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Lewis Clareburt has been around the water for as long as he can remember. He first started swimming when he was three years old and began competitive swimming at the age of eight.
For a long time Clareburt concedes he was a tentative swimmer. He can recall being lapped in several races.
"I kind of fell away for a while, but I stuck at it when others quit. In 2015 I won my first National title in the 400m medley in Wellington and got noticed by High Performance Sport and that has helped me hugely," Clareburt says.
At the 2016 New Zealand Age Group Championships Lewis won four national age group titles, in the 200m and 400m freestyle, 200m butterfly and 400m individual medley.
His time in the 400m freestyle, 4:01.89, was a personal best by 8 seconds and also saw him qualify for the New Zealand team to compete at the 2016 Junior Pan Pacific Championships.
His winning time in the 400m individual medley (4:31.19) broke a 26 year old Wellington record.
"I didn't expect to qualify for the Pan Pac's. It wasn't something I planned to be honest," Clareburt admits.
At the Junior Pan Pacific Championships in Hawaii Lewis continued to set personal best times in 400m freestyle and individual medley. In the 400m freestyle he finished 12th in a time of 3:58.66 and in the 400m individual medley he finished 11th in 4:25.54. In the 200m butterfly he finished 7th in a time of 2:03.56 beating his previous personal best in that event by nearly three seconds. What does Clareburt attribute his dramatic improvement to?
"The high performance program has been massive for me. Lately I have been training 23 hours a week. The access to better equipment, nutritional advice and my new coach Gary Hollywood have been huge. Gary tells me it's the extra stuff that counts."
This summer Clareburt won eight gold medals at the Wellington Long Course Swimming Championships and broke three Wellington records, and on Sunday won the 3km Capital Classic.
"That was a tough race. It was really windy and the water was choppy, There were two laps on the course. On the first lap I just tried to stay with the main pack before making my move. It was hard work, but it ended well," Clareburt says.
In addition to swimming Clareburt is involved in surf life saving. This summer has been a golden one for Clareburt. A fortnight ago at the Surf Challenge in Wairmarama, Clareburt competed for Capital Coast in the Open division winning five gold medals and helping Wellington win the Open Division title for the first time in 16 years.
Lewis is also a member of the Junior Black Fins team. Last year Clareburt and his family travelled to the World Championships in the Netherlands for the World Junior Championships. Competing against 39 counties Clareburt defied his own expectations returning home with a World title and five silver medals. He won his gold medal in the rescue tube and rescue race.*
"That was a total surprise, but a great feeling. My teammates were great and in a close race that was crucial," Clareburt acclaims.
Clareburt missed almost the whole of term three last year. Despite this he managed to pass NCEA level two and is a prefect at Scots. Most of his foreign travel expenses are covered through his own fundraising.
In 2017, Clareburt is targeting qualification the Junior Commonwealth Games in the Bahamas. He hopes to add to his burgeoning medal collection.
"I have about 300 medals in a big bag in my wardrobe. I am running out of room, but I guess I can find some more," Clareburt laughs.
*The event consists of four persons - a patient, a Rescue Tube swimmer and two rescuers. The rescue tube swimmer swims out behind the buoy line to secure the rescue tube around the patient and then tow the patient back to the beach. On return to the beach, two rescuers must drag or carry the patient past the finish line.