Eliza Glover and Finn McNabb were regional champions in the 11-12 age group. Photo: Supplied.

Blenheim swimmers turn up the heat

Blenheim Swimming Club members made the most of home advantage, producing two new regional champions and a New Zealand record when the Nelson Marlborough Short Course Championships were staged at Stadium 2000 recently.

One hundred and sixty swimmers from across the Nelson Marlborough region competed over five sessions in the Blenheim pool from July 24-26.

Competitors aged from eight to 18 raced over distances ranging from 50 to 1500 metres, showing their prowess in all four swimming strokes.

Swimmers competed within age groups and had to complete a specific set of events in order to qualify for trophies.

The Blenheim Swimming Club had a team of 39 swimmers in attendance under the guidance of coach Jenni Gane and these young athletes performed outstandingly across the weekend.

Eliza Glover and Finn McNabb both took home Nelson Marlborough regional trophies in the 11-12 age group. Eliza won the gold medal in all but one of her eight events, while Finn swam a new personal best in every event.

Meanwhile, Blenheim swimmer Jack Bugler broke his own New Zealand short course record for the 200m breaststroke in the S-14 para category twice in one day, bringing his new record time down to 3:02.74.

Medal winners from the local club over the weekend were Charlie Bennett, Ella Bowhill, Rhys Gjelstad, Eliza Glover, George Glover, Matthew Hall, Sophie Kole, Jack Love, Jessica Lovell, Nicola Lovell, Oliver Loza, Ollie Mandeno, Finn McNabb, Lachlan McNabb, Alfie Price, Minnette Richards, Kyla Thorstensen, Lexi Timpson and Joel Verran.

After the disappointment earlier in the year of many national events being cancelled due to lockdown, swimmers are now training hard for the upcoming 2020-2021 season.

For more information on swimming with the Blenheim Swimming Club, please visit their website at www.blenheimswimmingclub.com.

The 4x50m relay team - from left Rhys Gjelstad, Finn McNabb, Alfie Price, Katie Marsh, Kyla Thorstensen, Nicola Lovell. Photo supplied.

Junior swimmers excel at NZ Festival

The Blenheim Swim Club contingent punched well above its weight at the NZ Junior Festival (Mako zone) meet, staged in Timaru recently.

Twelve junior swimmers, plus their coach Jenni Gane, took part in what is essentially the South Island championship for junior swimmers aged 12 years and under, producing some great podium finishes and a string of new personal best times.

Spread over three days, nearly 300 swimmers from across the South Island completed in high intensity racing at the Caroline Bay Trust Aoraki Centre, with swimmers needing to have previously swum qualifying times to enter their events.

Coach Gane was delighted with the team’s performance, stating that the effort and commitment in training during the build-up had really paid off as 82 percent of all swims in Timaru saw new PBs recorded. “As a coach a PB is all you can ask for, anything more than that is just a bonus,” she said.

Among the boys the standout results came from Alfie Price (10) who finished with six first place finishes from his six events, including four unofficial new Nelson Marlborough records, and Rhys Gjelstad (11) who notched seven podium finishes, including two wins.

For the girls, Jessica (12) and Nicola (10) Lovell kept it in the family with identical second and third place podium finishes in the 100 and 50 fly events.

The team relays provided some of the real highlights as the BSC club achieved two podiums against some of the much-larger South Island clubs, including third in the mixed 6x50m freestyle relay and second in the girls 4×50 free relay.

Unfortunately Covid-19 has seen the cancellation of both the National Age Group and Division 2 Championships over the next couple of months as well as all local meets until at least May.

The swimmers will now refocus their goals on the some of the larger meets near the end of the year.

The full team to travel south was: Adian Bennett, Maggie George-Harris, Rhys Gjelstad, Eliza Glover, Sophie Kole, Jessica Lovell, Nicola Lovell, Katie Marsh, Carys McNabb, Finlay McNabb, Alfie Price, Kyla Thorstensen.

Podium results:

Alfie Price (10yr boys) – 1st – 100IM, 50M Free, 200M Free, 50M fly, 200M IM, 100M free

Rhys Gjelstad (11yr boys) – 1st – 200m Breast, 100m Breast, 2nd – 50m Breast, 100IM, 100m Fly, 200IM, 3rd – 200m Free

Jessica Lovell (12yr Girls )– 2nd 100m Fly, 3rd – 50m Fly

Nicola Lovell (10yr Girls) – 2nd 100m fly, 3rd – 50m Fly

Mixed 6×50 Freestyle relay – (1 boy and girl swimmer from each age group) – 3rd –  Nicola Lovell, Alfie Price, Rhys Gjelstad, Katie Marsh, Finn McNabb, Kyla Thorstensen

Girls 12U 4x50m Freestyle relay – 2nd – Jessica Lovell, Eliza Glover, Sophie Kole, Kyla Thorstensen.

