New Zealand swimmer Hazel Ouwehand, 22, is fresh off the back of claiming two national championship titles - 50m butterfly and 50m backstroke - at the 2022 New Zealand Swimming Championships, and will compete at her first Commonwealth Games in Birmingham 2022.
"I've wanted to represent New Zealand internationally for a really long time, ever since I was little. I knew last year before the Olympic Games that I wasn't quite there yet. So, I had my sights more set on the 2022 Commonwealth Games," says Ouwehand.
"I was manifesting it every day and thinking about it all the time. Every day I wanted it more and more and more."
The former Te Pahū Primary School and Te Awamutu College student is a butterfly and backstroke sprint specialist with previous international experience, having competed at the 2018 Fina World Championships.
Now a member of Phoenix Aquatics on Auckland's North Shore, Ouwehand swam for the Te Awamutu Swimming Club from age 6-17.
At the 2022 New Zealand Swimming Championships, Ouwehand's goal was to get successful qualification times for both the Mare Nostrum European swim series and the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
"The two ways to get put forward for selection for the Commonwealth Games swim team is either to swim under the qualifying time or rank in the top six for any given event in the Commonwealth," says Ouwehand.
"At the national championships, I was really going for those times but I missed out on my closest event by 0.39 of a second. It was devastating. At that time, looking at the rankings across the world, I was ranked fourth after my heat swim, but Canada and a few other countries had their trials on during the same week.
"By the end of the day I was ranked sixth in that event and I was like "oh someone else is going to swim it in a different country and bop me out'. Then I went home to stay with my parents for a week. I got an email on the Monday, while I was working, and the subject line was Selection SNZ Teams.
"I read the first line and it said "congratulations on your selection for the Mare Nostrum series and I thought "oh okay" cause I already knew I'd qualified for that at the championships the prior week. Then I kept reading and it said "we are also really pleased to tell you that you've been put forward for selection for the Commonwealth Games."
Ouwehand says she starting freaking out and ran to tell her parents.
"My mum looked at me and was so worried and was like 'what's wrong'? I started reading the email to her through tears and she starts jumping up and down and I start jumping up and down," she says.
"Then I go into my dad's office and by this point I could barely see because my eyes were so wet. I tried reading it to him and then we were all jumping up and down going 'oh my God, oh my God, oh my God'."
Ouwehand was ranked fifth in the Commonwealth, based on her fastest time for the 50m butterfly within the qualification period, securing her a spot on the Commonwealth team.
She also has permission to start in the 50m backstroke, 100m butterfly and 100m backstroke.
The Mare Nostrum swim series is a Europe-based annual series of swimming meets with three meets around the Mediterranean Sea this month: Monaco - May 21-22; Barcelona - May 25-26; and Canet en Roussillon - May 28-29.
At each location, Ouwehand will swim all four of her main events as well as the possibility of finals.
Ouwehand will head off on Friday, May 13, and will go to the BEST Centre in Mallorca, Spain, to train for a week before the series.
"We've got a very good team going and one of the largest swimming teams New Zealand has sent overseas in quite a few years," she says.
"It will be so cool to swim with all these swimmers that I don't normally swim with and build that team comradery. Then, of course, to race some of the best in the world."
After being unable to race internationally for over two years due to Covid (since December 2019), this will be an invaluable racing opportunity and extremely beneficial in the leadup to Birmingham 2022 (July 28-August 8).
"The Commonwealth Games are government funded, however, the Mare Nostrum European swim series is not, and as such I currently have a Givealittle page set up," says Ouwehand.
"Now that I've gotten to the world stage, it's so cool to represent not only New Zealand but little old Te Awamutu and even smaller Te Pahū. With the trip cost estimated at $9000, any support would be amazingly appreciated."
To donate to Ouwehand's journey, head to givealittle.co.nz/cause/commonwealth-swimmer-hazelo-to-representnzineurope.