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July 2019,

Clareburt takes a cue from Danyon Loader

When Tokyo Olympic Games prospect Lewis Clareburt left school more than a year ago, he was faced with a tough decision. Should he take up one of several offers he’d received from leading American Universities; or move to the centralised national swim programme in Auckland; or keep doing what was already working and continue training under his coach?

“Life in Wellington, surrounded by my friends and family, was pretty much perfect,” Lewis says.

Contrary to much of the advice he received, Lewis chose to stay at home. “If it ain’t broke, why fix it,” he says. Despite the naysayers, he felt certain he could still achieve his swimming goals.

“I thought if Danyon Loader was the last Kiwi to win an Olympic swimming gold medal, and he did it in his own ‘backyard’, then that’s good enough for me.”

Lewis enrolled to do a BCom (in Information Systems) at Victoria University with help from a Prime Minister’s Athlete Scholarship awarded through HPSNZ. Juggling training and uni was his next challenge.


“Going to uni was a big change,” Lewis says. “My Athlete Life Advisor Helen Regan has been a big help. We worked through how many papers I could manage. She set up a meeting with key people at uni before I even started, letting them know I’m also a swimmer preparing for Tokyo 2020.”

The 2018 Commonwealth Games was Lewis’ first major international event. It provided an opportunity to not only test him against world-class swimmers, but to also test his decision.

He arrived at the Games aiming to make the final and managed to qualify 6th out of 8 finalists. Having achieved his goal of getting into the final, it was now time to swim the race of his life. He did, shaving 4 seconds off his PB, and earning a Commonwealth Games bronze medal in the process. He and Sophie Pascoe were the only New Zealanders to medal in the pool.

As he stood on the podium on the Gold Coast, he knew for certain he’d made the right decision to remain in Wellington.

Lewis says he has a fantastic team wrapped around him. In addition to his coach and Athlete Life Advisor, he really appreciates his physio, strength & conditioner, and nutritionist provided by HPSNZ. He is also grateful to have up skilled in time-management, public speaking, personal brand management, and sponsorship, courtesy of the Athlete Life programme.

Lewis is currently preparing for the World Aquatics Championships in Gwangju. He will miss the first five weeks of semester two at university but has already begun working out how to navigate his absence with help from his Athlete Life Advisor.

Lewis is excited about the year ahead and remains convinced that Wellington is the “perfect” place for him to prepare for Tokyo 2020.