Top performers from the Blenheim Swim Club. From left: Lexi Timpson (14), Jessica Lovell (12), Kyla Thorstensen (12), Finn McNabb (12), Rhys Gjelstad (11), Joel Verran (14), Nicola Lovell (10) and Lachlan McNabb (13). Photo: Supplied.

Blenheim swimmers show prowess

The Blenheim Swimming Club hailed eight new champions after three tough days of competition at the Swimming Nelson Marlborough long course championships.

Competing in the 50 metre pool at Nayland, Nelson from January 31 to February 2, the Blenheim Swimming Club had a team of 23 swimmers in attendance under the guidance of head coach Jenni Gane.

BSC competitors who won championship titles were Lexi Timpson, Jessica Lovell, Kyla Thorstensen, Finn McNabb, Rhys Gjelstad, Joel Verran, Nicola Lovell and Lachlan McNabb.

Other BSC medal winners over the weekend were Jack Bugler, Eliza Glover, Andrew Hall, Matthew Hall, Chelsea Mandeno, Oliver Mandeno, Katie Marsh, Carys McNabb, Minnette Richards & Hamish Timpson.

The format for this event involved swimmers competing within their year age groups. All swimmers had to complete a specific set of events in order to qualify for the trophies, tackling races from 50m to 1500m.

Hot and windy conditions at the outdoor meet presented swimmers with a challenge they do not formally face when training and racing at the 25m indoor pool at Blenheim’s Stadium 2000, however all swimmers performed up to expectation, with most posting personal best times over the weekend.

The Blenheim Swimming Club took out the YMCA Cup for most team points per entry, a reflection of the high standard achieved across the whole team, plus the relay teams performed exceptionally well at all age levels.

Swimmers are now training hard for national-level events coming up in the next three months and the club anticipates a strong contingent to attend these meets.

For more information on swimming with the Blenheim Swimming Club, visit their website at www.blenheimswimmingclub.com.

George Glover is welcomed onto the beach at Anakiwa on Wednesday afternoon after completing his 123km “Black Dog Swim”. Photo: Peter Jones.

Sounds swimmer finishes with a smile

Spontaneous applause echoed around Anakiwa as a wet-suited swimmer in a pink cap neared the jetty.

Cheers rang out across the Grove Arm as he emerged dripping from the water, feeling solid ground under his feet for the first time in 10 days.

After a makeshift finishing tape was crossed, a traditional Maori reception with speech, song and the presentation of a taonga signalled the completion of an inspirational journey by Marlborough teenager George Glover.

Inspired last year by the words and deeds of Kiwi free diver William Trubridge and Ross Edgley, the first man to swim around mainland Great Britain, the 17-year-old Marlborough Boys’ College student and accomplished pool swimmer decided to use his physical and mental skills to benefit a cause he felt passionately about.

So the “Black Dog Swim” was born, George deciding to swim the length of Queen Charlotte Sound and back to raise funds for and awareness of the I AM HOPE charity.

He pledged to swim approximately 123km, over 10 days, and came up with a possible fundraising target of $50,000.

At around 3pm on Wednesday he waded ashore at the place where he set off from on December 30, slightly weary but delighted as the promised funds soared past $57,000 and recognition for a particularly worthwhile cause skyrocketed.

Amid post-swim celebrations with over 100 well-wishers and supporters, George admitted he had mixed feelings about ticking off the unique achievement.

“Mainly because of the support crew … I’ll obviously see them again but it won’t be in circumstances like this, and that’s the element that’s been really special.”

While the charitable cause was always motivation during the many hours in the water, George said that it was the support crew who were most often on his mind.

“I thought, I’m doing this for the crew and those donating to a great cause – I didn’t want to let them down.

“But that wasn’t too often on my mind because I was loving it, even when it was choppy, it was so much fun.”

He said his support team had made it such a pleasurable experience. “They were able to mitigate any issues and kept me entertained … they were the best part of the swim.

“People like Ross Anderson, Norm Wilson, Dave Edgar, Jon Haack, Glen Richardson, Dan Moore … plus there were so many others, they were all so cool.”

Although George is a competitive pool swimmer, one of the best in the Nelson Marlborough region for the past four years and an age-group silver medallist in the 1500m freestyle at the NZ short course champs, he has limited experience of long-distance ocean swimming.

