18-year-old swims blinder to pick up surprise bronze

New Zealand swimmer Lewis Clareburt took four seconds off his personal best to win a bronze medal in the 400m individual medley at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

Lewis Clareburt wins bronze in the mens 400m medley. Photo: Photosport

Clyde Lewis from Australia won the gold, and Mark Szaranek from Scotland, the silver.

Clareburt‘s surprise bronze was New Zealand‘s first medal in the pool at the Games, with his teammates failing to fire in another five finals on Friday.

He qualified for the final behind fellow New Zealander Bradlee Ashby, but blitzed his previous personal best to finish in 4:14.42 at his first major international event.

Ashby started strongly, holding a podium place for the majority of the race before slipping to fifth in the final leg.

2017 was a standout year for Clareburt, who won three golds and four silver medals at the Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas.

He was thrilled to get a medal, let alone New Zealand‘s first in swimming.

“To do a four-second PB [personal best] is always so cool to do, and to do it here‘s even better.”

He swam a strong backstroke leg, briefly getting into first place at the halfway mark before losing ground again in the breaststroke leg.

That had been the plan, Clareburt said.

“I knew that I needed to push my backstroke if I wanted to win a medal.”

He had a “pretty rough” backstroke leg in qualifying, which he put down to first-race nerves.

“I‘ve done a lot of work on my backstroke and breaststroke. To do a good backstroke split [in the final] and to hold that lead, I was pretty stoked about that.”

Clareburt was not sure where he had finished until he hit the wall.

“I was breathing towards the side where all the boys were but I honestly had no idea where I was, so it was good to just look up at the board and see that I was third place.”

It was an honour to win New Zealand‘s first swimming medal of the Games, he said.

“I‘ve got the ball rolling for them and hopefully they can keep it going and bring [New Zealand swimming] back on the world stage.”

New Zealand swimmers competed in another five finals last night, but did not finish in the medals.

The men‘s 4x100m freestyle relay team came closest, finishing fourth behind Australia, England and Scotland.