More than 1000 athletes are counting down to the State Capital Classic which will be held in Wellington this Sunday.
It is the third event in the six swim series which has reported a record number of 6,500 series registrations this season. Many of them have remarkable stories to tell.
Take Craig Dent for example. The New Plymouth builder Craig Dent had triple bypass heart surgery in 2009 but getting back into competitive swimming has been a big part of his recovery.
He started swimming at the age of nine to help with bad asthma and even his recent health troubles haven’t stopped him competing in his fifth series event.
Dent was out of the water for only six months after his heart operation in 2009 but it seems like a distant memory for the man who is also looking to swim across Lake Taupo later this year.
“Ever since I was a young lad, I’ve always enjoyed being in or on the water and the feeling of freedom that comes with swimming,” said the 56-year-old.
“So when I heard about the State NZ Ocean Swim series I thought it would be good to give it a go. Five years on and while it’s an achievement to just keep swimming, like any competitor, I’m going out to beat my personal best at the very least.”
Dent’s love of the water extends beyond competition – he also runs a Masters swim club three to four times a week, running classes from the pools at the local aquatic centre as well ocean swims in the Ports area.
There is also no stopping fellow swimming enthusiast Lucienne Beyer.
The 51-year-old, who moved to New Zealand from the Netherlands in 1986, will compete in her fourth series event despite only recently having an operation for a broken collar bone.
Beyer was cycling on a training ride when a fellow cyclist lost her balance and knocked her off her bike.
She was told her collar bone would heal without surgery. The expat did her best to continue to keep fit and was disappointed she couldn’t swim properly during this time.
After receiving a second opinion, Beyer had an operation 10 months later where the surgeon inserted a plate and screws over her collarbone. She began swimming slowly again and next weekend will put her training to the test when she competes in the ‘I’m going long’ 3.3 km Ocean Swim.
“I always look forward to the State Capital Classic,” said Beyer.
“Wellington is my favourite city which is why I always choose to compete in this particular State NZ Ocean Swim. After a rough year, I am really looking forward to competing again this year and hope to better my time from 2012.
“My son has just started swimming again too so I’m hoping I can convince him to join me as he always states he can beat me hands down and I’d like to see him try.”
Beyer said the hours of training in the pool are all worthwhile when you get to compete in the big events.
“Swimming in the ocean is a real test. I love the freedom of swimming in open water and the long distances. I enjoy that endurance aspect. I also like the atmosphere during this event and sometimes you end up meeting friends you haven’t seen in a while.”
Meanwhile Lyall Bay resident Tony Hickmore has enjoyed a fine comeback of his own. He has been competing in the series since after suffering a heart attack four years ago
“There tends to be a perception that people with heart attacks need to take it easy but I think it’s so important to just enjoy life and be active,” he said.
The 60-year-old has been donning his wetsuit and competing around the country this summer and is looking forward to swimming in home waters.
“I’ve always enjoyed swimming and enjoy a big challenge so I originally set out to compete in the State NZ Ocean Swim Series just to see if I could do it. This year, I’m going out there to win.”
Being active runs in the family – his sister is Dancing with the Stars winner and judge, Carol-Ann.
Hickmore has a competitive background to call on. Growing up he was a professional motorcross rider and most recently he worked for Scouts NZ before giving up his position to become a swim coach at the Kilbirnie Pool.
It is characters like Dent, Beyer and Hickmore who are “drowning their troubles” by swimming that make the national series inspiring for many others.
“This series is all about giving it a go,” said Scott Rice State NZ Ocean Swim Series Event Director.
“We hope that the qualities shown by Craig, Tony and Lucienne of courage, dedication and passion will encourage other swimmers of all abilities to take part. They have shown that anything is possible if you never give up.”