More than 1100 athletes are counting down to the State Capital Classic in Wellington next Sunday

Former United States President Jimmy Carter famously got into trouble when he said: "I have often wanted to drown my troubles, but I can't get my wife to go swimming."

His tongue-in-cheek comments work in a different sense as every year thousands of New Zealand athletes "drown their troubles" by competing in the State Ocean Swim Series.

More than 1100 athletes are counting down to the State Capital Classic in Wellington next Sunday.

It is the third event in the six-swim series which has reported a record number of 6500 registrations this season. Many of them have remarkable stories to tell.


Take Craig Dent. The New Plymouth builder had triple bypass heart surgery in 2009, but getting back into competitive swimming has been a big part of his recovery.

He started swimming at the age of 9 to help with bad asthma and even his recent health troubles haven't stopped him competing in his fifth series event.

Dent was out of the water for only six months after his heart operation in 2009, but it seems like a distant memory for the man who is also looking to swim across Lake Taupo this year.

"Ever since I was a young lad, I've always enjoyed being in or on the water and the feeling of freedom that comes with swimming," said the 56-year-old.

"So when I heard about the State NZ Ocean Swim Series, I thought it would be good to give it a go. Five years on, and while it's an achievement to just keep swimming, like any competitor I'm going out to beat my personal best at the very least."

Dent's love of the water extends beyond competition - he also runs a masters' swim club three to four times a week, running classes from the pools at the local aquatic centre as well as ocean swims in the Ports area.

There is also no stopping fellow swimming enthusiast Lucienne Beyer.
The 51-year-old, who moved to New Zealand from the Netherlands in 1986, will compete in her fourth series event despite only recently having an operation for a broken collar bone.

Beyer was cycling on a training ride when a fellow cyclist lost her balance and knocked her off her bike.


She was told her collar bone would heal without surgery. The expat did her best to continue to keep fit and was disappointed she couldn't swim properly during this time.
After receiving a second opinion, Beyer had an operation 10 months later where the surgeon inserted a plate and screws over her collarbone. She began swimming again slowly, and next weekend will put her training to the test when she competes in the "I'm Going Long" 3.3km ocean swim.

"I always look forward to the State Capital Classic," said Beyer. "Wellington is my favourite city, which is why I always choose to compete in this particular swim. After a rough year, I am really looking forward to competing again this year and hope to better my time from 2012.

"My son has just started swimming again, too, so I'm hoping I can convince him to join me as he always states he can beat me hands down and I'd like to see him try."
Beyer said the hours of training in the pool were all worthwhile when you competed in the big events.

"Swimming in the ocean is a real test. I love the freedom of swimming in open water and the long distances. I enjoy that endurance aspect. I also like the atmosphere during this event and sometimes you end up meeting friends you haven't seen in a while."

Meanwhile, Lyall Bay resident Tony Hickmore has enjoyed a fine comeback of his own. He has been competing in the series since suffering a heart attack four years ago.

"There tends to be a perception that people with heart attacks need to take it easy, but I think it's so important to just enjoy life and be active," he said.

The 60-year-old has been donning his wetsuit and competing around the country this summer, and is looking forward to swimming in home waters.

"I've always enjoyed swimming and enjoy a big challenge, so I originally set out to compete in the State NZ Ocean Swim Series just to see if I could do it. This year, I'm going out there to win," he said.

Being active runs in the family - his sister is Dancing With the Stars winner and judge Carol-Ann.

Hickmore has a competitive background to call on. Growing up he was a professional motocross rider and most recently worked for Scouts NZ, before giving up his position to become a swim coach at the Kilbirnie Pool.

It is characters like Dent, Beyer and Hickmore who are "drowning their troubles" by swimming that make the national series inspiring for many others.

"This series is all about giving it a go," said event director Scott Rice. "We hope that the qualities shown by Craig, Tony and Lucienne, of courage, dedication and passion, will encourage other swimmers."

State Capital Classic
When: Sunday, January 27

Where: Oriental Bay, Wellington

Event options:
• The 3.3km swim, aptly titled "I'm Going Long", starts from Frank Kitts Park with the finish line at Freyberg Beach in Oriental Bay.
• The "Step it Up 1000m", "Give it a Go 300m" and inspirational State OceanKids take to the water in their respective swims from Oriental Bay Beach to Freyberg Beach.
• The charity partner for this series is Surf Life Saving NZ.
• Other swims are held in Auckland Harbour, Pahia, Akaroa and Bay of Plenty with the final event on Auckland's North Shore on April 6.

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