Aquablack Mya Rasmussen has abruptly retired from competitive swimming, a casualty of Swimming New Zealand’s selection processes.

Rasmussen, who recently turned 23, has hung up her goggles after failing to be selected for last week’s World Aquatics swimming championships in Japan, despite swimming under the 400m individual medley qualifying mark, during the qualifying period, at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

“Although I won’t be in the water anymore, I’m so excited for this next part of my life and to be able to watch from the sidelines as New Zealand swimming grows and works its way up the international stage,” she says.

While Rasmussen had clocked under the qualifying standard at Birmingham, she had to do it again in Auckland in April but was 0.09 seconds short. There was no selection discretion for trials winners just shy of the qualifying standard, as there is at British Swimming. Neither did Swimming New Zealand selectors consider Birmingham times, as Swimming Ireland did for Northern Ireland swimmers.

Had it done so, Rasmussen might have been NZ’s best female performer outside Erika Fairweather’s 400m freestyle bronze medal in Japan. No others placed higher than twelfth. Rasmussen’s Birmingham time, in a faster field than the 2022 championships at Budapest, would have had her eleventh last week.

Rasmussen had previously not met the qualifying standard for Birmingham, either, but was selected on her potential to place top six. She could not have come much closer. Had she clocked 0.01 seconds faster, she would have done so.

She placed seventh at Birmingham, was second reserve into a final at Budapest, and 12th at the World Aquatics short course (25m) championships in Melbourne – all in lifetime best times. She was the only Aquablack to clock lifetime bests in all three competitions; one of only two to place top 12 in each.

“I feel so lucky to have achieved what I did and to have been able to develop some awesome friendships,” Rasmussen says.

“It takes a village to be an athlete and I’m so grateful to have had such a great team around me to get me where I did.”

So, just as she was starting to swim lifetime bests at senior pinnacle competitions, she has called time on the daily training grind and competitive swimming, unsure why NZ selection criteria for these year’s world championships was tougher than in bigger countries with faster swimmers.

Qualifying in the 400m individual medley was easier in many swimming nations such as South Africa and Canada – and Canadian Summer McIntosh won the event this year, defending her title.

This time last year, Rasmussen was done with swimming. She said she hated it. She was sick of the disappointment at not doing as well as she knew she could, and had not then become an Aquablack, despite being a top junior and meeting an Olympic qualifying standard.

She had moved to Australia from Feilding in 2018 at the suggestion of Swimming New Zealand to pursue her swimming, but four years after her arrival she had not qualified for a senior team and was ready to call it quits.

“I couldn’t think of anything worse than putting more time into something only to yet again not get the results I was working so hard for,” she said at the time. “Somehow, I was convinced to give it one more crack by my family and a few months later I snuck under the qualifying time for world champs.”

As a top junior, Rasmussen won a gold medal at the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games and was the country’s fastest 400m individual medley swimmer for many years – she still is. Aged 13, she was the youngest to break four minutes in the event.

She had also missed out on the 2016 Rio Olympics, going under the qualifying mark shortly after the qualifying period had ended. She was also on the cusp of competing at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, falling just shy of the qualifying standard then, too. Her lifetime best in 2018 would have placed seventh into the 400m individual medley final. Had she done so, she would have been NZs top female performer at the games. Lewis Clareburt also fell short but was selected, also in the 400m individual medley, and ended up getting a bronze medal in a lifetime best, going on to win two gold medals in Birmingham.

Had Rasmussen been supported enough to continue swimming, she could have made the Paris Olympics, even if she clocked a winning World Aquatics B time at trials in April.

But while Rasmussen won’t be swimming at trials, she can revel in her achievements as a top junior and as a leading senior.

“Somehow, I’ve managed to not only become an Aquablack, but I’ve pulled myself through to a 10th in the world and seventh in the Commonwealth, as well as finally improving that bloody 400m individual medley for the first time since 2017.

“I’m so proud of myself.”

Rasmussen has retired, not because she is not competitive enough, but because she is from New Zealand.

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