Published Sunday 29 July 2012

Lauren Boyle justified pre-Olympics speculation by smashing her own New Zealand record in the women’s 400m freestyle heats today.
Boyle, 24, recorded a time of 4min 03.63s, which placed her fourth among tonight’s finalists.
Her previous national record was 4min 05.83s, so she chopped a whopping 2.2 sec from that mark.
It was just the performance the New Zealand swim squad was looking for to set their Olympic campaign on fire.
The fastest qualifier in the women’s 400m freestyle was Frenchwoman Camille Muffat, with 4min 03.29s, but Boyle is right in the mix. She swam more than half a second faster than the fifth fastest of tonight’s finalists.
Her effort in the heats recalls the performance of Rebecca Perrott, who in 1976 was the fastest qualifier in the same event, before eventually finishing fourth in the final, a fingertip away from a medal.
Swimming in the most competitive of the heats, Boyle was only fifth for most of the journey, but showed her strength over the closing 100m, when she was easily the fastest finisher.
Boyle was obviously delighted with her time. “It’s the Olympics, so you never quite know what to expect,” she said.
“I knew I’d trained harder than ever before and I’ve been rewarded with a record time.”
She said she would try to sleep for a while this afternoon, but doubted if she would be able to.
Boyle said she never expected to make the final – she was ranked only 10th going into the race – so anything she managed from this point was a bonus.
Wellingtonian Gareth Kean squeaked into the semi-finals in the men’s 100m backstroke.
Swimming in a particularly competitive heat, he finished sixth in 54.26s, which was good enough to get him into the semi-finals in 14th position.
Kean, who has a best time of 53.32s, had a margin of 0.26s over the 17th fastest from the heats.
“I wasn’t very pleased with the time, but I’m pleased to progress into the semis,” said Kean afterwards.
New Zealand’s other swimmer in the 100m backstroke, Daniel Bell, recorded 55.53s and was 37th overall.
The fastest of the 100m backstroke men was American Matthew Grevers, who recorded 52.92s.
In the women’s 100m backstroke, Melissa Ingram finished fifth in her heat in 1min 01.94s, which left her in 30th place overall among the 45 starters in her event.
Matthew Stanley failed to advance in the men’s 200m freestyle, where his 1min 48.19s placed him 18th overall, just outside the top 16 for tonight’s semi-finals. Stanley, whose New Zealand record for the distance is 1min 47.57s, missed out on the semis by just 0.22s.