Tauranga swimmer Matt Hyde knows the road to the Tokyo Olympics is paved in persistence, etched in exertion and dripping in discipline.

There are no shortcuts; only steps on the ladder and milestones to tick off.

The 21-year-old Tauranga swimmer has just qualified for his first world championships, after dipping more than 2secs under FINA's 400m freestyle 'B' standard time at the recent national short course titles in Auckland. He'll join an 18-strong New Zealand team that will compete in Hangzhou, China, from December 11 to 16.

Also in the team is Tauranga's Ruby Matthews - a Tauranga 19-year-old swimming under the newly formed Evolution Aquatics - chosen for the squad after winning her first NZ Open title at this month's NZ Short Course Championships in Auckland, scoring gold in the 400m medley with a new Bay of Plenty record time of 4 minutes, 44.8 seconds.


The Tauranga pair are excited to be part of the team but it's not yet a cause for celebration.

For Hyde, it's a reminder he's on the right track, with a lot more work about to come his way.

For Matthews, she's trying to find the $5300 needed to cover costs for the user-pays trip.

"It's very exciting but it's another step towards where I want to be, just a step in the right direction," Hyde said.

Hyde won the 400m national title with a 3min 49.52sec effort, well inside the FINA 'B' qualifying time of 3:51.93. He also won the 800m free and added bronze in the 200m.

Having already been in two national teams attending Oceania championships, the China trip will be next-level, racing and testing himself against the best in the world.

It's the result of countless toil, up to 65km of swimming each week, under the watchful eye of coach Daniel Cooper, who quietly offers advice from poolside, with father Laurie also occasionally leaning in to test his son's lactate thresholds.

Hyde's carefree teenage years are well behind him now; he's now into the realms of the serious swimmer, albeit with a Bachelor of Science degree from Massey University bubbling in the background.

"I almost quit when I was 15 but it's all about perseverance. My old coach Graeme used to say 'we want you to be swimming fast when you're 21, 22 or 23, when you're reaching the peak of your physical ability, rather than burning you out when you're 17, 18 or 19' and that really holds true."

That old coach was Graeme Laing, son of the legendary Duncan, and himself a coaching mentor to former national backstroke star Cooper.

Through those links with Laing Jnr, Hyde still competes under the Matamata banner, though Cooper jokingly refers to his squad as the "Pool Gypsies", swimming at Toi Ohomai each weekday morning as the sun rises, then heading across to the Mount College pool as the sun sets in the evening.

"Making this team is very significant for Matt in that it keeps his fire burning for his goal of getting to the Tokyo Olympics," Cooper said.

Ruby Matthews, who is an Auckland University student studying a Bachelor of Science majoring in geography and marine science, says she is confident in her preparations for the event with her biggest barrier being meeting the money needed to cover costs.

She has started a Givealittle page to help out, saying she has to "pick and choose" her international events because of the costs involved - but this is a must do.

The other barrier is the five hour time-difference and training her body to adapt in the lead-up.

Her main goal for her China meet is to gain another "small pb" and is in training with the High Performance Squad in Auckland to help her achieve that goal.

- Supplied content
New Zealand team competing at 14th FINA World Swimming Championships:
Ruby Matthews (Evolution Aquatics, Tauranga), Bradlee Ashby (North Shore), George Schroder (Hokitika), Vanessa Ouwehand (St Peter's), Hayley McIntosh (Northwave), Paige Flynn (St Peter's), Wilrich Coetzee (North Shore), Carina Doyle (North Shore), Yeonsu Lee (North Shore), Ciara Smith (Northwave), Daniel Hunter (Howick Pakuranga), Matt Hyde (Matamata), Andrew Jeffcoat (Fairfield), Quinton Hurley (Jasi), Caitlin Deans (Neptune), Gina McCarthy (Hillcrest), Rebecca Moynihan (Raumati), Emma Godwin (Heretaunga Sundevils)