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Hopping the pond for a swim

By Sam Morrow

Wairarapa teenage swim star Ava Wilson is diving from a small pool to a much larger one – with her eyes set on the New South Wales Open Water Championships later this year.

Ava, 14, won the girls’ 13-14 years 2.5km race and was second in the 5km event in the National Open Water Championships on Lake Taupo in January, earning selection to compete at the Australian competition, to be held in Sydney in December.

The long-time Carterton Swimming Club [CSC] member also won gold in the 1500m freestyle at the National Age Group Swimming Champs in Hawke’s Bay last month, smashing her personal best with a time of 17 minutes, 55 seconds.

Last year, Ava made the transition from swimming pool to open ocean – open water swimming caught her eye while visiting Wellington, inspiring her to sign up for the Banana Boat Ocean Swim Series, at Oriental Parade.

“I saw people doing the swim around the lighthouse in Wellington Harbour and thought I might try that and give it a go,” she said.

“I then did the National Secondary Schools Open Water Championships over at Mount Maunganui, which went all right.”

In fact, she won her first gold medal for open water swimming, finishing first in the 13-14 age group and was sixth female home overall.

Ava’s goal now is to topple the Aussies in their own backyard in New South Wales.

She will compete in the 2.5km race on the first day of the competition and then the 5km race the following day – formats she is very familiar with.

Aside from training, her biggest current challenge is fundraising to cover the costs of the trip. As swimming in New Zealand is mainly self-funded, the CSC and Ava’s family are exploring fundraising options, local sponsorship, and sports grants.

Ava signed up with the CSC shortly after her family moved to Wairarapa in 2015, and works under the tutelage of experienced swim coach Russell Geange. Father Brent Wilson noted the dedication Ava has put into her passion, which she has applied outside of swimming.

“She’s shown a lot of determination. She swims, on average, six or seven sessions a week at the moment, which is a huge commitment in itself,” Brent said.

“It’s a very hard sport, and you need discipline. And it’s really good life skills, which transfers over to schoolwork. She’s doing well academically at school, which is a good balance.”

Brent said Ava’s school, Solway College, has been very supportive of her swimming achievements.

    For more information on supporting Ava’s Australia trip, contact the Carterton Swimming Club at carterton [email protected].

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall is the editor of the Wairarapa Midweek. She has been a journalist for the past 10 years, and has a keen interest in arts, culture, social issues, and community justice.

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