2015 World Junior Champion Gabrielle Fa’amausili has withdrawn from New Zealand’s team for the 2018 Commonwealth Games. She will undergo surgery in March at the end of the NCAA (U.S. collegiate) season on her left knee to repair her meniscus and reconstruct her ACL, Swimming New Zealand says.
“This was a tough decision to make, I understand how much of an amazing opportunity and honour it is to be selected to represent NZ at such a pinnacle meet, however I don’t feel like I could represent our country to the best of my ability with the stress of injury on my mind,” Fa’amausili said. “I need to sit these games out in order to have a successful freshman year here at UGA and allow time for knee surgery and recovery so I can come back in top form to represent New Zealand at future competitions.”
Fa’amausili joined Georgia for the sprint semester of the 2017-2018 season. She finished 7th at last weekend’s SEC Championship meet in the 50 yard free (22.32, after a 22.18 in prelims), 12th in the 100 back (52.71), and 13th in the 100 free (49.07). She currently ranks 25th nationally in the 50 free with a time likely (though not guaranteed) to earn an invite to NCAAs individually.
She also swam a leg of Georgia’s 400 free relay, splitting 49.10; anchored their 200 medley relay in 21.73; and led off their 200 free relay in 22.77. Georgia has confirmed that she intends to swim at the NCAA Championships, if invited.
The 18-year-old won the 50 backstroke World Junior title in 2015, breaking the World Jr record in the process (that record has since been broken). She was also a finalist in the 100 back at those championships. At the senior level, Fa’amausili competed at the 2017 World Championships in Budapest last summer, swimming to a 23rd place in the 50 back prelims.
Fa’amausili holds the New Zealand 50 backstroke record along with several age group records in sprint free and backstroke.
While recovery from the ACL injury could take into next season, there is plenty of precedent for swimmers recovering to elite levels after knee surgery: former Texas A&M swimmer Sarah Henry won an NCAA title in the 400 IM (which included swimming breaststroke) after at least 2 ACL tears.
New Zealand’s roster for the Commonwealth Games drops to 17. Fa’aumisili was scheduled to swim as part of the women’s 400 free relay.