Consequently, he said his time in the water had been as tough as he had expected.

“That’s why we prepared for it like we did. The training that we put in paid off – we were as prepared as we could have been. The organisation of the swim was very smooth, which was great … everything went to plan.”

To prepare him for the challenge he enlisted the help of local endurance swimmer Edgar, a veteran of many long-distance swims.

Dave was mightily impressed by his charge’s efforts. “It takes resilience, you’ve got to get back in day after day … it’s all good doing big swims but multi-day, stage events are different … it takes a lot of damn hard training and a really good resilient mindset to get through that sort of work every day.”

The experienced Edgar ensured the logistics of spending long hours in the water were taken care of, including proper pre and post-swim nutrition each day. “We also set up half-hour feeding systems and did mouthwash every 90 minutes to coat the lining of his mouth, ensuring he didn’t get ‘salt mouth’.”

Work on George’s ocean swimming technique also paid off, the teen improving rapidly, according to Edgar. “Look at him today, he was smoking … almost like he was doing a 2k open water race or something. For him to be swimming like this at his age is pretty phenomenal.”

It was a proud and emotional time at the finish line for George’s family, his father Ben, mother Susie and three sisters, who were with him every stroke of the way. Ben said, “It’s just been a pretty cool journey. I don’t think we are going to potentially experience anything like this as a family … we are extremely proud of him. It was his idea from the start and I’ve learned quickly that if he says he’s going to do something, he is going to do it.”

“You could call it cantankerous every now and then, but he has certainly got a view and it’s not a stubborn, shallow or selfish view – it’s all-encompassing for people around him, which is pretty special. That’s what I am most proud of … it’s how he views things.”

Although the swim’s financial objective has been surpassed, George stressed that raising funds “wasn’t the main thing”.

“It was about raising awareness and eliminating the stigma around mental health. The money and support for the I AM HOPE charity is a by-product of everyone who has been involved.”

I AM HOPE is a youth and community-focused support group, run by The Key to Life Charity Trust, which promotes positive attitudinal societal change in schools and communities, while funding private care and counselling for young people.

A link to his Give A Little page is below …


MBC student George Glover training in the Sounds for his fund-raising swim later this year. Photo: Supplied.

Young swimmer inspired to make a difference

Inspiration is often found in the most unlikely places.

However, in George Glover’s case, it came in an entirely appropriate setting.

After hearing champion free diver William Trubridge speak at the Inspire Foundation Marlborough grants evening in April, the 16-year-old Marlborough Boys’ College year 12 student decided it was time he did something about the issues he felt strongly about.

So, the seeds of what George has termed “The Black Dog Swim” were sown.

From December 30 until January 8, George plans to swim the length of Queen Charlotte Sound and back again, his mission being to highlight youth mental health and raise funds for I AM HOPE.

This youth and community-focused support group, run by The Key to Life Charity Trust, promotes positive attitudinal societal change in schools and communities, while funding private care and counselling for young people stuck-in-the-mud on waiting lists.

Last year alone, 137 New Zealand young people died by suicide and it is estimated 3500 tried to take their own lives.

“There are two degrees of separation in New Zealand,” George says. “But there is only one degree of separation between mental health and suicide.

“Unfortunately, youth suffering from mental health issues can’t always get the help when they need it, with some having to wait up to six months to receive counselling.”

George hopes to raise at least $50,000 from his marathon swim, providing all-important resources for I AM HOPE and enabling those that are suffering to get help quickly.

“The I AM HOPE fund, which provides mental health counselling for all New Zealanders between the ages of 13 and 25, has run dry over the last nine months, so more funds are urgently needed,” said George.

The Inspire evening, coupled with William’s words and his “dive” across Cook Strait to raise awareness of the plight of Hector and Maui dolphins, triggered a positive response in the young man who will be Marlborough Boys’ College head boy in 2020.

“I went home and I through, ‘I want to do something’ … William had another take with his Cook Strait effort, so I thought ‘I like swimming … what can I do?’ And it just evolved from there.”

The Queen Charlotte swim has never been done before, one of the primary reasons George chose to do it, pushing himself well outside his personal comfort zone.

Although George is a competitive pool swimmer, one of the best in the Nelson Marlborough region for the past four years and an age-group silver medallist in the 1500m freestyle at the latest NZ short course champs, he has limited experience of long-distance ocean swimming.

He has competed in the annual 2.3km White’s Bay to Rarangi swim, setting the quickest time earlier this year, and has been training regularly with an ocean swim group in Picton. However, he reckons his longest previous ocean swim was around 12km, a far cry from what lies ahead.

