A recent trip to Japan with the New Zealand development surf lifesaving team gave Wellington College Year 11 surf lifesaver and swimmer Atakura Julian a good taste of international competition.
“It was my first time representing New Zealand and it was great experience and an eye opener for me, to see where every country is at and to get a feel for how we go against others,” Atakura said.
The 16-year old was called up as a rookie in the 10-strong New Zealand team that finished third behind winners Australia at the Sanyo Bussan International Lifesaving Cup in Japan in late June.
Australia finished on 854 points to comfortably win the title for the tenth consecutive year with hosts Japan in second with 711 and the Kiwis close behind on 703 points. South Africa finished fourth, USA fifth, Japan B sixth, the Netherlands seventh and Hong Kong eighth.
Atakura did well in a number of events, including finishing second in the men’s Tube Rescue and men’s Oceanman Relay team events and seventh overall in the individual men’s Surf Race and fourth in the men’s team Surf Race.
Another current secondary school team member, Claudia Kelly from New Plymouth Girls’ High School, earned two silvers, a bronze and gold with the women’s Beach Relay team.
Before they returned home, the athletes spent a morning in a cultural exchange with 150 10 and 11 year-olds at the beach, guiding them through what they do and what they love about surf lifesaving.
Previously, Atakura enjoyed success at the the New Zealand Surf Life Saving Championships in Christchurch in March.
“I won golds in the U16 Surf Race, the U16 Run Swim Run, the U16 Surf Team and Tube Rescue, so I was really happy with that.”
He currently starts and finishes his day training five days a week with the Capital Swim Club at Freyberg Pool overlooking Wellington’s Oriental Bay.
After returning from Japan, Atakura is preparing for more competition on the other side of winter, starting in the pool.
“We have the New Zealand Short Course Championships coming up in October in Auckland and the NZSS Swimming Championships before that in Hamilton.”
Wellington College have been one of the dominant schools at the NZSS championships, winning in 2011, 2012 and 2012, finishing third in 2015 and second in 2014 and last year when Westlake Boys’ High School won.
Atakura would love to emulate the success of a few years ago and bring the title back to the school in its 150th year in 2017.
Atakura’s specialist events are 200m freestyle and 200m butterfly.
Looking ahead to the end of the year, he hopes to head to Australia for swimming and surf lifesaving events.
Atakura was a keen spectator before he took up surf lifesaving.
“I have been doing this four just over four years ago – I’ve been attracted to the water since I was little and I just saw people going out there and I thought I’d go down and see what’s all about.”
He joined Wellington’s Lyall Bay club and hasn’t looked back. Competitive swimming came on the back of the surf lifesaving.
School friend Luther Maxwell is another athlete Lyall Bay doing well, winning the U16 Ironman title at the National Championships in Christchurch and Liam Chesney of nearby St Pat’s Town won the U16 Beach Run.
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