Lewis Clareburt wins rare swimming gold for NZ at 2022 Commonwealth Games | Stuff.co.nz

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So much for being a weak breaststroker.

Record-smasher Lewis Clareburt won the men’s 400m Individual Medley at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham on Sunday morning (NZ time), heading off Australia’s Brendon Smith and Scotland’s Duncan Scott in a new Games record of 4:08.70.

In a tight contest, Clareburt led throughout but established the winning gap on the third 100m leg of the medley at a stroke that has always – until now – been his weakest.

Lewis Clareburt of New Zealand after winning the gold medal.

Aijaz Rahi/AP

Lewis Clareburt of New Zealand after winning the gold medal.

“It’s weird thinking how far it’s come,” a delighted Clareburt said soon after his win.

“I’ve been working on it so much, and it’s never really made a movement, until the last few weeks.

“I was talking to [coach] Gary [Hollywood] before this, and he was ‘well, this stroke’s one of your main strokes now’ after seeing some of the times we’ve been doing.

“It’s good to know that what we’re doing is working, and it worked at the right time – it all came together at once.”

Because of that, Clareburt became just the third New Zealand non-para swimmer to have claimed top spot on the podium this century, and obliterated the Commonwealth Games record in the process with his time of 4:08.70 almost a whopping three seconds quicker than the previous best mark.

Brendon Smith of Australia, Lewis Clareburt of New Zealand and Duncan Scott of Scotland pose with their medals after the men’s 400m IM.

Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Brendon Smith of Australia, Lewis Clareburt of New Zealand and Duncan Scott of Scotland pose with their medals after the men’s 400m IM.

Moss Burmester won gold in the men’s 200 metres butterfly in Melbourne in 2006, while Lauren Boyle triumphed in the women’s 400m freestyle eight years ago in Glasgow.

Earlier, Cameron Gray won a shock bronze for New Zealand in the men’s 50m butterfly final – a result Clareburt said inspired him.

The 18-year-old Aucklander was the seventh-fastest qualifier but blasted his way in lane one to finish third behind England’s Benjamin Proud and Singapore’s Tzen Wei Teong in 23.27 seconds – 0.01s ahead of Dylan Carter of Trinidad and Tobago.

Cameron Gray of New Zealand displays his bronze medal from the men's 50 metre butterfly final during the Commonwealth Games at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre in Birmingham.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

Cameron Gray of New Zealand displays his bronze medal from the men’s 50 metre butterfly final during the Commonwealth Games at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre in Birmingham.

Gray said he had to take his goggles off to make sure the scoreboard truly was telling him he’d won bronze.

Clareburt was the top qualifier from the morning semifinals, 0.60s quicker than Smith.

The Wellingtonian has been regarded as a potential gold medallist since his bronze in the same event at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. He was third at the 2019 world champs in South Korea, becoming the fifth New Zealander to win a medal at the world championships and first male to do so since Danyon Loader in 1994.

He was disappointed with his seventh-place finish in the final at the Tokyo Olympics last year, when he was the second-fastest qualifier for the final but struggled to sleep prior to the final, with heats held at night and finals the next morning.

Clareburt headed into the Games after a training camp in Spain in a confident manner and strong form, despite suffering from Covid-19 in the lead-up to the world championships in Hungary last month.

He was fourth in the final of his specialist 400IM event in a time of 4:10.98, and while that was 6.70 seconds behind winner Léon Marchand, the Frenchman almost broke the world record held by Michael Phelps, set at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

New Zealand were chasing their fourth medal in the pool shortly after Clareburt’s win, but 100m backstroker Andrew Jeffcoat finished a close fourth after the 23-year-old was the third-fastest qualifier in a tightly-packed field.

The New Zealand swim team in Birmingham opened their medal account on day one with a gold to Dame Sophie Pascoe in the women’s S9 100m freestyle and silver to fellow para swimmer Jesse Reynolds in the men’s S9 100m backstroke.

Australia’s Katja Dedekind set the Sandwell Aquatics Centre alight with a world record win in the women’s 50m freestyle final in 26.56s.


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