Early signs suggest Hawke's Bay swimmer Breeze Van Veldhuizen has got the next Bobbi Gichard written all over her.
The Eskdale School Year 6 student's performances in the pool and sacrifices out of it are proof she has the potential to follow a similar path to former Greendale swimmer Gichard, who has represented New Zealand at various world championships, at last year's Commonwealth Games and is now United States-based on a four-year, full-rights scholarship with the University of Florida Gators team.
Like Gichard in her younger days, Van Veldhuizen, labelled backstroke as her preferred stroke. She was one of three 10-year-olds from her Napier Aquahawks Club who won all the events in their age group at last weekend's New Zealand Junior Swimming Festival in Rotorua.
Their club was the top scoring female club out of 32 at the meet and the second club overall despite only taking a team of 15 swimmers - 12 females and three males. Van Veldhuizen won her 50, 100 and 200m backstroke finals and also collected two seconds and a third placing.
When asked what the key to her success was Van Veldhuizen was quick to reply:
"Having a positive mindset."
Her results were an appropriate reward for her 4.30am rises at least three times each week to travel from Eskdale to Napier for training. Van Veldhuizen was also fast to reply when quizzed about her swimming heroes.
"The other two ... they pushed me hard," she said referring to the other 10-year-olds, Kate Hurley and Lola Nicholls, who like Van Veldhuizen, are coached by Karen Kamper.
St Patrick's School Year 7 student Nicholls, who has been swimming for Aquahawks since she was 7, recorded six firsts, a second and third placing in Rotorua. She won her 100m butterfly final in a club record time of 1m16.83s, her 200m freestyle final in a club record time of 2m30.11s and her 50m freestyle final in a club record time of 31.48s.
Nicholls' other wins came in her 50m fly, 100m freestyle and 100m individual medley finals. It wasn't a surprise when she ranked freestyle and fly as her preferred strokes.
A keen gymnast when she isn't in the pool, Nicholls, boasts nerves of steel and also has genetics in her favour. Her father Steve Nicholls is a former triathlete and an A grade rider with the Ramblers Cycling Club.
"I've got to give a shout out for my mum Rachael's pasta dish ... that works well before meets," Nicholls added.
Tamatea Intermediate School Year 7 student Hurley recorded four firsts, three seconds and two sixth placings. All of her wins were personal bests and came in her 200m individual medley final and 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke finals.
It was easy to gauge why breaststroke is her preferred event. Hurley is a keen jazz dancer and she said this benefits her co-ordination in the pool.
She is a daughter of long-time learn to swim instructor and Hastings District Council's aquatics facility manager for Flaxmere and Frimley, Fiona Hurley, and was introduced to swimming at a young age. Hurley also benefits from her father Tim's lasagne, pasta and homemade pizza dishes in the countdown to swim meets.
Hurley's mother pointed out the trio receive regular coaching sessions from the Aquahawks head coach Phil Melhuish.
"All three of them get on really well and enjoy pushing each other ... they are strong as a group."
While the Rotorua meet was their pinnacle event for the year they will compete in their club championships during May and the East Coast Champs in July.
This trio were among six Hawke's Bay swimmers to make the podium in Rotorua. Their 11-year-old clubmate Iraia Roberts was the top individual points scorer for the club.
He won his 200m breaststroke final, was second in his 50m and 100m breaststroke finals, 50 and 100m freestyle finals, 200m individual medley final and third in his 100m individual medley final.
Another 11-year-old Aquahawk, Kate Young, won her 50 and 100m breaststroke finals and improved her personal best 200m breaststroke time by 10 seconds with her second placing.
Eleven-year-old Jess Mills of the Trojans club won her 200m breaststroke final and was second in her 100m and 50m breaststroke finals.