Our student swimming for gold in Tokyo

Our student swimming for gold in Tokyo

Lewis Clareburt is Aotearoa’s most talked about swimmer, and touted as a favourite to medal in the medley events at the Tokyo Olympics. Just before he got on the plane to Japan, myView asked the humble BCom student what it’s like to be on the brink of Olympic glory.

myView: As a busy student and an Olympic athlete, how have you managed to keep on top of both study and training?

Lewis Clareburt: It’s been relatively easy until this trimester, I guess. I didn’t realise just how full-on and gruelling an Olympic campaign could be. But apart from these last three months its actually been super nice. It’s a distraction away from the pool and I can have a social life with normal people that do normal things. It has been good, but this year has been crazy with everything extra that the Olympics brings, making it more tough than usual.

Te Herenga Waka student Lewis Calreburt waves to the crowd after breaking one of his own New Zealand medley records earlier this year. Image: Swimming NZ/BW Media

myView: You’re a hot favourite for the medley events. What appeals to you about medley swimming…has it always been a favourite of yours?

LC: When you’re a junior you do all four strokes, just to learn all four. Most people would find one stroke that suited them that they were the best at and stick to that. For me, I never found the one stroke that was my best, so I was competing across the board and I guess I just fell into the medley. I didn’t really choose it, it chose me.

myView: If you’re studying at Pipitea campus, does that mean you train at Freyberg? What do you like about your study and training places?

LC: I enjoy Pipitea, it’s a bit smaller than Kelburn and it’s cool being next to Parliament and near the centre of town. It’s lively and there’s a lot going on. Freyberg pool is similar—you’re right by the beach in summer, it’s always packed, and there’s always people walking around, and the community is cool around that area. The vibe is awesome as well. I’m still living at home up in Roseneath with mum and dad which is quite nice.

MyView: Has it worked to your advantage with the Olympics being delayed a year, or would you have preferred the original 2020 time slot?

LC: It would have been nice to get it done, but in terms of my performance the extra year definitely helped finalise a few of my strokes and improve a few things in my swim, so it was probably a blessing in disguise having that extra year to develop as a swimmer and grow, and get that little bit of extra training under my belt.

myView: What are you studying towards and what do you hope to do with that in your future? B Com major in information systems and management.

LC: Yeah I’m still asking myself that, a lot of the time. I haven’t really decided what I want to do with it. I know with a commerce degree you have a wide range of jobs. Both of my sisters did a BCom and one of them ended up in the public sector, and another in the private sector now. I’m not 100 percent sure what I want to do but I know that the digital technology world is probably where I want to end up. I might end up throwing it all away and deciding to stay in sport, but the technology area is my favourite part of what I’ve studied and that’s where I want to end up.

Lewis’ heats are on Saturday 24 and Wednesday 28 July for the 400m and 200m medley events in Tokyo. Full details at bottom of page. Image: Swimming NZ/BW Media.

myView: Other than your sport and study, how do you spend your downtime?

LC: At the moment I was just playing PlayStation with all my mates. I guess I like hanging out with my swimming mates on the outside of the pool. It’s difficult making time for a lot of people because my schedule is the opposite to most of my schoolmates for instance, they’re all working during the day, and free in the morning and night, whereas I’m free during the day. It’s hard to make time for some of my old friends but I enjoy catching up and having breakfast.

myView: How many in the squad?

LC: Seven, and five support staff. We will be joining the Olympic village together—missing one swimmer because she is based in the US, so she’ll meet us over there, and another one who needs to come from  Australia.

myView: What’s your favourite thing about studying in Wellington?

LC: It’s such a cool city. Everything is so close. The student city is so close, it’s a cool vibe to be around. I love being able to grow up in Wellington, swim in wellington, and study in Wellington. I can do everything I need; I can do sport, study, and have a life in Wellington.

myView: Should you carry on with swimming, what opportunities are there overseas?

LC: I’ve definitely thought about going overseas when I first started University but I felt like my home programme was the best place I could be, and I don’t know how long I will enjoy swimming for, but overseas is not an option for me at the moment for what I need.  The sort of support I get in Wellington is probably the best I’ll get in the world, for me. Swimming is quite individualised. For me, staying in Wellington is probably the best thing. 

myView: What does it mean to you to represent New Zealand in the Olympics?

LC: I guess it gives you a sense of pride. I train every day for the one goal of representing New Zealand on the Olympic stage. It goes through my head every single day and that’s why I do it. It feels great to be able to do this, not just for myself, but my team that works around me. I have a pretty awesome team that support me in all my goals.

Lewis is a member of Capital Swim Club in Te Whanganui a Tara and is studying for a Bachelor of Commerce at Wellington Business School. Image: Swimming NZ/BW Media

myView: What is that made up of?

LC: Yeah I’ve got a head coach, and we have two assistants, one of them has just left. Two assistants, my High-Performance Sport NZ staff, a psychologist, a nutritionist, an athlete life advisor, my strength and conditioning coach…. and then we’ve got swimming NZ who directly support my programme, and also Karl from University Recreation who helps me with the sporting side at the University as well. There are heaps more people who are involved, but that’s a few people.

myView: Have you got a message for your friends at Uni for when your heats and finals are coming up in the pool?

LC: If they want to watch me that would be pretty sweet. I’ll be swimming on 24th and 25th July, then the 28, 29, and 30 July. I hope they are able to watch and able to see one of their classmates or group members representing NZ. Hopefully they feel like they’ve been a part of that journey and they feel a sense of pride as well.

Lewis’ race details:

Heats 400m Individual Medley: 10 pm, Saturday 24 July; Finals 400m Individual Medley: 1.30pm, Sunday 25 July.

Heats 200m Individual Medley: 10 pm, Wednesday 28 July; semifinals, 3.08 pm, Thursday 29 July; finals 2.16 pm, Friday 30 July.

Lewis Clareburt is a third-year student studying for a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Information Systems and Management. He will represent New Zealand in swimming at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

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