Winning one New Zealand Open Water title by the age of 14 is something few athletes have achieved.

But Rotorua's Emily Spear went one better when she defended her national 10km title in Taupo in January.

To add to a memorable weekend, the Bethlehem College student was second in the 5km race and finished fourth in the open grade women's 10km race behind elite New Zealand and Australian swimmers including Mia Pugh, 16, who also attends Bethlehem College.

"I was a bit nervous as I have been a bit up and down with how I have been going so I wasn't sure how I was going to go in the race. When I saw the older kids at the start I thought 'how am I going to do this?' But I just decided to block out all of that and just focus on the race and knowing that I won last year so I could do it again," Spear said.


"In open water you have to be all mental focus because when you go down mentally that is when the race starts to go down and you have to somehow pick yourself up."

In the open age group women's race Spear kept up with the elite field for the first half of the race which she says gave her a lot of confidence.

Spear and Pugh have plenty of opportunities to exchange ideas and help each other improve, which Spear says has been very useful.

"We both helped each other out with the 10k and the 5k in Taupo. We also try to help each other with our mental minds and it is a good relationship we have."

Earlier this month Spear won the Hinemoa Cup which is a traditional swim without the aid of a wetsuit held at Rotorua's Blue Lake that attracted a top class field.

"That was real important because you have other people coming from other countries to compete. Usually competing at the Hinemoa is Charlotte Webby, who has qualified for the Olympics so it was always her and I up against each other. So it was good to get the win this time with Charlotte not there."

Emily Spear after defending her national open swim title in January. Photo / File
Emily Spear after defending her national open swim title in January. Photo / File

Spear has twice daily training sessions with Swim Rotorua head coach Alistair Johnston and two hours a day on the bus to Bethlehem College. It means fitting in schoolwork around all the travel and training, which she admits can get a bit much at times.

"Usually I am up late at night fitting in all my homework and then I have to wake up early in the morning to go to training. My teachers understand why I am tired and let me have a lie down sometimes which is good," she added.

All elite athletes are goal driven and Spear is no exception. She has one major drawcard that keeps her going hour after hour doing laps in the training pool.

"I am hoping to get real close to making the 2020 Tokyo Olympics for open water and that is pretty much it."