He spends three hours just getting to swimming training and back, four days a week, so Ryan Dey’s first trip to Tauranga for the NZCT AIMS Games wasn’t such a big deal.
That’s despite the 11-year-old hailing from the southern-most school – Catlins Area School in Owaka – at the NZCT AIMS Games this week.
The 11-year-old swimmer travels 110km north to Dunedin’s Moana Pool every time he trains, then turns around and heads for home. It’s a grueling schedule for anyone, so the 12-hour trip to Tauranga didn’t faze him.
“We’re going to go home and get more people to come up next year,” Dey said. “I’m going to tell them about the amazing journey I’ve had to get here and all the cool people I’ve met.”
The local Lions club, motor camp and cafe all pitched in to help him get to the games, which feature more than 9300 intermediate-aged competitors in 21 different sports.
Owaka’s southern latitude is slightly below Invercargill’s, where BMXers Tess McNaught and Ruby Laidlaw are coming all the way from Vernon College.
The northern-most competitors in New Zealand are a football team, netball team and cross country runner from Kaitaia Intermediate, although there’s also a contingent of badminton players from Tonga and the Cook Islands competing this week.
Dey’s appearance was a big deal for his schoolmates, although they did give him an unwelcome going-away present – 40 of the 100 students at the area school went down with a stomach bug on Friday and the diminutive swimmer spent most of the weekend recovering.
Understandably, he was a little underwhelmed by his performance in the heats at the games tonight, alongside 279 fellow competitors from 107 different schools. But he’s determined to salvage something from the trip.
“This is our first time up here, so we’re looking forward to being tourists on Wednesday once the swimming is done,” his mum and team manager Lee-Anne said.
Other highlights of the swimming heats included an unofficial New Zealand record, with Whakatane Intermediate’s Tarquin Magner clocking 30.18secs in the 50m backstroke. That was 0.15secs faster than the old record, with the chance to go even faster in tomorrow night’s swimming finals.
See more photos from the swimming here
Watch the swimming finals live-streamed here