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Lewis Clareburt caused a storm at the Junior Commonwealth Games recently. The Year 13 swimmer from Scots College, Wellington was the most successful athlete in the entire competition winning three gold and four silver medals. There were 1034 athletics representing 64 countries.
The last thing Clareburt actually expected was a storm before a final, and what’s more it was prior to his signature event the 400m individual medley. Clareburt captures the drama.
“It turned real dark suddenly and the officials advised us the race was postponed. They said the delay wouldn’t last long, but it dragged on to 90 minutes. There was thunder which didn’t actually land in the pool, but all we could do was stretch and wait.”
“They didn’t even have WiFi,” Clareburt laughs.
Clareburt’s gold medal was soon splashed all over the internet. He secured a start to finish victory.
“I led out from the butterfly which is a stroke I really like. I managed to hold the lead in the backstroke. Breaststroke is my weakest discipline, because I am still building the muscle required to go faster, but I was happy with my split. I brought it home in the freestyle,” Clareburt recalls.
Clareburt’s victory time would have been good enough to finish 16th at the recent World Championships. Officially he is ranked 40th in the world.
It should be noted international swimming powerhouse Australia sent a B team to the Games prioritising the World Junior Championships in Indiana later this month. However Clareburt’s time would have won him the Australian National title.
“It would have been nice to go to the World Championships, but swimming New Zealand chose to send a team to the Bahamas instead. I’m not concerned the top Australians were absent. I am racing the clock and winning for the first time on the international stage has built my confidence,” Clareburt states
Clareburt derived great satisfaction from his gold in the 4x400m mixed freestyle relay. New Zealand chose a fastest to slowest approach and Clareburt gained a lead in the first leg which the Kiwis managed to preserve.
“It was real interesting the mixed relay. I’d only done a couple at club meets before. Chelsey Edwards (also from Wellington) swum the last leg. She was against a couple of boys, but did really well to bring it home.”
It wasn’t always plain sailing for Clareburt. He struck trouble in the 200m individual medley and finished with a silver medal.
“I was in the lead, but during the backstroke leg the sun was so bright I couldn’t see where I was going. Towards the end of the lap I got my hands caught briefly in the lane ropes. Those few seconds cost me the gold,” Clareburt rues.
Clareburt established five New Zealand records in the Bahamas. He broke the under-17 mark for the 400m individual medley and 200m freestyle. Additionally he passed the under-18 barriers in both the 200m and 400m individual medley and the 200m freestyle.
Clareburt’s next goal is to perform strongly at the National Short Course Championships in October.
Curiously in March, Clareburt was discarded from the New Zealand High Performance program where leading swimmers receive a card which entitles them to benefits such as free gym membership and access to expert coaching.
Clareburt has chosen to stay in Wellington in 2018 rejecting half a dozen scholarships from the US. If his Commonwealth Games form continues he might have to swart aside even more offers from the States.