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Taranaki swimmer Zac Reid's Olympian effort propels him towards the Tokyo 2021 Games

Taranaki swimmer Zac Reid spends about 21 hours a week training.
DAVID WHITE/STUFF
Taranaki swimmer Zac Reid spends about 21 hours a week training.

It was the tears in his mother's eyes that told Taranaki swimmer Zac Reid all he needed to know – he'd met the qualifying time for the Tokyo Olympics.

On Sunday, the Taranaki swimmer hit the Olympic 800-metre Freestyle qualifying time of 7:54.31 when he achieved a time of 7:53.50 at the 2020 ASA Open Championship.

The event, held at the West Wave pool in Auckland, also doubled as the first qualification trials for swimming for the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which are taking place next year.

In doing so, Reid also broke the New Zealand Open Record and shaved 3.9 seconds off his previous personal best.

“I was a bit nervous and scared to look at the [time] board actually because if I didn’t get it I was going to be distraught,” he said.

Zac celebrated his achievement by going out for dinner with his mum, coaches and training partner.
DAVID WHITE/STUFF
Zac celebrated his achievement by going out for dinner with his mum, coaches and training partner.

“I looked up at my mum first, but she couldn’t look at me because she was crying on the phone to my dad.”

The 20-year-old's father, Byron, represented New Zealand at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland and qualified for that event in the same pool three decades ago.

On Monday, Zac Reid said the achievement had not yet sunk in, as he was at a swimming camp and had to get back to training.

But to celebrate he did go out for dinner with his mum, Wendy, coaches and training partner.

“You can't do much on a Sunday night when you have training the next day.”

Zac Reid kept up his training during coronavirus lockdown, albeit at home. (file photo)
ANDY JACKSON/STUFF
Zac Reid kept up his training during coronavirus lockdown, albeit at home. (file photo)

However, Reid said he would take some time off – about a week in total – over Christmas and Boxing Day and then at New Year to go to Rhythm and Vines with friends.

Afterwards he’d get back in the pool and gym, kicking off another three-month training cycle.

Reid, who spends about 21 hours a week training, said making the qualification time was a little like getting “the monkey off your back”.

It was also proof the life decisions he'd made to pursue his dreams were worth it.

Reid was also proud of the fact he had done it all while living and training in Taranaki.

Zac is making a splash in the world of swimming.
DAVID WHITE/STUFF
Zac is making a splash in the world of swimming.

“It just proves you don't need the fancy stuff.”

His father, who is a detective sergeant with the Taranaki police CIB, was driving home from Mt Maunganui with Reid's sister, Sasha, when he got the call.

After phoning other relatives to share the news, Byron took a few minutes to “gather” himself before resuming his drive back to Taranaki.

And Bryon, who finished 10th in the 100m freestyle and fourth in the 4x100m freestyle relay, was not concerned his son's achievements had surpassed his own.

“It's a really cool thing for that to have happened.”

Zac Reid's coach Sue Southgate says his Olympic qualifying time was two-and-a-half years in the making. (file photo)
ANDY JACKSON/STUFF
Zac Reid's coach Sue Southgate says his Olympic qualifying time was two-and-a-half years in the making. (file photo)

Reid's coach Sue Southgate was also chuffed with his achievement.

Southgate has coached Reid since he was 11 years old but said she didn't know back then he'd get this far.

Reid was 15 or 16 before he realised he could be really good, Southgate said.

Zac Reid in the water on Monday at the West Wave pool in Auckland.
DAVID WHITE/STUFF
Zac Reid in the water on Monday at the West Wave pool in Auckland.

“The big thing is their own drive to succeed. Sometimes it's there from the start, sometimes it's a gradual thing. He didn’t start off being a world beater.”

Reid becomes the first Taranaki swimmer to qualify for the Games while living and training in the region.

He follows in the same lane as Dylan Dunlop-Barrett, whom Southgate coached until 2010, when he left Taranaki to train in Australia and then Auckland.

In March 2012, Dunlop-Barrett qualified for that year's London Olympics, in which he was part of the 4x200m Freestyle relay event.

Southgate said Reid's Olympic qualifying time had been two-and-a half years in the making.

In mid-2017 they had decided to concentrate on the 800m because they felt that was the event in which he had the best chance of Olympic qualification.

Southgate said Reid completed three gym sessions and nine pool sessions, swimming between 55 and 60 kilometres, every week.

And it had all paid off, she said.

“I’m very proud of the fact he's been willing to do the work. It [qualification] is very good for a little place like Taranaki.”

Stuff - Blanton Smith and Leighton Keith05:00, Dec 15 2020 DAVID WHITE/STUFF

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