Stratford was a hive of activity this weekend, with the 2020 Swimming Taranaki Short Course Winter Championships taking place at the TSB Pool Complex.

Maree Collins, pool side official, says the champs are held at the TSB Pool Complex annually.

"Stratford has the only pool in Taranaki which can accommodate the championships. It's the only venue which can handle the swimming numbers, spectators, coaches and officials."

The championship was the first in the series of Swimming New Zealand's Aon 2020 NZ Short Course Series.

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Short course describes a pool which is 25 metres in length.

One hundred and thirty-four swimmers competed in the champs, with 42 of those swimmers from outside the region. Swimmers travelled all over the North Island to compete.

"It's an opportunity for the younger competitors who may have never raced before to go against swimmers from outside the region."

The competition benefits the town, she says.

"It's great. The champs are bringing people to the town, where they're staying in local hotels and buying from local businesses. It's great for the town's economy."

Maree says swimmers ranged from 9 to 20 years old.

"This was the first regional championship available to swimmers after the Covid-19 lockdown."

She says the swimmers are back into training.

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"The lockdown was very difficult. Swimmers went from training regularly to nothing at all. Without a pool, you can't replicate swimming. They've been working hard to get their fitness back up.

"They can do about nine training sessions a week and each session runs for two hours, as well as going to the gym to keep their fitness up. It is hard work."

Swimming Taranaki regional administrator Tania Stockman says the champs gave swimmers the chance to achieve the qualifying times to compete in the Aon 2020 New Zealand Short Course Championships in October.

"All swim meets since the middle of March were cancelled, meaning swimmers missed out on meets where they could've gained their qualifying times."

The New Zealand Short Course Champs are for swimmers 13 and over with the younger swimmers racing for their respective age group meets.

"The were all itching to get back into the pool and compete, they couldn't wait," Maree says.

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She says there was plenty of great swimming at the champs.

"It was absolutely fantastic. There was good racing throughout the whole weekend."

CMK Stratford Flyers Jayda Hancock, Dylan Kowalewski, Anahera Marton, Libby Keenan, Eva McGeoch and Camryn Austin received gold medals in their respective races.

Zarhn Collins 20, from the New Plymouth Aquabladz Club.
Zarhn Collins 20, from the New Plymouth Aquabladz Club.

Zarhn Collins, 20, from the New Plymouth Aquabladz​ Club, has been swimming competitively for the past 10 years.

"This is the first meet I've attended for the past six months. I was meant to race the week we went into lockdown but it was cancelled."

He says he is happy to be back in the pool.

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"It's great to get in some racing for the New Zealand Championships in October."

Due to an injury, 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games hopeful Zac Reid was unable to race.

Tania says Swimming Taranaki is thankful for the sponsorship of Taranaki Electricity Trust.