The Black Dog Swim is estimated to cover 123km (66 nautical miles). George will hop into the water at Anakiwa, swim around to Picton then up the south side of the Sound to East Bay before crossing over the northern side for the trip back to Anakiwa. He expects to spend around six hours per day in the water for 10 days, with the longest leg covering about 18km.

George is well aware it is a bold step into the unknown.

“I feel I’ll never be fully prepared for it. It is going to be 10 days in the sea and I don’t feel that I can simulate that … but I reckon it is doable and I have a great support crew to help me get there.”

He has enlisted the help of local identities Ross Anderson and Norm Wilson, who have vast experience of the area, plus talked mental preparation with local endurance cyclist Craig Harper whose 10-day Ride Across America has certain parallels, and Dave Edgar, a vastly-experienced river, lake and ocean swimmer.

Although sharing his time with a string of school and environmental organisations, George is training around 10km each day in the pool, plus grabbing ocean swims whenever possible. His preparation is well-planned but the teenager admits he has some nerves as the start time approaches.

“Physically yes, but more so mentally. It’s just being in the water for six hours a day, especially on days four, five and six when it really starts to hurt … but I will push through it and it will all go well in the end.

“Completing the swim is possible, but I know I am going to have to put in a lot of hard work to make it happen.”

George’s Give A Little link is: https://givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/black-dog-swim-for-nz-youth-mental-health

Here is also the link to the Instagram account: https://instagram.com/blackdogswim

He will have regular updates on both Instagram and Facebook pages.

Ryan Marsh picked up a silver and a bronze medal in Auckland. Photo: Supplied.

Swim club quartet excel at short course national champs

Four Marlborough swimmers made the most of their trip to the 2019 Swimming NZ short course age and open championships which finished on Saturday in Auckland.

Six Blenheim Swim Club swimmers qualified for the event, staged at the National Aquatic Centre. They were Luci Maara, Jack Bugler, Ollie Mandeno, George Glover, Minnette Richards and Ryan Marsh but only Glover, Marsh, Richards and Mandeno made the journey north.

It was well worth it though, with the BSC quartet excelling across a variety of strokes and races.

Marsh, who swam the 50 and 100m backstroke, 200m freestyle, 100m and 200m butterfly plus the 100m IM, picked up two medals – a silver medal in the 13 years 200 and a bronze in the 13 years 100m fly. Along the way he set three unofficial Swimming Nelson Marlborough records as well as registering three top 10 finishes in the 13-year division. He set personal bests in the 100 back, 200 free, 100 IM, 100 and 200m butterfly.

Glover also had a tough schedule, swimming 100 and 200 IM, 200 free, 1500 free, 50 back plus 50, 100 and 200m breaststroke. He also medalled, winning silver in the 16 years 1500m freestyle. He also claimed five top 10 finishes in the 16-year-old division and set unofficial Swimming Nelson Marlborough records for 16 years in the 100 IM and 200 breaststroke events. Glover recorded PBs in his 100 and 200 IM, plus 50 and 200 breaststroke races.

Richards competed in breaststroke, swimming 50, 100 and 200m races. She set as PB in the 100m and matched her best over 50 and 200m.

Mandeno competed in the 400 IM and 200 butterfly, setting a new PB in the 200 fly.

Jack Bugler and Liz Peipi are reunited for a trip to the INAS Global Games. Photo: Peter Jones.

Marlborough duo bound for Brisbane

Marlborough swimmer Jack Bugler will have a familiar voice urging him on from poolside when he competes in Brisbane later this month.

Liz Peipi, a long-standing swim coach who helped Jack in his formative years, has offered to help the 17-year-old during his bid for success at the INAS (International Federation for Athletes with Intellectual Impairment) Global Games.

Liz and Jack will travel to Australia next week for the rapidly-growing event which runs from October 13-19, plus the three days of international classification which precede the Games.

The Games, which began in 1986 with 14 nations in attendance, now involve around 80 nations, making it the world’s biggest event for athletes with an intellectual impairment. It caters for over 1000 athletes across 10 sports, including 250 swimmers. This is the first time New Zealand has sent a swim team to the Games.

Like the Commonwealth Games, all the athletes, coaches and managers will share dining and accommodation facilities, making for a community atmosphere.

Liz will two other swimmers under her wing in Brisbane, Jane Fox (18) from the Orca Swim Club in Invercargill and 15-year-old Cuda Tawhai from the Taupo Swim Club, who along with Jack qualified for the Games at the recent national champs in Auckland.

