Carterton swimmer Ava Wilson overcame extreme heat, bringing home a bronze medal and a fifth placing from the New South Wales Open Waters Swimming Championships in West Sydney.
Temperatures at the Sydney International Regatta Centre in Penrith, the venue for rowing and canoeing at the 2000 Olympics, touched 40 degrees Celsius with a water temperature of 28C, conditions foreign to the talented 15-year-old.
Wilson’s preparation for the event was also disrupted after she was advised a couple of weeks before the event that she was too old to contest the 2.5km swim and that she would have to race over 7.5km, a distance she had not previously attempted, as well as the 5km, raced on two consecutive days.
Despite the unfamiliar conditions and the challenge of the extra distance, Wilson was a credible fifth in the 7.5km race, finishing in a time of one hour 44 minutes 4.2 seconds – about 3.5 minutes behind the winner, fellow New Zealand representative Olivia Bates from Auckland.
She backed that up with a bronze medal in the 5km, completing the course in 1:06:34.66, just 16 seconds behind the winner, Bates.
The NSW event was likely to be the last for Wilson under the tutelage of veteran coach Russell Geange, with the family to relocate to Auckland to further her swimming career.
Father Brent Wilson said it was a tough decision to make, but there aren’t the numbers to challenge Ava at Carterton, and for her to progress, they made the decision to move.
Wilson will hook up with the Coast Swimming Club in Silverdale on the North Shore – a strong up-and-coming club with a number of potential New Zealand internationals, including some pushing for Olympic selection and others who have already represented New Zealand. Her first involvement with her new club is a two-week training camp in Cambridge later this month.
Brent believes the move could be the impetus Ava needs to realise her ambitions.
“She really wants to progress and really wants to give it a push and represent New Zealand at a higher level, so we had to look at where best to do that,” he said.
“Being in that high-performance environment will probably accelerate her performances, and it will be exciting to see how she goes at the nationals this year.”