Blenheim swimmer Jack Bugler headed to this week’s NZ Open Swimming Championships with big expectations – and an even bigger schedule.
The 16-year-old year 12 student at Marlborough Boys’ College faces a daunting 10 events over five days, across a variety of strokes.
Jack has swum for fun most of his life, but began competitive swimming only 12 months ago, initially under the coaching of Marion Moore and Liz Peipi, but now under the watch of Blenheim Swim Club head coach Jenni Gane.
Jack has competed at local events and the Tasman champs last year, as well as the Special Olympics National Summer Games, but the full nationals will be far and away the biggest event he has attended.
He has been training seven times each week for the past few months, keen to pick up a medal or two in Auckland and qualify for the S14 category events at the Tokyo Olympic Para Games. His performances in the 200m freestyle, the 100m backstroke, the 100m breaststroke, the 100m butterfly and the 200m individual medley will be monitored to see if he makes the grade.
Para swimming at Olympic level is divided into a series of classes, for swimmers with physical disabilities and visual impairments, plus those, such as Jack, with intellectual disabilities.
Jack is also keen to show his skills at the INAS Global Games, the world’s largest sporting event for elite athletes with intellectual impairment. It will be held in Brisbane during October, where he will be going for international qualification as a member of the NZ team.
Jenni, who has been working with Jack since October last year, has noticed a huge improvement in his pool performances.
“Jack has stepped up from swimming four sessions a week to doing seven … his times have really improved, doing PBs pretty much every time he hits the water, so going to the Opens will really set up where he is ranked and where he is sitting on the New Zealand scale.
“There are also medal opportunities [at the NZ champs] so I hope we bring back a bit of bling, which Jack is quite capable of, and I’m sure there will be a big smile on his face.”
Jack prefers the backstroke and breaststroke disciplines, adding that he also thrives on swimming medley events, underlining his growing prowess across all four strokes. “He does a pretty quick 100 free,” adds Jenni, “his confidence is growing”.
Jack says he enjoys both training and racing, plus the camaraderie of his fellow swimmers. He also relishes the feeling of going quickly through the water and has his eyes firmly set on picking up a medal, or two, in Auckland.
Given his current rate of progress he is unlikely to come home empty-handed.