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New Zealand picked up two silver medals in the Commonwealth Games pool this evening.
Wellingtonian Gareth Kean, who qualified only eighth in the 200m backstroke, stormed home to snatch second place.
And in the last race of the evening programme, the New Zealand women’s 4 x 200m freestyle relay team swam superbly to edge out the English and Canadian teams and take the silver behind Australia.
Kean, who turned 19 yesterday, gave himself a belated birthday present.
He swam only 2min 00.86s in his heat and barely scrambled into the final, earning himself the difficult lane eight.
But in the final he meant business. He was fourth at the 100m split in 57.10s, but came home strongly and was timed at 1min 57.37s – 3½ seconds than his qualifying effort.
The race was won by heavy favourite James Goddard of England in 1min 55.58s, but Kean did well to comfortably outplace Australian Ashley Delaney and Englishman Christopher Walker-Hebborn.
Kean's medal was especially significant because his coach, Gary Hurring, won the same event at the 1978 Edmonton Commonwealth Games.
Kean rang Hurring back in Wellington just before he entered the pool and he said speaking to his coach had helped settle him.
“I’m pretty stoked to come out of that with a silver,” he said. “To look up at the board and see I was second…it was a relief.”
He said his race plan was to swim a solid first 100m and then really come home strong.
Kean's time broke his own New Zealand record and means that in just nine months he has brought his best time down by more than two seconds.
The women’s 200m freestyle race always loomed as a battle between New Zealand, Canada and England for the minor medals behind the talented Australian lineup.
The New Zealand team was Lauren Boyle, Penelope Marshall, Amaka Gessler and Natasha Hind.
Boyle led off and finished strongly to put New Zealand into second place, and they never lost the advantage. Hind brought the team home well.
New Zealand’s time – a national record by more than 2½s – was 7min 57.46s. They were nearly four seconds behind Australia but beat England and Canada by more than a second.
Boyle was the youngster in the 4 x 200m freestyle team that won a bronze medal at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games four years ago. This time she was the experienced older hand.
She said it was a fine team performance with everyone going under two minutes, which has not been done before.
“This is a team that could be a medal chance at the London Olympics in 2012 if we all keep developing,” she said. “There’s a lot of potential.
“It really helped us having swum together at the PanPacs [Pan Pacific Games]. “We got to understand what we had to do tonight.”
There were high hopes before the session that Glenn Snyders, after his good form in his heat, would earn a medal in the 100m breaststroke but he could manage just 1min 01.39s for sixth place.
Katie Palmer went close to snatching the bronze medal in the 100m freestyle. She left herself a lot to do because at the halfway point she was sixth, but she closed impressively and eventually was timed at 54.68s, a bare 0.09s behind third placed Francesca Halsall. The race was won by Australian Alicia Coutts in 54.09s.
Palmer’s time was just 0.01s off Liz Coster’s New Zealand record.
Melissa Ingram was seventh in the 100m backstroke final, in a time of 1min 01.14s.
Southlander Natalie Wiegersma finished the women’s 100m butterfly semi-finals 12th fastest, a good effort for someone who is really an individual medley expert.
Earlier, New Zealand synchronised swimmers Kirstin Anderson and Caitlin Anderson were placed fifth in their technical routine with 35.833 points.
Kirstin Anderson, 21, scored 36.167 points for her solo performance, leaving her sixth in a field of seven.