It's been quite the week for Aquinas College Year 13 student Lochlainn O'Connor.

On Sunday he won a world championship. On Tuesday he flew back to Tauranga from Adelaide, sat his final NCEA exam yesterday, finished up at school and now looks forward to what the future might hold.

"I'm currently undecided about what I'll do. I do know that I'll be sticking with a lot of the sport that I'm doing. I'm hoping to make New Zealand teams in open categories in the upcoming years."

This year he's represented the country overseas twice at junior level in different, though related, sports.


In August he was at the Junior Pan Pacific swimming championships in Fiji then last week he was a key part of the triumphant Junior Black Fins who won this country's first ever Youth Lifesaving World Championship in South Australia.

New Zealand began the final day 16 points behind Australia but gold medals in five events for the Junior Black Fins meant that deficit was made up and overtaken. O'Connor won two individual events and was part of the 4x25 metre Manikin Relay team which won a third gold.

"It's quite hard to make up points in the team's competition. You've got two competitors in each race and you've got to make sure you've got both people firing really, really well," he says.

"We got a bit lucky having two strong pool competitors in each race that we were doing, and we just managed to get Australia."

O'Connor was one of those strong pool swimmers. He won both the 100 metre Manikin Carry with Fins and the 50 metre Manikin Carry setting New Zealand records each time.

Swimming and life saving have always been an integral part of Lochlainn O'Connor's young life.

"I've always said to people that I was able to swim before I was able to walk. That's a bit of a joke but as long as I can remember I've always been in the surf or in a pool.

"I owe a lot of that to both my parents and my grandad on my mother's side who was very, very heavily in surf himself."

That's Dan Harris at the Waihi Beach SLC.

"He was doing surfboats up until a couple of years ago until he unfortunately became a bit too unwell to be able to stay in the boat," his grandson says.

"He was the one that really got me into it but it's something that I just love doing."

O'Connor's strength in the lifesaving competitions is in his pool swimming.

As a butterfly specialist over both 100 metres and 200 metres, he clocked 2.03.80 for the longer distance at the junior PanPacs and 55.89 for 100 metres. He was 7th in both finals there, but that capability makes him a standout in competitive life saving.

"I just swim really" he says modestly, talking down the strength and technique required to carry a life sized manikin as well.

"I think they're about 45 to 50kg. You have to find the most effective way to hold them while still swimming and do it as fast as you possibly can."

Despite his grandfather's involvement with surfboats, that's one area where Lochlainn hasn't ventured.

"I haven't been in the boats. When I got into swimming, it kind of takes over everything, training a very large number of hours per week, so I can't do anything else other than swim, so it's swimming and swimming and swimming."

But there will be time on the beach this summer to do his bit with the Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service.

"I'll be there every fourth or fifth weekend with the rotation our patrols go on. I do enjoy it although there are elements of it which seem not so much fun, but it's with really nice people and it's great to be out on the beach looking after people."