by Dasha Kuprienko
Wintec Journalism student
He didn’t quite hit the same heights as last year but long training hours have definitely paid off for Rosmini College swimmer Sungju Kim.
The 13-year-old Aucklander broke two records and won three gold medals on the final night of swimming at the NZCT AIMS Games.
He collected gold in the 100m individual medley, the 50m breaststroke and the
200m individual medley, while he also picked up silver in the 200m backstroke.
His good friend and rival, Murrays Bay Intermediate’s Ra’eez Warley was eerily similar, winning gold in the 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke and silver in the 50m and 100m freestyle.
Kim’s swimming talent was first recognised in Korea, by a teacher back in kindergarten.
“He told me I had potential so I kept going and got to this level,” Kim said.
And the record-breaker dreams big – his ambition is to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
Warley knew exactly who would be chasing him, meanwhile.
“I thought there was a lot of competition, but the main [competition] was Sungju,” Warley said.
Although the battle was hard, Warley was quite confident and said he felt comfortable about his races.
Warley’s father, Rushdee said his son might have felt confident but he didn’t underestimate anyone.
“We taught him not to take anything for granted,” he said. “You have to respect each racer. There are nine more guys out there that want it as much as he does.”
Warley Snr brings a wealth of experience to the sport, having competed at the highest level in South Africa.
The family moved to New Zealand in 2011 as he now works for Performance Sport NZ.
But that doesn’t mean he loads his son with professional tips – preferring to keep family and job separate.
“You have to support him as his dad. He doesn’t need any more pressure.”
Pressure to perform at the AIMS Games swimming competition requires a lot of dedication.
Pukekohe Intermediate swimmer Tavarnya Howe, who broke two records in the finals, said she sacrifices her social life to train.
“On the weekends with friends, you don’t get to go with them,” she said. “But I’d say I don’t really mind sometimes.”
Howe won two golds in the 50m and 100m backstroke, a silver in the 200m backstroke and two bronze medals in the 100m and 200m individual medleys.
She had goals to be in the top three, but didn’t expect to twin two gold medals.
“It’s really cool to be on top,” Howe said.
Howe’s Mum Jo said it was amazing to see her daughter win, especially with all the hard work she puts into it.