Gichard leads nine qualifiers in opening day in Samoa

Competition is underway in Samoa as the day 1 of the Commonwealth Games wraps with a strong performance from young New Zealand swimmers in the pool. 

World junior championship medallist and Commonwealth Youth Games New Zealand Flag Bearer Bobbi Gichard led the New Zealand swimmers on the first day of heats at the fifth Youth Commonwealth Games in Samoa today.

Gichard topped qualifiers in the 100m backstroke in heats this morning in the event in which she won a bronze medal at the recent FINA World Junior Championships, clocking 1:01.77.

Teammate and 50m backstroke world junior champion, Gabrielle Faamausili was second fastest in 1:03.88 as the dynamic duo chase medals in the finals tonight.

Coach Gary Hurring said both star swimmers have quickly refocused for the Youth Commonwealth Games.

Both are excited about racing and representing their country, said Hurring. Both of them are real competitors and both really want to get medals tonight. That whole side of this competition will draw out the best in their performances.

New Zealand qualified for nine finals tonight.

The busiest will be North Shores Wilrich Coetzee who qualified in four events. He was fourth fastest in heats of the 50m butterfly in 25.45, just outside his best, and also fourth fastest in his favoured 200m butterfly in 2:10.36.

Coetzee was eighth fastest in heats of the 100m backstroke in 59.43 and then swam the butterfly leg of the mixed medley relay which qualified second.

The 18 year old has scratched from his backstroke final to focus on the other three swims tonight.

Another with a busy schedule is 16 year old Yeonsu Lee from North Shore who qualified fifth fastest in the 200m butterfly in 2:23.46.

She just missed out on the final in the 200m freestyle as the ninth fastest, pipped by Aucklands Annabelle Paterson who set a personal best 2:05.18 to earn the final spot into tonights final.

The other individual qualifier for the finals is Howick Pakurangas Bayley Main who was seventh fastest in the 100m backstroke in 59.37s.

Gichard (backstroke), Mario Koenigsperger (breaststroke), Coetzee (butterfly) and Faamausili (freestyle) combined to qualify second fasted in the 200m mixed medley relay in 1:51.32.

All the team are quite excited and its good to have most of them with a couple of swims under the belt now, said Hurring. It is a busy schedule as a four day meet and a lot of them have back-to-back races so it is nice to get going.

In other swims Gichard was 15th fastest in the 509m butterfly in 29.85 and Main was 10th quickest in the 200m freestyle in 1:56.44.

Tonights finals start at 6.30pm (NZ time).

CAPTION: Hawkes Bay swimmer Bobbi Gichard in action. (BW Media)


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