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Legendary swim coach Jan Cameron is the driving force behind New Zealand's improved standing on swimming's international stage.

After moving to New Zealand nearly 20 years ago, the former top Australian swimmer doggedly set about building the North Shore Swim Club into the most successful programme in the country.

Cameron, who won silver at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, took a club with little money and little resources and turned it into a stable for New Zealand's elite swimmers, before moving to the organisation's first High Performance Centre at Millennium Institute.

After 40 years of coaching, Cameron took up a new role with Swimming New Zealand at the end of last year, moving away from direct coaching to oversee New Zealand's performance pathways.

Cameron hopes to see the benefits of the programme in next year's Commonwealth Games, where she is expecting a number up and coming young swimmers will qualify.

What inspired you to embark on a career in coaching?

I was an Olympic swimmer and training for a physical education degree and the opportunity presented itself in Australia, so it was probably more opportunistic than anything else really.

Describe your job

I've been coaching for more than 40 years but now I've come off the deck so to speak and my job now is firstly to mentor and help other coaches to achieve. And secondly to provide systems and protocols so Swimming New Zealand can progress as a sport. So it's all about creating pathways for swimmers and coaches to allow the best of them to get through.

What's the best thing about your job?

I think it's being able to work with young people and to see their excitement and passion for the sport - it keeps me alive really.

And the worst thing?

Probably the early mornings. I'm generally no longer getting up at 5am, but it's something I've done for many years and become used to but never really enjoyed it. The other negative is that I'm just too busy at times.

What's your proudest moment as a coach?

Probably seeing my son, Scott Talbot-Cameron, represent New Zealand at the Olympics. But also the many swimmers I feel I've had a hand in helping them achieve their goals, that's what makes me proud and happy.

You were a top swimmer in your day - what was your proudest achievement of your swimming career?

Definitely an Olympic medal.

Do you think swimming gets the amount of public attention it deserves in New Zealand?

I don't know if deserves is the right word. But I think it is a fantastic sport; it can go from as young as 5 or 6 through to you're 100. So it's a skill for life and it's an enjoyable activity for life and it's not difficult. I'm working at the performance end, and it's a fantastic sport and it's up to us to probably market that a little bit better, so that people grow to understand it.

So that's one of my goals is to try and spread the word on what a fantastic sport it is, and how we can all do it so that some that have really got the talent and the desire can go on to achieve internationally. We've got great swimmers but we only really get seen when there's an Olympics or Commonwealth Games on.

If you weren't coaching what would you be doing?

Oooohhh, I don't know. Probably teaching. I'm happy doing what I'm doing.

Who in the world do you most admire and why?

I think coaches who sacrifice big chunks of their lives to help athletes achieve at the top, top end. Not only colleagues, but people in other sports as well, I do admire. Anybody who is prepared to give everything to help someone else achieve what they want, I can admire that.

What do you do to get away from swimming?

Well I have family and friends who I love and I have a very interesting and full social life. I like to walk and have coffee with friends and keep up with them because friends are very precious. Friends and family, they're the precious diamonds really, aren't they?

When you decide to call it a day on swimming, what shape do you hope to leave the sport in?

I'd like to feel that the legacy I've left with swimming is that there are opportunities that are structured and systemised that will allow any swimmer with the talent and the desire to make it as far as they possibly can.

That might be an Olympic medal for some, it might be getting to an Olympics for others, it might be making a junior team, it might be being the best in your school. It doesn't really matter, it's that they have the opportunity. That's what I'd like to feel is part of the legacy that I leave.

In the lead-up to next year's Commonwealth Games, are there any young swimmers you're tipping to emerge on the scene?

We have a very good youth target group, which are the ones just off the qualifying times. We have three under 20s who have qualified for the World Championships, and we have another 10 under 20s who are right in the focus line for the Commonwealth Games. I'd like to feel the team will be a blend of older, more experienced swimmers and new, eager youth swimmers.

I certainly won't be giving any names because I'm hoping the whole lot of those kids make it - that's my goal.