Wellington 20-year-old Gareth Kean sounded a warning shot across the bows of Australia's best on the final night of the New South Wales Swimming Championships in Sydney last night.
Kean took out the final of the 100m backstroke under the London Olympic qualifying standard to clock 54.17, the fifth fastest time in the year to date. He beat off the challenge from Beijing medallist Hayden Stoeckel and the up-and-coming Ashley Delaney at the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre.
It was the second qualifying mark established at the championships following Lauren Boyle's effort under the London FINA A time in the 800m freestyle.
The other podium performance on the final night was a third placing for Southland's Natalie Wiegersma in the 200m individual medley, when she clocked a solid 2:14.81, a second outside the Olympic qualifying mark.
The Waverley club swimmer, coached by Jeremy Duncan, finished closely behind Pan Pacific Champs gold medallist Emily Seebohm and Olympic and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Stephanie Rice.
The Swimming New Zealand AquaBlacks and High Performance Squad along with the newly formed Wellington Regional HPC contributed some of the 66 kiwi swimmers from 17 clubs competing across the Tasman in the three-day meet that has attracted more than 1300 competitors.
Swimming New Zealand's London Olympic Campaign Manager, Rushdee Warley said the championships were an important warrant of fitness test for those swimmers with serious aspirations for London.
"Overall I was pleased at the performances in relation to their heavy training loads. Most came in here still in full training and will press on into big mileage training camps over the next two weeks," Warley said.
"Overall this was a good opportunity to assess the current state of training and it kick-starts the final preparation phase for the Olympic trials in six weeks' time.
"It was also an excellent chance for some good and hard racing which was invaluable."
Kean, second in both the 50m and 200m backstroke, showed the hard work on his starts has borne fruit when he turned 0.6s clear of the talented field in the 100m final. The Capital club swimmer, coached by Gary Hurring, was able to withstand the challenges from Stoeckel and Delaney over the back half of the race.
Wiegersma produced world class legs on the butterfly and freestyle in particular to show a welcome return to top form following 12 months of injury frustrations. Her time of 2:14.81 was inside the top 15 in the world in the first few weeks of new year.
Glenn Snyders, who won both the 50m and 100m breaststroke, settled for fifth in the less accustomed 200m final in a solid 2:15.76 effort while still in full training.
Fellow High Performance Centre swimmer Tash Hind could not better her impressive morning effort in the final of the 200m freestyle, finishing sixth in 2:00.18, while big Roskill Magic sprinter Nielsen Varoy was 42/100ths of a second off the national record in finishing fifth in the 50m freestyle, taking fifth place.
Training camps begin on Tuesday for squad swimmers before fine-turning preparations for the Olympic Trials at the West Wave Aquatic Centre, Waitakere on 25-30 March.