It’s an action-packed year for the Junior Black Fins team as they prepare to take on the world at the 2018 Lifesaving World Championships in Adelaide in November.
Year 12 New Plymouth Girls’ High School athlete Claudia Kelly and the team's co-captain wouldn’t have it any other way in a sport she loves.
“It’s really exciting to be training hard at the moment to represent New Zealand, for a young sportsperson it is the highest level to reach so it feels amazing to be able to do this,” said Claudia who represents the East End Surf Life Saving Club.
“This week I am at a swimming training camp near New Plymouth so it’s a big workload at the moment, we have two two-hour training sessions each day plus a gym or dry land session as well.”
Claudia is the second youngest person in the 12-strong Junior Black Fins team that features a dedicated group of current and recent school-aged surf lifesavers from around the country. The youngest is Briana Irving from Gisborne Girls’ High School.
The Lifesaving World Championships consists of 43 pool and beach lifesaving events over five days of competition, including three days of pool events and two days of beach and ocean events. Claudia is an all-rounder.
“I am a craft person, so I do board and ski but my main event is the ironwoman, and I also do some pool events as well.
The ironwoman or oceanwoman is like a surf rescue medley event. “It is sort of like a triathlon of the water, it involves a surf swim and then a board leg, and a surf ski leg with a run transition in between. It’s a full-on 15 minute race.”
Claudia has recently returned from Japan with the New Zealand Surf Life Saving High Performance team that finished second behind Australia at the annual Sanyo Cup competition.
“We did really well as a young team and we were quite close behind Australia. They won by 20 points on day one but on day two we pulled together and they finished only eight points in front of us.”
Other countries competing at the Sanyo Cup included USA, Great Britain, Netherlands, South Africa, Hong Kong and Japan. Claudia said the World Championships will be a step up in intensity and with more countries competing, but this and other recent high level competition means they know what to expect.
This was Claudia’s second time competing at the Sanyo Cup, and she has other international experience, being part of the team for the DHL International Surf Rescue (ISRC) challenge at Mt Maunganui late last year.
She was part of the New Zealand Youth (U19) team that finished second overall in the three-Test series behind Australia, with Great Britain, South Africa and the USA filling the minor places. New Zealand won the second Test, with Claudia winning the Mixed Board Relay and Female Tube Rescue and Beach Relay team events.
Earlier in 2017 she took home a Taranaki record of nine medals from SLSNZ Nationals.
How long has she been doing surf lifesaving for?
“I have been doing surf lifesaving for as long as I remember. I started because we live near the sea in New Plymouth and our whole family has always loved the beach and I think my parents wanted me to be safe at the beach so I got into it that way.”
Working as a surf lifeguard is a pre requisite for competing, and the associated competitive events all replicate what can be required in the serious side of patrolling the beaches and potentially saving lives.
“When we turn 14 in order to be able to compete at senior level surf events we have to complete our lifeguard award and be actively patrolling lifeguards. So we all do that over summer. We are all people that love to be at the beach anyway and we are helping out the community as well.”
Claudia also has a background in other sports. “I was a competitive dancer for 10 years, then when I was younger I was involved in lots of sports. The last few years I have been focusing on cross country, swimming and at the moment surf lifesaving.”
Both her older brother Chris and sister Isabella have represented New Zealand in secondary school cross country. Both were good surf athletes as well.
Claudia is also accomplished academically, doing some level 3 NCEA subjects as well as level 2. “I love French, chemistry and maths and chemistry.”
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