Swimmer Glenn Snyders will look almost unrecognisable tomorrow.

Off will come the beard he has been growing for some time and on will come the race face that has been absent for the past eight months.

New Zealand's top breaststroke swimmer has already qualified for the Olympics in the 100m and 200m breaststroke - he bettered the marks by one second in both events last year - but the New Zealand open swimming championships starting on Sunday represent the start of Snyders' Olympic campaign. He hasn't raced much in the last eight months but will increase his diet as London gets nearer.

The national championships also double as the Olympic trials and New Zealand's team for London will be announced at their conclusion next Friday night.

Advertisement

Snyders is a certainty to be among the small squad, and should be joined by Melissa Ingram (200m backstroke) and Gareth Kean (100m backstroke) and 200m, 400m and 800m freestyler Lauren Boyle who have already qualified. The women's 4x200m freestyle relay have gone under the qualifying standard.

Others like Natalie Wiegersma (200m, 400m individual medley), Sophia Batchelor (100m backstroke, 100m butterfly), Natasha Hind, Penny Marshall and Amaka Gessler (100m and 200m freestyle), Matt Stanley (200m freestyle) and Kurt Bassett (200m backstroke) will also hope to convince the selectors of their worth but it is Snyders who looms as the best prospect.

In the past two years he has gone from being a good breaststroker to one nearer the top echelon of the sport. He's ranked seventh in the world in his favoured 100m and 12th in the 200m.

What has happened, he says, is a culmination of "patience and determination" and "sticking with it". He has had his doubts, like most top sportspeople, but seems to be discovering what works for him.

"I think it just comes down to keeping my head in the heats, semis and finals and doing all of my processes," he said. "And believing in myself, really. I know I can swim just as fast as those [top] guys, it's just putting the right race together at the right time."

His coach Mark Regan has made a significant impact since joining the high performance programme two years ago. Regan has coached athletes and relay teams to six Olympic medals and 21 long and short course world championships medals in his career with Australia and Denmark and talks about processes rather than results.

"I think Glenn has become his own man," Regan said. "I think he used to overthink it and now he's not. I think he's starting to grow."

He overthought things in Beijing and it backfired badly in the 100m when he not only missed out on a place in the final but also finished a lowly 20th.

Advertisement

"It was pretty devastating knowing I could have got there [to the final]," he said. "When it came to the 200m, I didn't really care. It wasn't my race. I guess I used that anger and pulled out something good and managed to get a night swim [in the semifinal] so I was pretty happy with that. I think I have learned a lot since then and come a long way."

How far will be revealed in London and perhaps in Rio de Janeiro four years later. At 24, he's still relatively young and he believes there's still a lot of improvement in him.

London will represent a final Olympic campaign for Ingram. Next week's trials will be her fourth but she has competed in only one Olympic Games when she finished 11th in both the 100m and 200m backstroke.

Ingram has qualified only for the 200m backstroke at this stage and will hope to add the 100m backstroke and 4x100m freestyle to her Olympic programme.