At just 14, Palmerston North swimmer Milan Glintmeyer is already the country’s fastest 100m backstroker.
Now she could be a medal chance at the world junior swimming championships in Israel in September.
In April, Glintmeyer won a national open title in the 100m backstroke at the New Zealand swimming championships, clocking 1:02.22 seconds. It was a 2023 world top-100 time, but more significantly, it was more than half a second inside the qualifying mark for the world junior championships.
“It’s always been my goal to represent my country,” Glintmeyer says. “Just racing everyone from every other country and getting international experience, travelling with an amazing team, it’s a dream come true.
“I’ve always wanted to do it, so I’m so excited.”
The New Zealand team of seven will also have a 10-day preparation camp in Dubai.
Glintmeyer is unbeaten in New Zealand in her top four events among those of her age since she was 10 – the 50m and 100m butterfly and the 50m and 100m backstroke events she hopes to swim in Israel.
She has the potential to get a podium place competing against the world’s best swimmers under 19, just as the most recent female backstrokers to represent New Zealand at world juniors did.
Fifteen-year-olds Gabrielle Fa’amausili and Bobbi Gichard both won world junior medals in 2015. Gichard won a 100m backstroke bronze, while Fa’amausili successfully defended her world junior title in the 50m backstroke, lowering her 2013 junior world record to 27.81 seconds. That time remains the New Zealand Open record.
Glintmeyer turns 15 before leaving for Israel.
She knows her 100m backstroke time at last month’s trials was good enough for a top-five placing at last year’s junior championships, “which is really cool to see”. Her time was only a second off qualifying for the senior world championships.
Over the past year Glintmeyer’s backstroke time has dropped more than 2.5 seconds; a similar drop and a win at trials next year will have her qualify for the Paris Olympics.
“Everyone’s main goal is the Olympics – but a stepping-stone at the world juniors is a big milestone for me,” Glintmeyer says. “I’m really setting up good stepping-stone goals to help me get to that main goal.
“It’s all about time and how you push yourself. It’s just about training as hard as you can and keeping it fun and light – because I`m 14, yeah.”
Glintmeyer may well be 14 but she has a maturity beyond her years.
Coach Tracy Breuer says: “I have to remind myself when I’m having conversations with her that she’s only 14.”
While Glintmeyer had the world junior standard of 1:02.80 seconds etched in her mind for the five months before the big race, a national open title was unexpected.
“There was no way that before the meet I knew I was going to win a national open title; that was all in the heat of the moment.
“Going into the meet I was just looking at personal bests and just trying to nail areas of improvement I’ve been working on. It’s just being in the right mindset at the right time, I guess.
“In January I decided that I really wanted to guts it out into the opens – and I think it’s paid off really well.”
It has. She won three medals, including the open title.
But clocking good times at world juniors will be more important than winning medals, Glintmeyer says.
“Oh, 100 percent. My mindset is time over placing, any time; the medals come with the times. If I get a good time and do a personal best, I may come fifth at world juniors, but I’m going to take that personal best time and be proud – Palmy proud.”
Of Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Ruanui descent, she is the third Māori swimmer from Palmerston North to represent New Zealand in recent years, after Laticia Transom and Mya Rasmussen both won events at the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games. Rasmussen went on to compete at last year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Glintmeyer started swimming aged three and first competed at eight. She was so quick that she was seeded sixth at the New Zealand open championships as a 12-year-old. However, her entries were withdrawn by Swimming New Zealand the week before the championships started, after the federation decided she was too young to compete.
The following year she placed top-five in two events at the championships. She also won three medals at last year’s New Zealand Short Course championships shortly after switching clubs to Kiwi West. The change to Breuer has led to rapid improvements.
“Oh, she’s all right,” Glintmeyer says of Breuer. “Nah, I love Tracy, she’s been so supportive, I think it’s quite cool to have a relationship with a coach that’s so close. As soon as Tracy took on the head coach role, I knew it was where I wanted to be, and I’ve never looked back.”
Breuer also knows about high performance swimming – she represented the Cook Islands in freestyle at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Glintmeyer’s mother Niki has represented New Zealand at water polo, and her brother Kase,12, met several qualifying standards for the National Age championships but is too young to enter.
Breuer only started coaching at Kiwi West Swimming Club last September. Now, among the country’s female coaches, Breuer has the top ranked female swimmer, and is preparing her to swim against the world’s best young swimmers.
“That’s scary,” she says. “I want to be able to do a good job for Milan and I want her to succeed. She’s really focused. We’re now working on her technical skills and back-end speed.”
Despite her rapid progress to a national open title at such a young age, Glintmeyer never aimed to be a top swimmer.
“The main reason why I got into swimming was to learn how to swim and be able to have life skills – and to be able to say if we go to the beach, I know I`ll be safe.”
*Other female swimmers named in the NZ team for world juniors are Monique Wieruszowski, Zoe Pedersen, Isabelle Gibson, Summer Osborne, and Brooke Bennett.