a growing sport in New Zealand ... and you can certainly see that from the numbers at this year's competition. It was bigger and tougher," she says.
"Mastering all the components of synchro requires a high level of commitment, teamwork and practice. It was very satisfying to see our girls really improve on all their skills and step up and I couldn't be more proud."
Athletes Eva Morris, Isobel Pettit and Eden Worsley dominated the Junior and Senior categories, winning golds for every solo and duet event they swam in, and the Senior, Junior and 13/14/15 athletes joined forces in the Open Free team event, winning silver with their superhero-themed performance.
Ella Claydon and Chloe Boyt scored silver for their duet in the mixed age Aquarinas category, and together with Amelia Stoutenburg, Sophie Winters and Ella Paterson won gold for their offbeat Willy Wonka routine.
Tauranga Synchro placings at national Artistic Swimming Championships
Dolphin (Team): Chloe Boyt, Ella Paterson, Cori McLaughlin, Greta Nemadi, Isabelle Hume, Charlotte McColl (narrowly missed a placing) - 4th
Aquarinas (Duet): Ella Claydon, Chloe Boyt - 2nd
Aqua (Combo): Amelia Stoutenburg, Sophie Winters, Ella Claydon, Chloe Boyt, Ella Paterson 1st
Figures: Ella Claydon - 2nd; Ella Paterson - 3rd
12 and Under (Team): Eden Leach, Sophie Black, Yeva Parshikova, Mairead Pidgeon - 2nd;
(Figures): Yeva Parshikova - 3rd
13/14/15 (Solo): Zyleika Pratt-Smith - 1st; (Duet): Zyleika Pratt-Smith and Karlina Steiner - 1st; (Team): Emily Carter, Avalee Donovan, Martha Bunce, Zyleika Pratt-Smith, Karlina Steiner - 3rd; (Figures): Zyleika Pratt-Smith - 1st.
Junior (Solo/Technical Solo): Karlina Steiner - 2nd; (Duet): Eden Worsley and Isobel Pettit - 1st; (Technical Duet) Eden Worsley and Isobel Pettit - 1st
Senior (Solo) Eva Morris - 1st; (Duet): Eva Morris and Eden Worsley - 1st; (Technical Solo) Eva Morris - 1st; (Technical Duet): Eva Morris and Isobel Pettit - 1st
Open (Free combination) Eva Morris, Eden Worsley, Isobel Pettit, Zyleika Pratt-Smith, Karlina Steiner, Emily Carter, Avalee Donovan, Martha Bunce - 2nd