As we wind down the year 2013 and (in a sporting) sense look forward to the dominant event next year, the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, there is a very strong likelihood that the outstanding swimmer will be West Auckland’s Lauren Boyle.
In a blistering run of form, Lauren swept up medals in three different World Cup meetings in just over a month to establish herself as one of the swimmers to beat over 800 and 400 metres especially, and with an strong hint of greatness to come over 1500 metres.
Lauren first served notice that she’d put the disappointment of the London Olympics behind her, when she took the gold medal and broke two national records at the World Short Course Championships in Turkey last December. It was to be the beginning of an astonishing purple patch for the former Don Oliver Youth Sport Foundation scholarship winner.
The World Cup is held over a number of meets in different cities and during her spectacular run of success in July and August, Lauren beat world champions and re-wrote records as she stormed her way to two gold medals, two silvers and three bronzes at meets in Barcelona, Eindhoven (the Netherlands) and Berlin.
At Barcelona, Lauren took bronze over 400 metres, 800 metres and 1500 metres. To prove the scope of her astonishing form, she took the 1500 metres bronze in her first serious outing over the distance, and lowered her own personal best time by an eye-watering 30 seconds.
A few days later, just 16/1000ths of a second stood between Lauren and a new world record when she won gold over 800 metres at Eindhoven. Her time of 8:01:22 smashed the World Cup record by three seconds and the Commonwealth record held by the current Olympic champion, Rebecca Addington, by seven seconds. She also took gold in the 400 metres, slashing her New Zealand record by five seconds while beating the current world champion Melanie Costa Schmid.
She followed up with silver medals over 400 metres and 800 metres at Berlin. In the 400 she led for 350 metres, pushing the eventual winner, Belmonte Garcia of Spain, to a new world record. Lauren herself was a tick outside the previous world time.
To make these results all the more remarkable, Lauren converted from sprint racing to distance late in her career, after American Olympic coach Teri McKeever took Lauren under her wing while she was studying for a business degree at Berkley University in California.
Late bloomer she may be, but she has served notice that there is more and better to come; on these performances and times, Lauren must be the hot favourite for gold medals at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games next year and if the form holds, a hot contender for Rio 2016.