Young swimmer aiming for the top

By James Perry

The 2018 AON National Age Group Championships are taking place at the Sir Owen G Glenn National Aquatic Centre in Albany.

Amongst the many competitors is a young Ngāti Awa and Maniapoto swimmer who is currently at a school with a strong swimming reputation in Australia. 

Tarquin Magner is someone to keep an eye on. He is leaving others in his wake as he sets his sights on the big time. 

It's been a goal of his since he was 10-years-old to participate at the Olympics.

Magner is on a scholarship to St. Peters Lutheran College in Brisbane, a school with a strong swimming pedigree. 

"It's probably one of the most recommended schools to go if you want to become a professional swimmer, and if you want to the Olympics, which most swimmers [do].  So it's the best place for me".

Being a student at St Peters Lutheran grants him access to St Peters Western Swim Club, which has an impressive record. 

"You'd be at the pool and olympians and world record-holders will be just at the pool stretching with you, and you'll just be hanging out with them all day," he says.

His mother Simone might have been a little reluctant at first, but knew it was too good to turn down.

"At thirteen to me he still needs to be at home.  But we thought look, we just have to go.  It's a great opportunity," she says.

As a child Manger's family lived on Ōhakana Island, in the Ōhiwa Harbour, which made getting to swimming practice something of an adventure.

"Every morning at about 4:30am I used to wake up, walk down the track from my house, get into the hovercraft then go across and then go training at Whakatāne swimming club".

His mother adds, "It was hard and sometimes I think 'why did we do that?'  But we did, and we didn't actually question it too much because it was something [the children] wanted to do, and it was something we had to do, making the choice to live there".

Former olympic swimmer Steven Kent says Magner is in good hands at St Peters Western, where the coaches include John Gatfield, who also happened to coach Magner in New Zealand, and Dean Boxall.

Kent is Magner's coach for this week's meet, and from what he sees he thinks Magner can reach the top.

Kent also coaches swimmers who have represented the likes of Samoa and says of Pasifika and Māori athletes, "they're really powerful, and really strong. And they're really exciting to watch.  Their love of sport is only a positive thing and if we can get more of them to be swimmers that would be pretty awesome".

In the meantime, the age grade championships conclude tomorrow before Magner returns to Australia in time to compete at the national championships there.