Swimming New Zealand has announced the dates of its 2016 New Zealand Open, which will throw a wrench into the Rio training preparations specifically for those Kiwis competing in the United States’ NCAA championships.
The Open, which doubles as the qualifying meet for the 2016 Olympic games, has been held in late April in the past, but will now be held March 28th-April 1st in 2016. Dates were moved since the previous schedule rendered the Paralympics’ swimmers needing to seek qualification overseas, since the Open would fall outside of qualifying timelines. The late April time frame also did not allow for key national age events to be staged within school holidays, according to the NZ Herald.
With the 2016 NCAA Championships being held March 17-19th (women) and March 24-26th (men), this new timing will leave little time for Kiwi elite swimmers who double as NCAA student athletes to physically travel to their home country, let alone be simultaneously training both short course yards and long course meters to be successful at both in such a short time frame. Affected potential Olympians impacted include Matthew Hutchins, Corey Main and Natasha Lloyd, who compete at the University of Wisconsin, University of Florida, and Auburn University, respectively.
Putting his reaction into words, Big Ten 500 freestyle champion Hutchins said, “I am devastated. Our [college] season finishes two days before the Open and we now have to travel 20 hours and compete the next day. It was previously over a month.” Appreciating his commitment to Wisconsin, Hutchins further stated, “I came [here] to improve my swimming and to achieve a top quality degree – and it has been incredible. Before I left, I was a fair bit away from the qualifying times for Rio. Now, after some incredibly hard training, I am right on them. But it appears to [have] been in vain as the decision to move the Opens has effectively robbed me of my dreams to complete at the Olympics.”
For her part, Lloyd reiterated her national teammate’s sentiments, expressing, “Originally having a month post-NCAAs of long-course training would have been a fantastic lead up, but now we are left with a few days to cope with the massive adjustment from 25 yards to  metres. It surprises me changes have been made, [especially] considering some of the swimmers who are likely to qualify for the Olympics are based in America.”
Christian Renford, Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) CEO says that the adjusted date is indeed “the fairest for all competitors” and had buy-in from both high performance coaches and Paralympics New Zealand. He did note that SNZ would work with swimmers based in the United States to “find a solution”.