Making A Splash On The World Stage

Thursday, 1 September 2022

The quest for World Championship glory has taken on a new shape for the pool athletes in the New Zealand Surf lifesaving Black Fins and junior Black Fins teams.

With the World Championships due to start in less than a month, the athletes in both teams are fine-tuning their preparations and gearing up for a showdown in Riccione, Italy.  It will be the first time in four years that the world’s best lifeguards come together to race after Covid-19 saw the 2020 event postponed.  And for the pool-based athletes, this year’s campaign has looked considerably different to others.

The biggest change has seen the majority of the swimmers training together under the guidance of a specific pool coach day-in, day-out.  One of New Zealand’s top swim coaches, John Gatfield, has joined the coaching team as pool rescue lead for this world championships campaign and has brought a number of the group together to train in Auckland.

“I personally think it’s been great,” he says.

“We’ve been able to work on a lot, but also allow for the opportunity for the athletes to share their skills and really dial up their performance.”

Gatfield returned to New Zealand from Brisbane in May, 2020 having been a part of the coaching group of the famous St Peters Western swim programme.  Amongst the St Peters Western stable was Australian swimming superstar Ariane Titmus and her equally famous coach Dean Boxall.  Gatfield coaches the Coast Swim Club team based in Orewa, Auckland and while it’s a change of pace compared to the Australian swim scene he says the athletes he has working with him are world class.

“Having the support of Surf Lifesaving New Zealand’s high performance programme to help us bring together the group has been really impactful,” he says.

“We have some phenomenal swimmers in this group. Some seasoned campaigners who are very much at the top end of the world’s best and new or newish members of the team who are going to really set the world on fire when we get to Italy.”

The majority of Gatfield’s charges recently took on their Australian competition in their own backyard at the Australian Pool Rescue Titles.

“There were some brilliant performances, some records and titles and I think we showed that the programme has been beneficial,” he says.

“The best thing is there’s still more improvement to be had.

“But we’re going to have to be at our absolute best in Italy. The European teams, amongst others, are always incredibly strong in the pool events. That’s their strength and they know it and exploit it.

“It’s not going to be an easy ride by any means, all of our pool athletes will need to fight for every result.”

The World Championships get underway in Riccione, Italy on September 27.

For updates on the Lifesaving World Championships click here.

John Gatfield
SLSNZ High Performance Pool Coach Support