Summer Osborne has already competed in relays at two major international events, the world’s pinnacle short course championships and last month’s World Aquatics long course championships.
She is now set to make her mark in individual events at the world junior championships starting on September 4.
It’s rare for a swimmer to compete in two world senior champs before swimming at a world juniors.
Osborne, 18, is NZ’s first, the sole Aquablack among the junior team’s seven swimmers who are aiming to bring home medals. Yesterday, she was also made team captain.
“I’m not the underdog; I can put myself out there and show everyone what I’ve got, and what the rest of our team has got – I’m really excited,” she says. “This team is full of rising talent, and I cannot wait to show the rest of the world what we can do.”
In Israel, the Rangitoto College student aims to make a final swimming her first individual event at any pinnacle international competition on the back of recent lifetime bests. She may also compete in a relay with national breaststroke and backstroke open champions Monique Wieruszowski and Milan Glintmeyer.
“Our 4 x 100m medley relay should also go really well. We’ve got some really fast younger girls,” Osborne says.
Osborne is fortunate: the championships in Japan and Israel were each postponed a year by World Aquatics due to Covid-19. Had they not been, Osborne would not have gone to either as her times weren’t quick enough. They nearly weren’t at the 2023 trials for Japan, either. Her 200m freestyle time qualified her for the 4x200m freestyle relay team by 0.01 seconds – the slimmest of margins.
“That was something I didn’t really expect,” she says. “I was pretty happy with my time – I was more focused on my time than my placing.”
Debuting as an Aquablack in Japan earlier this month, Osborne swam the third leg of the relay, placing 11th and got to experience the world’s fastest ever championships.
“It was cool just to watch everyone, all the big dogs. Everything is wrapped up in seriousness,” she says.
However, her 200m freestyle trials time was not quick enough to qualify for World Juniors. Fortunately, the NZ Age Group championships were held the following week in Hastings – and were also world juniors trials. Osborne surprised herself there; she was a second faster due to her strong back end. She clocked 2:01.79 seconds, another lifetime best, qualifying her for her second championship in the space of just over a week in a time faster than sixth at the 2022 World Juniors.
“It was like a whole second drop in one week,” she says. “I just did a really good race – I knew I was going fast, and when I went into the wall and saw 2:01, I was in pure shock.”
What is particularly fortunate for Osborne is that World Aquatics, in March, raised females’ age of eligibility for World Juniors from 17 to 18. Former 200m freestyle world junior champion and current Aquablack Erika Fairweather was unable to defend her title in 2021. Competitors then had to be 17 as of December 31, 2021, the day Fairweather turned 18. The biennial championships were subsequently pushed back a year due to the impacts of Covid 19, which is why two are held in consequent years.
At age group level, Osborne is unbeaten in the 100m freestyle and unbeaten in any freestyle event under 800m in the past two years.
She`ll certainly have competition in Israel – she’s swimming in all freestyle events from 100m to 400m and will want to impress her 2024 coach, Ozzie Quevendo. In April, Quevendo was named head coach of the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, where Osborne has secured a swimming scholarship starting mid next year.
Osborne is also the first Kiwi swimmer to compete at two top international pool events in both junior and senior levels in two successive years. All four championships are different. As well as the two senior championships and the world junior championships, she also competed at the 2022 Junior Pan Pacific Championships (JPP) in Hawaii, after she was initially selected for the 2020 competition that was cancelled due to Covid 19.
When selected to the JPP championships, Osborne realised she could be a good swimmer. Lewis Clareburt and Erika Fairweather had both competed at the event in 2016 and 2018 respectively; both went on to win world championship medals “and that’s when I kind of knew I was getting to their level of speed, and throughout the years I’ve continually progressed and it’s got me on these teams, which is really exciting”.
Due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the 2022 world juniors were shifted from Russia to Peru at time close to the JPP championships. As the top young American swimmers consequently bypassed the event for the JPP champs, Osborne got to compete against them. She says it was an eye-opener.
“It was a big learning experience, watching all the other age groupers, realising how fast they are. You are on top of your age group in NZ by quite a few seconds and just making a B final (there). It puts things into perspective on how you are tracking alongside them.
Osborne’s top placing, 14th in the 200m freestyle, qualified her for the self-funded World Aquatics short course championships (25m pool) held in Melbourne in December. She competed in two freestyle relays, and, with the 4x200m relay the team she set a NZ record in the final. It was her first senior pinnacle competition, her first final, and to date, her only New Zealand record at any level.
While Osborne seeks to perform well in Israel, she has Olympic aspirations.
“My goal is to make the relay team for Paris.”
Female swimmers joining Osborne in the NZ team for the world juniors are Monque Wieruszowski, Milan Glintmeyer, Isabelle Gibson, Brooke Bennett, and Zoe Pedersen.