A twelve strong swimming team has been named to represent New Zealand in the pool at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
The team is headlined by experienced campaigners Lewis Clareburt (22, Wellington), Dame Sophie Pascoe (29, Christchurch) and exciting up and comer Erika Fairweather (18, Dunedin), with seven of the twelve athletes set to make their Commonwealth Games debuts.
The squad is a made up of twelve athletes including four Para athletes. The athletes are:
- Lewis Clareburt – Men’s 400 Individual Medley, Men’s 200 Individual Medley. Permission to Start in the Men’s 200 Freestyle
- Erika Fairweather – Women’s 400 Freestyle. Permission to Start in the Women’s 200 Freestyle and Women’s 100 Freestyle
- Helena Gasson – Women’s 200 Individual Medley. Permission to start in the Women’s 200 Fly, Women’s 100 Fly, Women’s 50 Fly and Women’s 50 Backstroke
- Cameron Gray – Men’s 50 Fly. Permission to start in the Men’s 200 Freestyle, Men’s 100 Freestyle, Men’s 50 Freestyle and Men’s 50 Backstroke
- Andrew Jeffcoat – Men’s 100 Backstroke, Men’s 50 Backstroke. Permission to start in the Men’s 200 Backstroke
- Tupou Neiufi - 100 Backstroke S9 (S8), permission to start in 100 Freestyle S9 (S8)*
- Hazel Ouwehand – Women’s 50 Fly. Permission to start in the Women’s 100 Backstroke, Women’s 50 Backstroke and Women’s 100 Fly
- Dame Sophie Pascoe – Women’s 100 Freestyle S9*
- Eve Thomas – Women’s 800 Freestyle. Permission to start in the Women’s 400 Freestyle and Women’s 200 Freestyle
- Mya Rasmussen – Women’s 400 Individual Medley. Permission to start in the Women’s 200 Individual Medley and the Women’s 200 Breaststroke
- Jesse Reynolds - Men’s 100 Backstroke S9, permission to start in 100 Fly S10 (S9) and 100 Breaststroke SB8*
- Joshua Willmer – Men’s 100 Breaststroke SB8, permission to start in 100 Backstroke S9 and 100 Fly S9*
The growing depth of the para swimming team will be on full display in Birmingham, highlighted by Gold Coast Commonwealth Games double gold medallist and New Zealand’s most decorated Paralympian, Dame Sophie Pascoe. Jesse Reynolds is also no stranger to top level competition, coming off the back off a 4th place finish at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Tokyo gold medalist, Tupou Neifui will look to channel her Paralympic experience into her first Commonwealth Games, while at just 17 years old, Joshua Willmer will also get his first taste of Games level competition.
18-year-old Erika Fairweather will be another to watch. The Dunedin athlete burst onto the world stage when she swam a New Zealand record time in the 400m freestyle event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to make the Olympic final. Fairweather is looking to build on that experience in Birmingham where she will be aiming for the podium in both the 200m and 400m freestyle.
Lewis Clareburt heads to Birmingham looking to improve on the bronze medal he won at Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. He goes into the Games ranked second in both the 200m and 400m Individual Medley events.
“I’m excited to get back overseas and racing at this year’s Commonwealth Games. After my Olympic experience in Tokyo I feel like I’ve learnt a lot about my own swimming and how I can perform on the biggest stage,” said Clareburt.
“This summer we’ve spent more time in the gym working on my strength as well as a lot of effort in the pool focused on bringing my breaststroke leg up a bit. We’re happy with how everything is tracking and now I’m just focused on getting to Birmingham in the best shape possible.”
Birmingham 2022 will be the debut Commonwealth games for Andrew Jeffcoat. The Pukekohe swimmer has been in career best form, recently swimming underneath the qualifying time to claim a national record in the 50m backstroke.
Another debutant at Games level is Cameron Gray. The 18-year-old North Shore athlete joins the Birmingham team hot off the back of a big few weeks of racing at the New Zealand and National Age Group Championships where he was unbeaten in the sprint events.
“I’m stoked to have the opportunity to race at the Commonwealth Games. Thank you to my teammates, parents, coaches and supporters for believing in me, and I hope I can make you all proud in Birmingham,” said Gray.
Coast Swimming Club teammates Eve Thomas and Helena Gasson round out the squad and will look to build on their experiences from previous Games. Thomas competed in the 800m freestyle, 1500m freestyle and 4x200m freestyle relay at Tokyo 2020, while Gasson competed in the 100m and 200m Butterfly at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Swimming New Zealand CEO Steve Johns says they’re delighted with the Commonwealth Games squad.
“The team has a good mix of experience and debutants being led by 2018 Gold Coast double gold medallist Sophie Pascoe and bronze medallist Lewis Clareburt, with seven swimmers making their Commonwealth Games debuts,” said Johns.
“It’s been a difficult couple of years for all our swimmers with their international campaigns being impacted by Covid. The team selected has shown remarkable resilience and deserve their places and the opportunity to represent New Zealand at this pinnacle international event.”
Swimming New Zealand High Performance Manager Amanda White added her congratulations.
“I’d like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to all swimmers who have been selected by the New Zealand Olympic Committee to represent New Zealand at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. The Swimming New Zealand Staff and Board are extremely proud to be supporting you through this exciting challenge,” said White.
NZOC CEO Nicki Nicol also extended her congratulations to the athletes.
“Well done to all twelve of the athletes selected today and to Swimming New Zealand for getting them to this point,” said Nicol.
“We’re thrilled to be sending an exciting swimming team to Birmingham. There’s real depth in this squad and we’re looking forward to seeing the athletes in action in the Sandwell Aquatics Centre in just 92 days.”
The swimming squad will begin heading overseas in May, ahead of the FINA World Championships to be held in Budapest in June.
The selection brings the total number of athletes selected to the New Zealand Team for Birmingham 2022 to 25.