Jack, who continually bettered his personal best times at the nationals, has a tough class S14 programme in Australia, contesting nine events across the full range of strokes. On some days he may have three races in the morning and three in the afternoon, if he reaches the finals.

Consequently, he is training hard to lift his fitness levels and working hard on technique with his regular Blenheim swim coach Jenni Gane, who was unable to travel to Brisbane.

However, Jack is well accustomed to Liz’s input. She originally worked with him as a six-year-old learning to swim, then reconnected at swim school aged 14.

Liz finished her lengthy stint as club coach in October 2018 but considers it an honour to be asked to help Jack, and the other youngsters, especially given she was associated with the formation of para-swimming when living and coaching in Greymouth and Westport. One of her favourite sporting quotes is, “Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better,” a mantra that fits Jack’s work ethic perfectly.

The INAS organisation is a full member of the International Paralympic Committee, with the Games offering a possible stepping stone to future Paralympic participation.

Jack Bugler trains in the Blenheim pool. Photo: Peter Jones.

Jack brings home two bronze

Marlborough swimmer Jack Bugler single-handedly ensured the Blenheim Swim Club had a strong presence at the New Zealand Open championships in Auckland last week.

Thanks to Jack’s results the Blenheim-based club placed 16th overall on points among the 70 clubs represented, “a huge effort from a single swimmer”, said club coach Jenni Gane.

“Jack had a wonderful week at the pool”, she added.

He brought home two bronze medals, placing third in both the 100m breaststroke and 200m freestyle finals.

Overall, Jack took off a staggering 49.67 seconds off his previous personal bests across 10 events.

Other placing included a fourth, four fifths and two sixths, with one event not counting as a para event.

Para swimmers in all classes compete together in the final and are scored against the world record in their classification.

The 16-year-old Marlborough Boys’ College year 12 student swims in the S14 category and has his sights set on representing his country at the Tokyo Olympic Para Games.

Racing in Auckland, the biggest meet of his career so far, Jack showed he can perform on the national stage despite being up against some exceptional swimmers, including a national S14 record holder, world para qualifiers and NZ para representatives.

Jack Bugler takes a break from training at the Marlborough Lines Stadium 2000 pool. Photo: Peter Jones.

Jack hits the road to NZ swim champs

Blenheim swimmer Jack Bugler headed to this week’s NZ Open Swimming Championships with big expectations – and an even bigger schedule.

The 16-year-old year 12 student at Marlborough Boys’ College faces a daunting 10 events over five days, across a variety of strokes.

Jack has swum for fun most of his life, but began competitive swimming only 12 months ago, initially under the coaching of Marion Moore and Liz Peipi, but now under the watch of Blenheim Swim Club head coach Jenni Gane.

Jack has competed at local events and the Tasman champs last year, as well as the Special Olympics National Summer Games, but the full nationals will be far and away the biggest event he has attended.

He has been training seven times each week for the past few months, keen to pick up a medal or two in Auckland and qualify for the S14 category events at the Tokyo Olympic Para Games. His performances in the 200m freestyle, the 100m backstroke, the 100m breaststroke, the 100m butterfly and the 200m individual medley will be monitored to see if he makes the grade.

Para swimming at Olympic level is divided into a series of classes, for swimmers with physical disabilities and visual impairments, plus those, such as Jack, with intellectual disabilities.

Jack is also keen to show his skills at the INAS Global Games, the world’s largest sporting event for elite athletes with intellectual impairment. It will be held in Brisbane during October, where he will be going for international qualification as a member of the NZ team.

Jenni, who has been working with Jack since October last year, has noticed a huge improvement in his pool performances.

“Jack has stepped up from swimming four sessions a week to doing seven … his times have really improved, doing PBs pretty much every time he hits the water, so going to the Opens will really set up where he is ranked and where he is sitting on the New Zealand scale.

“There are also medal opportunities [at the NZ champs] so I hope we bring back a bit of bling, which Jack is quite capable of, and I’m sure there will be a big smile on his face.”

Jack prefers the backstroke and breaststroke disciplines, adding that he also thrives on swimming medley events, underlining his growing prowess across all four strokes. “He does a pretty quick 100 free,” adds Jenni, “his confidence is growing”.

Jack says he enjoys both training and racing, plus the camaraderie of his fellow swimmers. He also relishes the feeling of going quickly through the water and has his eyes firmly set on picking up a medal, or two, in Auckland.

Given his current rate of progress he is unlikely to come home empty-handed.