Finn Harland training hard for Junior World Championships


Story courtesy of College Sport Media


Photos are from Swimming NZ, credit to BW Media.


The life of a fulltime athlete, a fulltime student and a sports prefect at Wellington College is a demanding one.

But it’s worth it as Finn Harland has a lot to look forward to in September, when he joins the New Zealand Junior swimming team as the only male in the group competing at the World Junior Swimming Championships in Israel.

Last month, Finn was in record breaking form in his age group at both the New Zealand and National Age Group Championships meets and broke several regional and national records - including one twice in one day.

At the New Zealand championships in Auckland, he clocked 55.45 seconds in the heats of the 100m backstroke, qualifying him for the Junior World championships. He went even quicker in the final, clocking 55.33 seconds and breaking the 17 year’s Wellington age group record for the second time that day.

The following day he broke a National Age Group record in the 50m backstroke, clocking 25.67 for an open bronze medal, just 0.01 seconds from a silver medal.  He also won a gold medal in the 4x200m freestyle relay, and last year at Nationals got a Wellington record in the  4x100m freestyle  relay, both with members of his Capital Swim Club.   

He also set some freestyle regional records last month, lowering the 17 year's 50m freestyle mark from 24.05 seconds to 23.57 seconds at the New Zealand champs, and lowered it further to 23.53 at the National Age Group championships in Napier less than two weeks later.   

He also broke the 100m freestyle regional record, shaving almost a second off the previous mark set by his training partner and none other than double gold Commonwealth Games gold medallist and former College Sport Wellington Sportsman of the year Lewis Clareburt. 

But it is the backstroke events that Finn will be competing in at the Junior World Championships.

“I will be just doing the 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke,” Finn told College Sport Wellington. With heats, semis and finals in each of those events and the schedule the way it is, that doesn’t really allow me to enter more events.

“My coach Gary Hollywood and I decided I have a lot of potential as a backstroker and so the focus is on those events over freestyle – I am mainly a backstroker, I kind of think of freestyle as kind of my party trick, I guess!”

Finn will utilise his experience of swimming for New Zealand at last year’s Junior Pan Pacific Championships in Hawaii.

“Some of those people I swam against at Pan Pacs last year will also be at the World Championships, so I know what to expect and know what I need to bring to do well.”

He set high expectations at Pan Pacs. “A lot of people around me were happy with my swims, but I wasn’t as happy as everyone else was. I made a couple of A finals and a B final in my 100m backstroke and did a few of my best times in my 200m backstroke and I swam good in the relays.”



The heat in Hawaii was tough to adjust to. “I wasn’t really used to the heat, especially during the day, and it was also an outdoor pool.”

The pool in Israel is an air conditioned indoor pool. “That is good, as it will be coming out of their summer, and apparently it is a fast pool, so I am looking forward to it.”

Finn trains alongside Clareburt and three others at the Capital Swim Club . “We have a good group of guys and we all train in the high-performance squad under Swimming New Zealand, which has funded Lewis until the Paris Olympics next year and we are all benefitting off that.”

Finn is the youngster in the group. “They range in age from 23, 21 down to two who are 19 and in their second year at university. It is nice being the young one of the group, but it doesn’t come easy but it is good fun and I definitely wouldn’t want to come to training and be the best one there.”

The squad trains eight times a week at the Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre at Kilbirnie, both morning and afternoon, plus another two sessions in the gym, with Sundays off to rest and prepare to do it all again.

Former Scots College student Clareburt had this to say about Finn:

“Finn joined our squad a year or so ago and has really come into a league of his own. This year has been a bit of a breakthrough year for him getting himself on the Junior Worlds team. It’s a huge achievement to qualify for that and it shows with him being the only male on the team. I can’t wait to see how he develops over the next few years.”

Finn drives himself everywhere, but for nutrition he has the help of his mum.

“My mum is a nutritionist, so she is very good at keeping on top of what we eat and making sure we are fuelling our bodies with the right sort of stuff, so that is definitely very helpful having her there with all that knowledge.”

Swimming is naturally Finn’s sole focus now, but he grew up playing several other sports, from tennis to rugby to basketball to surfing to golf.

Finn also has a younger brother, aged 15, who swims a bit but is also into surf lifesaving and cross country.

Finn has been swimming competitively for several years and got hooked on the racing bug. “When I was younger there used to be internal club meets and my friends and I would race each other at these. Then from there we went to regional meets, and then to national meets, and I ended up really enjoying it and I have kept it going and looking forward.”

The New Zealand Junior Swimming team heads overseas in mid-August, first to Dubai for a two week training camp and then on to Israel. Before that, Finn will be training with coach Gary Hollywood and his Capital Swim Club teammates and competing in a couple of meets.

“I will look to be doing some racing at the Wellington Swimming Championships and at the New Zealand Secondary School Swimming Championships for Wellington College.”

The NZSS Championships are in Wellington at his home pool at Kilbirnie and is a team event where teams and schools compete for points by entering swimmers in as many events as possible – akin to the McEvedy Shield Athletics meet. Wellington College are past winners of the swimming nationals having last won the male division in 2018.  

Looking further ahead, Finn will return home from Israel to sit Level 3 NCEA exams. He has no firm plans for next year, but one option is to win a swimming scholarship at a US university.

Article added: Tuesday 23 May 2023


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