4 Aug 2022

Clareburt's medal haul inspires community to call for more Olympic size pools

From Checkpoint, 5:24 pm on 4 August 2022

Swimmers have commended the "hard work" and "fantastic performances" of three-time Birmingham Commonwealth Games medalist Lewis Clareburt.

As the Commonwealth Games competitor scooped a bronze medal this morning, Clareburt was cheered on loudly from pool lanes in Auckland.

The 23-year-old from Wellington completed the men's 200m individual medley in a brisk 1:57:59.

That was just 32 milliseconds behind his personal best, and not quite enough to outstrip winner Duncan Scott from Scotland, or second-place-getter Tom Dean from England. 

About 20 members of SwimTastic's early morning adult swim class were among those watching the race keenly - on a big screen above the pool. 

SwimTastic chief executive Mark Bone said Clareburt would have felt like he was carrying "the weight of the nation" as he stepped onto the block a third time.  

"That was a good performance. He was just outside personal best. It was a great race and that was the big thing," he said. 

The only factors slowing Clareburt were "just a few little finesse things," Bone said.  

"His last turn possibly cost him. Just a little bit too slow under the water and a little too long under the water." 

Swimming coach Mark Bone

A slow turn may have cost Lewis Clareburt in his 200m medley final, Mark Bone says.  Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

Still, Clareburt's Commonwealth haul has awed those with first-hand experience of the competitive swim scene.

Richard Lockhart represented the country in breaststroke in the 1986 & 1990 Commonwealth Games, 1988 Olympics and 2009 and 2013 World Masters Games. 

Clareburt could "hold his head high," Lockhart said. 

"He's had a great meet. New Zealand swimmers have altogether had a great meet, exceeded expectations," he said.

"And we haven't had much of that in recent years," added Alice Waldow, who was on a swim scholarship in the United States. 

"It's just great to see that all of the hard work is paying off now."

New Zealand swimmers hadn't exactly had it easy - as Bone explained, they were up against a shortage of pool space. 

"This is all about bricks and mortar and we don't have enough 50 metre pools in New Zealand. That's what they need to race in when they come to the international competitions," he said.

"There is, on the Gold Coast, something like ten 50 metre pools in a small area... we wouldn't even have ten 50 metre pools in the whole of New Zealand. It's just crazy. We've got to get more 50 metre pools and we've got to utilise them."

Swimming pool

Top swimmers need more 50 metres pools, followers of the sport say.  Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

Speaking to media in Birmingham after the race, Clareburt said he hoped to inspire the next generation of swimmers. 

He described being on the world stage as a "dream come true."