GWANGJU, (THE REPORTERS ACADEMY) —The final swimming event for the Pacific island swimmers was the 4x100m Freestyle Mixed Relay, which saw three teams compete from the Pacific islands which include Sam Seghers, Georgia-Leigh Vele, Judith Meauri and Ryan Maskelyne from Papua New Guinea.
The team put in a fantastic performance, recording a time of 3 minutes 53.46 seconds, a new National Record.
They reduced the previous record time (3:57:93) by over four seconds, which was swum in New Zealand at the Oceania Championships in 2014.
Maskelyne was the first to comment after the race;
“ We don’t get the opportunity to do relays often, so it was good to get out there with the rest of the team.”
Closely followed by Seghers, who pointed out their coach’s expectations;
“ Our coach predicted us for a 3:52 so we went slightly over which is a bit disappointing. But it’s the end of the week, everyone’s wrecked, everyone’s cooked.”
Despite it being the end of the World Championships and the swimmers understandably feeling tired, it was a great performance from the PNG team.
They reflected positively on each of their legs, with Maskelyne explaining how much he enjoyed being the relay anchor;
“ Yeah, I was the anchor, I don’t often swim Freestyle so it was good to get up and have a crack. It’s also good for my Individual Medleys as well. The anchor is always the best spot, or the most pressure, so you want to work hard for your team. I enjoyed it!”
Seghers was next to reflect on his leg, where he was the first in the pool for his team. Slightly disappointed with his time, Seghers was aiming for a 52.6 in his leg, and returned a 52.84 second leg. With a smile he commented;
“ I led off. I was told by my coach that if I went at a 52.6 I wouldn’t have to warm down, so I’m going to have to warm down! But I tried a different race plan to what I usually do so I think it’s got potential. That’s what relays are, it’s a chance to experiment, if you have the time. I’m not unhappy with the result.”
Vele, was honest about competing in a mixed relay;
“ Kind of the same as Sam, a bit different, being in the middle I didn’t realise you’re kind of on your own, in the Mixed, especially if you’re up against boys. So you have to just give it your all and try your best, I’m happy.”
Meauri, who had just completed the Women’s 50m Freestyle clocking a time of 28.30 seconds, enjoyed the relay too;
“ I went off third. I’m with Sam leading off, there’s a bit of pressure to try and keep up, but I enjoyed the relay with the guys. It’s been good so far.”
It was a particularly impressive record time as this was the first time the team had competed as a relay team on the World’s stage. They interact well as a team both in and out of the water. Which Maskelyne confirmed;
“ I think you can relax a bit more and have fun with it because it’s a different swim. You get to experiment. I mean, every swim out there is great and you want to do as many as you can, and that’s why we entered into the relay. You’re going to go out there and give it your all, but the relay allows you to do something different and see what works for you. It’s always great having your team to back you up too.”
Seghers was quick to note that they’re a team who supports one another and don’t focus on the negatives afterwards.
“ It’s a team spirit. Everyone knows if you swim a bad race you’re not going to get crucified by the rest of the team members.”
Vele, in agreement with Seghers, praised her teammates for being supportive while training and competing in the relay. Swimming is often a sport done in isolation, so the importance of being together, is clearly something PNG do not take for granted;
“ With something that’s such an individual sport, it’s kind of nice to get a few opportunities to have other people you can sort of lean on and support you, down on the water not in the stand.”
The team are used to being in close proximity to one another, and agree they have a great friendship in and out of the pool, especially after spending a month together from the Pacific Games in Samoa to here in South Korea;
“ Well, we were lucky, as two weeks ago, we were all in Samoa together. So, we’ve had a month together now, so we’re pretty close and friendly. No-one hates each other…”
Smiling, Vele cheekily replied to Seghers statement with; “… Not yet!”
After a very successful month of competing for the PNG team, what is next for them?
Seghers sights are set high with qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
“ I think everyone will go back and have a week off, get your head down and try and make it into the Olympic team.”
Maskelyne was quick to remind everyone they have another championship they need to prepare for, the Oceania Championships in June next year, that they’ll all be competing in, in their respective disciplines;
“ Oceania is probably the next goal for June next year, we’ve got a couple of small Meets here and there, but Oceania in Fiji is the big one as that’s where they’re likely to pick the Olympic team from, so everyone will be working hard for that.”
There’s no denying the hard work and determination of the PNG team, but what’s even stronger is their bond as teammates and as friends, one of which will continue to grow as they move forward together in future competitions, and a new National Record will do nicely as a base for that growth….