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Wellington swimming sensation Lewis Clareburt dares to dream

Capital swimmer Lewis Clareburt has continued his rapid rise after he won eight gold medals at the New Zealand Age Group Swimming Championships last week.

The year 13 Scots College student dominated the 16-18-year-old field at the championships held in Kilbirnie, doubling his medal tally from the same event last year.

In doing so, Clareburt (17) broke the national age record in the 400m individual medley (IM), previously held by Rio Olympian Bradlee Ashby, with a time of 4 minutes 21.69 seconds, and equalled Danyon Loader's near 25-year-old record in the 200m freestyle, clocking in at 1.51.70.

He also managed to set Olympic B standard times in both the 200 and 400IM, the first step towards possibly qualifying for the 2020 Olympics.

It has been a quick ascent for Clareburt, who in early 2016 did not have any Olympic B standard times, national age records, or Wellington open records.

Now he is far and away the best swimmer in his age group, and continues to improve.

At the age group championships alone he set eight personal best times from his 10 events, knocking 3.3 seconds off his 400IM time and 2.64 seconds in the 100m butterfly.

Not only is Clareburt a star swimmer, but he has also recently been added to the New Zealand Black Fins open training squad for surf lifesaving.

This comes after his excellent performances for the junior team at the World Rescue Championships in the Netherlands last September, where he won six medals, including one gold.

Ironically, he took up surf lifesaving only because he was struggling in the pool.

"I had a rough patch in swimming," he said.

"I hadn't grown and I wasn't doing that well so I decided to join surf because it was fun. I did it for the enjoyment of getting away from the pool and catching some waves."

However, he said swimming was still his prime focus. While the Olympics are still over the horizon, Clareburt remains dedicated to his swimming, and trains 10 times a week – eight in the pool and two in the gym.

He gets up each morning at 5am and trains from 5.45am to 8am before heading to school, which Clareburt said can be hard.

"It's pretty tough sometimes, especially at the end of term when all your internals start to pack up, but my teachers help me through it. Sometimes I'm tired in class and find it hard to concentrate, but you get used to it," he said.

Despite the success, Clareburt is kept grounded by his coach Gary Hollywood.

"I want to try and keep expectations low and not put him under too much pressure," Hollywood said.

"We're not chasing gold medals or records, it's just about trying to achieve his potential, and we've got no idea what that is."

Hollywood said that since Clareburt was made a carded athlete by High Performance Sport New Zealand his performances have improved dramatically.

"The three key things they've been able to help us with is nutrition, strength and conditioning, and the lifestyle manager who is always available to talk with Lewis if he has any concerns.

"It's added a lot of value to what we've been doing."

Next week Clareburt heads to the NZ Open Championships in Auckland, where he will face the man he took the record from, Bradlee Ashby.

"I just want to see if I can go and beat him," Clareburt said.

From there, Clareburt hopes to be a part of the team heading to the Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas in July.

- Stuff Read online

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